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When It's Loving To Share Your Feelings...And When It's Not

By Dr. Margaret Paul
August 04, 2014

How often have you shared your feelings and the other person became angry and defensive?

How often have you heard that it's good to "share your feelings"? How often have you shared your feelings and it backfired on you? Perhaps you find yourself saying "But I'm just sharing my feelings!"

The problem is that we can share our feelings for a number of different reasons, depending upon our intention. The question to ask yourself is, "Why am I sharing my feelings? What is my intention?"

Sometimes we share our feelings just to give information, such as "I'm feeling really stressed. I'm going to go out for a run." In this case, you are sharing your feeling of being stressed, and letting the other person know what you are going to do about your feelings.

But what if you just said, "I'm feeling really stressed." Why would you want your partner or someone else to know that?

If you say, "I'm feeling really stressed. I've been doing some inner work and it's not helping. Could you help me explore what this stress is about?", then your intent is to learn. You want to take responsibility for your own feelings and you want help in doing so. The other person may or may not be able or willing to help you, but your statement is not a pull on them to take care of your feelings.

However, if you just say, "I'm feeling really stressed," and you don't ask for help or tell the other person what you are going to do about it, then the statement is a pull on the other person to take responsibility for your feelings. The other person might feel demanded of and engulfed by the statement and withdraw, or they may feel irritated and get parental and judgmental with you.

Here is another common example: Someone gets angry with you and says some unloving things. Instead of seeing that the other person's unloving behavior is his or her issue, you take it personally and feel hurt. You feel upset with them for hurting you and then you tell them your feelings, saying, "I feel hurt by what you said." Your intent in telling them your feelings is to make them responsible for your feelings. They may respond with, "That's your problem!" or get defensive and explain their behavior to you, justifying their unloving behavior. In either case, you do not feel better. The other person might apologize and you feel better for the moment, but the real issue of you taking things personally has not been addressed, and you will continue to be a victim of others' behavior.

If you were to take responsibility for your own feelings, you would be very compassionate toward yourself for the heartache of another's unloving behavior, allowing this sadness to move through you. The sadness of another's unloving behavior is very different than getting your feelings hurt due to taking their behavior personally. Then, if you think the other person might be open, you can approach them with an intent to learn, saying, "I feel sad that you said that to me. There must be a good reason you said it and I'd like to understand."

Anytime we share our feelings with the intent of getting someone to make us feel better, our intent is to control rather than to learn and take responsibility for ourselves. We are making another responsible for our feelings instead of doing our Inner Bonding work and discovering our beliefs and behavior that are hurting us and causing us pain.

Next time you want to share your feelings, be sure to ask yourself why you want to share them – to control or to learn?


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