Our emotions are incredibly powerful parts of ourselves, and like scalding hot coffee they're best handled with caution. I only know one way to fully deal with difficult emotions, which if left undealt with can become a significant source of depression. Crying is a good and necessary release and writing a letter is helpful, but at some point you have to talk to another human being about what is going on inside of you. It’s a fact that I’ve tried to avoid for a good portion of my life, but my emotions rebel when I do. I keep drinking the scalding hot coffee instead of airing it out first, and my insides have had to deal with the effects. Dick Innes says that "While the eyes are supposed to be the windows to the soul, symptoms are even more so. They are often the clues to inner needs. An impaired relationship, a dull marriage, stress, anxiety, depression, or a physical symptom is often caused by an unresolved inner problem."
“I’m fine” was my emotional mantra for the first 22 years of my life. It’s not as though I was always consciously afraid to talk about my emotions either. I just really thought that that was the right answer. There were two main reasons for this. First, I was definitely suffering from the “nothing should ever hurt you” philosophy of manhood. If someone said or did something that was hurtful to me, my response was always to act like it didn’t matter. I used half truths to get around difficult situations and emotions. "It's all good," “don’t let it get to you,” and “who cares” were other emotional avoidance arrows in my quiver. If someone hurt me, I wasn't gonna cry about. It’s all good.
Second, I had a misguided sense of how forgiveness worked. I thought I was being the more mature person by letting everything slide. Someone would be rude or inconsiderate with me and I would say to myself “it’s alright. I forgive them. They’re probably having a rough day.” It seems very generous and spiritual, but it actually wasn’t real. Forgiveness is awesome and beautiful, something we should all strive to be better at, but if you don't fully face the pain caused by the other person you can't truly forgive them either. This can be such a minefield to navigate. You don’t want to bury feelings, but practically you can’t and shouldn’t tell everyone how they’re making you feel in every situation. The main ingredient is having one person that fully knows and loves you and with which you can share your feelings, hurts, and concerns. Having more than one person is great, but one is enough in order to have a healthy emotional life which can allow you to climb out of depression.
I was still struggling with both communication and depression during my first couple years of marriage. One of my wife’s common concerns was that she didn’t know what I was thinking or why I was withdrawing so much. As I learned to fully share my deepest thoughts and concerns to her, depression started to lose its remaining grip on my life and my marriage was strengthened. I’m no longer a great mystery to Vanessa. I’m an open book. Even when I think I’m hiding something I can’t. While I still struggle with properly dealing with hurt feelings between friends, family, and coworkers, my communication and therefore connection with my wife is strong and that’s enough to keep my depression at bay.
It can be really difficult to learn to express your emotions, though. For starters, if you’re like me you might not even really know what emotion you’re having or why. It’s useful if the person that you’re sharing with is emotionally aware. He or she can help clarify what you're feeling. The process can feel unnatural too if you’re not used to it. Many of us are just not used to being honest or letting others see our weakness. It's so important to your emotional health, though, and you'll soon love the liberating feeling of not carrying your emotional baggage with you everywhere you go.
The more you verbalize the feelings you are aware of, the more you will increase your sensitivity to all your feelings. When you are feeling hurt, afraid, or angry, say "I feel hurt," or "I feel angry," never, "You hurt me," or "you make me angry," as this is blaming the other person for your own feelings. Dick Innes