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The Scars we Create

When Feelings are Bigger than Truth


In these unsettling times mental health issues are front and center. Athletes are voicing their struggles with stress and anxiety, we are leaving our jobs in record numbers often citing burn-out and depression and outbursts of disruptive behavior are popping up everywhere from airlines to grocery stores.

Today we are encouraged to share how we feel in a way that we never have before. Having grown up in England where such a thing was totally frowned upon, and hence completely unheard of, it’s a welcome relief. It feels good to know that we are not alone in our own struggles and that there is no longer any stigma attached to revealing it or to getting help.

It comes as no surprise with all the challenges we’re facing that, in my own life and work, I encounter emotional turmoil and overflow of greater intensity than ever before. This is a good thing when the issues are thoughtfully explored and an effort made to understand them more fully. We can work on channeling our emotions in healthy and productive ways, using our fear of being vulnerable to increase empathy for others. But I am also seeing a disturbing increase in incidents of inappropriate self-expression that are disruptive and even destructive.

So where does healthy self-expression end and entitled self-indulgence at the expense of others begin? I believe that much of this “over sharing” of emotional overload begins with the mistaken idea that if we “let it all out”, we will miraculously feel better, get closure and be able to move on.

In my experience the reverse is true. When we thoughtlessly dump our pain on to others without taking the opportunity for introspection, it simply creates more turmoil. None of us like to be treated this way. If we want to disrupt and undermine our relationships, be passed over for opportunities and create chaos there’s no better way. Projecting our feelings onto others usually comes out of a sense of self-protection. If we make the other person the “cause” of our pain then we can conveniently avoid taking responsibility and exploring underlying feelings. This in turn creates an even bigger crisis of confidence and overwhelm as we essentially hand over the responsibility for our lives.

So how best to handle emotional overwhelm in these complicated times, to protect and care for ourselves and those around us?

Firstly, see it as an empowering opportunity for self-examination. No two people are alike. We all have a unique perspective, different experiences and emotional triggers. Ask yourself honestly, what am I bringing with me into this situation? Until we know ourselves better, we won’t be able to navigate effectively and stand little chance of improving the situation.

Take a step back and make time for some critical analysis to separate the facts from the feelings. How we feel about something isn’t necessarily the truth of the situation. Just consider how many times you have been afraid when you later realized that all the worry was for nothing and, in fact, there had been nothing to fear. Just because we feel a certain way, doesn’t automatically make it so.

None of us are immune from emotional scars and all of us, even with the best of intentions, can create emotional scars in others. So with all that we cope with today, let’s make it a priority to examine and understand ourselves and others better. The good news is, in an unpredictable world, we do have control over our reactions. By caring for ourselves and those around us in this way, we become a part of the solution for the kinder, gentler world that we imagine.