Is it good to share my emotions?

Question: Help! I am not sure if it is good to share my emotions with others!

Answer: Emotions are part and parcel of our life. When we share these emotions with other people it can help release the built up tension of our daily stresses, make us more relaxed and also feel closer to other people with whom we are sharing our feelings. It gives us an opportunity to understand ourselves and our feelings better, and also see a situation in a new light. Our close people can give us newer perspectives too when we share our feelings with them. When we share happy feelings, it can often rub upon everyone and uplift our mood as well as their mood.

Question: What about negative emotions?
Answer: Yes, even sharing negative emotions has beneficial effect on our physical and mental health. But how we share such feelings can influence how others react or respond, and thus it is especially important to take care of our communication when we are sharing our negative feelings. When we just explode and let everything come out, it may hurt others and make situations complicated for everyone around. Thus it is important to try and reduce the intensity of our extremely intense emotions and then share them in a manner which serves to bring attention towards an important issue, build deeper understanding with others, solve problems and meet the needs of everyone.

Question: When I talk about my feelings, sometimes people do not respond well.

Answer: Although it is good to share our feelings, we have to make a judgement what, when, where, how and with whom to share our feelings. It is not advisable to share all our feelings, with everyone, anywhere, at any point of time in an impulsive manner, because not everyone is in a receptive state of mind, all the time.

Sharing our negative experiences and emotions is not unhealthy in itself but it can come with its own social costs. Hence, we need to be selective and non-impulsive in sharing so that it does not put us in a social awkward situations or results in a social disadvantage for us, especially when sharing beyond our immediate very close circle of relationships.

Repeated sharing of the same issues and concerns is not uncommon but it can at times strain those who wish to help but are simply not having enough emotional resources or energy to be able to do that. Moreover, though you may experience a need to share repeatedly, you may not always find that repeated sharing to be helping. This would suggest that you need to explore other resources to deal with the issue/emotions (e.g. maintaining a journal, learning some practices to soothe yourself, enhance a sense of calmness and/or talking to a counsellor). This is not to suggest that we should avoid sharing our negative emotions and always deal with them ourselves. Relationships thrive on a sense of mutual sharing and a sense of give and take. Thus it helps to be aware as to how often we use someone as a sounding board vis.- a- vis. we act as a sounding board for that person. Although at one point, one person may be more of a giver /listener than a receiver, there is often the scope to balance this out in the longer run.

We need to remember that those with whom we choose to share may have a different opinion, which may come from their own life experiences. Knowing this reduce the chance of being disappointed and also opens the possibility of seeing things from new angles.

Question: Can we share our negative feelings with someone with whom we have an issue or is it better to keep it to ourselves.
Answer: Yes, it might help to share your feelings with the person with whom you might be having an issue. It is important to remember in such situations that you are trying to build a larger understanding and finding a solution which works for both and not just telling the other person that how s/he is contributing to your problems. If the manner in which we share our negative feelings communicates to others that they are responsible for it, it may result in the other person trying to defend themselves. Therefore it is important to take ownership of our feelings when we try to communicate it with others. We also need to be specific and not use over-general statements or bring past grievances into current discussion. Further it helps when along with sharing our negative emotions, we also share some solutions.

Expert: Dr Jyotsna Agrawal
Dr Jyotsna is assistant professor of Positive Psychology at the Dept. of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bangalore