I encourage people to share what they feel. It has been said to me more than once, ‘You told me to share what I feel and now that I have you are telling me I am wrong.’
Our childhood was meant to provide us with a safe environment in which we could share what we really felt. We hoped that our parents would be sufficiently in touch with their feelings to enable us to be in touch with ours. This doesn’t always happen. We learnt to hide what we felt, to get by with those parts that we could operate in – and wonder now why we have so many struggles. Then, in order to help with those struggles, someone comes along and tells us to share. And when we do, sometimes we wish we hadn’t because now it feels as if we are in trouble. So, what is going on?
It is right to share our feelings. They are a window into our hearts - and they always tell us something about ourselves. Could it be that they are telling us more than we realise? For example, you might go to a work colleague to share how a system at work can be improved. If your colleague struggles with self-worth issues, he might hear, ‘You are not good enough and therefore I am rejecting you.’ He might approach you and say, ‘I felt you put me down and that I am never good enough for you.’ Now, the feelings are telling your colleague something but they are not telling him what he thinks they are. He thinks he is being put down but the truth is that deep within he is putting himself down.
On the other hand, we might be reading an emotion entirely accurately and yet even that truth becomes redundant. How can this be? In any given situation there are often a number of principles being brought to bear. For example, a friend borrows something belonging to you without asking. You might understandably feel annoyed. Then you discover that he borrowed it to help a friend in desperate need and you were not around to be asked so he banked on your good nature and borrowed it. He did it because he wanted to help someone and trusted your kindness. It isn’t that you were wrong to feel annoyed but that the feeling of annoyance was overtaken by the bigger picture.
The real question becomes, am I big enough to explore what my feelings are telling me and not stick to my limited version of ‘the truth’? Can I recognise that my feelings are not being rubbished but I can use my emotions as a signpost to deeper issues? Am I able to accept that what I feel is only part of the picture and that the bigger picture throws light on my small version of it? We can stick to our point of view, our rights, our grudges and grievances – and completely miss the point – or we can use our emotions to help us to grow and to build good relationships.