When Is It Helpful to Share Your Feelings?By Dr. Margaret Paul
November 20, 2023
When is the sharing of feelings important information and when is it manipulative? Discover this distinction in this article.
"I just have to tell you how I feel. I'm very upset about what you did."
"I'm really angry with you."
"I just want to be honest with you. I'm so hurt by what you said."
Each of these statements is a sharing of feelings. Yet the chances are that the person at the receiving end of this sharing of feelings will feel attacked and respond defensively.
So, what's the problem?
Aren't we supposed to share our feelings?
Well, yes and no. It depends upon your intent.
When feelings are shared from the wounded self, then they are being used as a means of manipulation and control. The message behind the above sharing of feelings is, "I'm upset, or angry, or hurt and it's your fault. You are responsible for my feelings. Your unacceptable behavior is the cause of my painful feelings."
When feelings are shared from the loving adult, the intent is to learn about oneself and the other, or to just give information. For example, if you say, "I'm very upset about what you did, and there must be a good reason you did it. Can we talk about it?", your intent is to learn rather than blame. Instead of being a victim of the other person's behavior, you are interested in understanding the situation. Or, you might say, "I'm really angry at you, and I don't want to take it out on you. So I'm going for a walk and see if I can get through this." In this case, you are taking responsibility for your own feelings, your own reactions, and just giving the other person information about your behavior.
Our wounded feelings, such as anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, annoyance, aloneness, emptiness, envy, and jealousy, come from our thoughts, not from others' behavior. For example, let's say that your friend tells you she wants to get off the phone because she is feeling judged by you, and she doesn't like it.
There are many things you can tell yourself about this, and what you tell yourself will determine what you feel.
If you tell yourself that your friend may be in a bad place and projecting her judgments of herself onto you, you might feel compassionate toward her.
If you tell yourself that you can never do anything right and that you are a bad person for judging, you might feel inadequate, unworthy, and rejected.
If you tell yourself that your friend has no right to say this to you, you might feel angry.
If you tell yourself you might be judging, and maybe there is something important for you to learn here - that there must be good reason you are judging - you may feel open and curious.
If you tell yourself that only a really good friend would tell you her truth, you might feel grateful and appreciative of her courage.
If you tell yourself that you are not judging, that it is your friend who is judging, and you take her judgment personally as an attack, you might feel hurt.
If you tell yourself that your friend is unkind, crazy or off the wall, you may feel righteous.
I hope you can see from these examples that, regardless of what someone else is doing, it is what we tell ourselves about it that causes our wounded feelings. It is so easy to believe that it's another's behavior that causes these wounded feelings. And then we believe that we need to tell them our feelings as a way of taking care of ourselves. But this is the opposite of personal responsibility - it's being a victim and using our feelings as a way to blame.
The next time you are upset with someone and want to blame him or her for your feelings, stop and notice your intent. If you discover that your intent is to blame the other person for your feelings, you might want to go off by yourself and do an Inner Bonding process instead!
Heal your relationships with Dr. Margaret’s 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
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Begin each day with setting your intention for the day. What do you want? Do you want to walk in love, peace and joy? Do you want to be present in the moment, connected with yourself and in oneness with Spirit? Do you want to be kind and compassionate? Creative and productive? Open to learning each moment? Think about who you want to be and set your intention for the day - out loud.
By Dr. Margaret Paul