I’ve not met anyone who hasn’t found themselves struggling to express their feelings at some point in their lives. And while there is a growing awareness and recognition around mental health, for many that space, the feeling alone, can be lonely and at times desperately unhappy.
As written by commentators and researchers (Brené Brown being the first that comes to mind) emotional pain is often equal to physical pain – it’s certainly received in the same place in the brain. To say to someone, ‘Keep your chin up!’ may be as insensitive as telling someone with a broken leg, ‘Go for a run!’.
Yet there is a way through this when we can’t find the words to talk, a way to offer some light in the dark and bring a start to not feeling alone.
It does however start with a basic presupposition that I’d like you to consider: we have the solutions within us to answer our problems.
You may not know where the answers are but you’re willing to believe that within you have the capacity to achieve the things you need.
Therefore the process is about taping into the mind and releasing the mental pressure; the mental pressure that is holding back those answers. One way is to manoeuvre the mind from the internal thoughts to external thinking.
This is achieved in two different ways: either writing it down or speaking out aloud.
What I’m suggesting isn’t just about talking to yourself, but actually record yourself talking. This is a subtle difference but you’ll find yourself more focused, more purposeful in your thoughts. It puts a gentle pressure to be more articulate, a little clearer; and importantly express what’s often running at a hundred miles an hour in your head.
When we just talk aloud we can go off-topic and do something else. This then is a useful way to attune our thoughts and verbalise our feelings. And in so doing, it brings with it, unusually yet usefully, a sense of accountability.
I’ve tried it before I’ve begun filming a vlog. I reflected and processed some challenges while being recorded and it really does hone the mind and provide some much needed clarity. Most smart devices have a voice recording feature so it’s easily accessible.
However, for others it may be that…
Writing how you’re feeling achieves a similar result: a way of externalising what’s internally happening for you. Either in a diary, a notepad or scrap of paper you simply write your thoughts down.
There is no right or wrong way; I’m not going to give you a template that says you must write down in a certain way. I’d like you to find the way that best suits you. And like the voice recording allow your mind to naturally, uninterrupted, release what it’s holding. Start and see where it takes you. You might try bullet points, speech bubbles, or single words or even paragraph upon paragraph.
In a similar way to the voice recording see what works for you and if it’s not a great fit, that’s ok, try something else that might work better.
Think of it as a doodle with words. It needn’t been swathes of paper, after all, one word or one sentence may release the problem and set you on course to a solution.
Ultimately, we’re looking to retain that inner private space to process what’s going on yet also engage with it – gently bringing it out from the internal to the external in to our awareness.
A valuable benefit of this exercise is that it provides solutions you perhaps hadn’t thought of. By unloading what’s on our mind we have space in our heads to process other things. Feeling alone can take up a lot of space in our minds. It’s though we’ve removed the upper layer of thinking and allowed solutions to bubble up and provide an answer we’d not yet considered. This ideally allows for some tangible, potentially more actionable, thoughts to present themselves.
At this point, focus on becoming aware, noticing and gaining a better, more useful, understanding of how you’re feeling.
Start optimistically with this belief: you have so much capability within you. All the resources are within you to create the change you’re after. This is simply an exercise in bringing internal thoughts to the foreground. And so, making it a powerful tool at your disposal when we can’t, or don’t want to, talk to someone and bring an end to feeling alone.
Ben Jackson coaches for personal development, leadership and transition for career parents. Juggling work, family and life in the Chilterns, he’s consecutively studying toward a diploma in counselling as well as diploma in education and training.