Remember to Use Tact When Expressing Your Emotions

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Remember to Use Tact When Expressing Your Emotions


Many writers and speakers in the mental health field, including me, have stressed the importance of being aware of, honest about, and open with the emotions we experience.

If we are sad, for example, we must share our sadness as part of our working through it. Or if we are excited, we want to be free to express our excitement to the fullest. And, if we are angry, we need to fully express that anger or run the risk of doing harm to ourselves and perhaps even those around us.

A good deal of our emphasis on such awareness, honesty, and openness in our emotional lives is in direct response to a culture that too often insists that we repress, ignore, mask or deny our feelings.

Most of us were not raised with any positive understanding of the role of emotions in our lives, let alone with a sense of how to constructively express them.

It is certainly far healthier to express feelings than to attempt to deal with them the way most of us are taught. Yet our sometimes obsessive concern in the mental health profession with emotional expression has too often led people to assume that just "letting it all hang out" is somehow the best approach.

Though there have been many who have argued for such an attitude, Id like to raise a cautionary voice based on my experience as a therapist. I believe there are a number of factors that must always be taken into account when we consider how to deal with our feelings.

First, we want to be aware of the situation or environment where we find ourselves. For us to throw up our hands in exasperation may be fine at our desks, but might be rather dangerous while speeding down the TriState. We may laugh out loud with a group of friends at a party; it would be less appropriate and also inconsiderate when a friend whispers a joke to us during a lecture were attending. Our location needs to be a factor in how we express our emotions.

Second, lets consider the other person or people when we express our feelings.

It may be appropriate to express to our spouse, "Sometimes I get so frustrated I wish I wasnt even married" but only if we go on to explore these feelings and work to resolve whatever issue or situation is frustrating us.

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