How do we communicate our feelings?
Time to Talk day 2023
Psychological Skills Mentors
Time to Talk, Why Would I Do That?
Do you find it easy to talk about your feelings? Are you the person people come to when they need to share their thoughts? Are you someone who finds it hard to express your emotions?
Not everyone finds it easy to talk about how they feel, to exercise their Chimp, but on this Time to Talk day, let’s look at why expressing our emotions is so beneficial.
Exercising means allowing time and space for your emotional side, your Chimp system, to express how it is feeling. The Chimp system is, incredibly fast, not very patient and, at times, it simply wants to be heard.
Many of us believe that we shouldn’t listen and should ignore those pesky feelings and certainly not let them out into a more public domain.
Perhaps, this was a message from childhood: ‘don’t be silly’, ‘grow up’, ‘turn off the waterworks’… and so the unhelpful messages (Gremlins) go on. Others share more easily and often and yet still don’t seem to change or make progress. There must be a balance between what is it and why is it healthy to exercise your Chimp anyway?
As we know, the Chimp system in our brain is pretty much our best friend, always working with the goal of survival and given this is its agenda, at some level, it must believe there is a danger and hence sends us a message.
If we stop and express, then listen to what it is saying, we may be able to assess:
- Is there some action that needs to be taken?
- Is there something I need to do to calm and reassure my best friend?
- Do I have an alternative belief that we can start practising and avoid future similar situations?
The neuroscience backs up the fact that our Chimp receives all information from the outside world first; it will be quickest to react and is strong. As people repress unwelcome emotions, evidence shows us that, typically, these emotions will not go away by being ignored; they will become stronger and shout louder until they are heard. If we hear their message and it is accurately interpreted we stand a good chance of making appropriate plans to adjust our thoughts or behaviours to something more helpful to both Chimp and Human. If left unheard or misinterpreted, they can result in a range of useless or even destructive patterns.For example, if I am becoming frustrated with my partner and they are not giving me what I need but, I ignore the message of discomfort, believe it is easier to ‘keep calm and carry on’, who knows what could happen. At best, an unfulfilling relationship at worst a breakdown of the partnership. These examples of emotional messages occur daily to a greater or lesser extent; can we help ourselves to increase our listening powers, listening first to our own mind?
Through the externalisation of information (exercise), our brains can re-process, helping our Human system to come into play and logically hear the information back. Suddenly we are not alone – it doesn’t matter how we externalise meaning there is a method to suit most people. If you prefer to do this alone, journaling your thoughts is a great way to get the emotion out of your head and onto paper. If you are not a writer, voice noting yourself will also work a treat. Alternatively, we can call on a member of our Troop. Troop members aren’t just anyone. They are our most trusted friends or family – people who always have your back. Talking things through uninterrupted will help your Chimp to blow off steam and again, your Human and the Troop member will be there to hear. A lot of the time solutions are not needed. We can acknowledge these feelings and amazingly, after a few minutes, you will find you’ll begin to find your own answers.
It’s best to put parameters around these exercises: We have already mentioned talking to the right person also, ensure that the exercise is focused. This time is not a time to rant or moan. Sticking to one message at a time. Time bind the Chimp. Generally, after 5-7 minutes, any Chimp has blown itself out, so don’t let it go on for too long; finally, we can’t always exercise at the immediate moment of emotional overwhelm. In this case, pause, internally tell your Chimp, ‘we will come back to this.’ and await the right circumstances…..always come back. Best friends like to be able to count on you!
Talking in this way can bring so many benefits:
- Getting to know yourself, your system and what our normal will help us to understand how severe a problem is (Chimps may make every situation seem like a catastrophe)
- It allows us to correct behaviour, nip it in the bud and think about how we want to be
- It helps us get in touch with our Chimp and manage it instead of it managing you.
- Befriend the system and can mutually help each other more often in life: an invincible force.
- It can bring you closer to your Troop; people like to be trusted. They will reciprocate if you pave the way.
- Naming and taming emotions give the Chimp words. The sooner we know what is going on, the easier it is to find our own solutions.
So, this Time to Talk day, consider what you currently do when you have emotions you are feeling: do you exercise and are therefore more able to self-calm and make a new plan, or is there something missing which might help you and your best friend to feel safe and settled. Good luck!
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