Bottling it all up - hiding our feelings

All it takes is a fake smile to hide an injured soul and no one will never notice how broken you really are. So often we wear that mask when the feelings wash around inside us desperately hoping that someone will see through our mask and into our pain. Yet it never quite happens that way so we are forced to keep up our charade of telling everyone how “fine” we feel while we long to say how much it hurts, how much it scares us. Often we push others away, not sure how they will react if they saw the real us showing them anger and hostility, for that is easier than the path of vulnerability and honest feelings.

Frequently it is the ones we love the most that we are hardest on because somehow we know that their love will bring them back to us, so it is ‘safe’ to be angry with them - but why not vulnerable? Sometimes you might notice that your emotions get displaced and your irritation is peaked by someone tapping on the table, or the TV being up too loud or some other relatively insignificant problem. The emotion boils over and there is no stopping it.

You can think of bottling up your feelings as pushing a beach ball underwater. It’s easy to push the ball under water but as the ball gets deeper and bigger it gets more difficult. Eventually you are at the limit of what you can cope with and it flies out - at speed in an unpredictable direction and it may hit an unintended target. Potentially you are left with feelings of guilt and upset at not being able to control it (your feelings).

You are not alone; many perhaps all of us use a mask to prevent the world seeing those bits that worry us. Yet as we have become used to this habit of pleasing others, projecting what we think they need, we rarely say how we feel and don’t realise how much we need to express ourselves for our own sakes. We build, day by day a mountain of these feelings inside ourselves and they can become difficult to handle.

Finding a safe place to express your emotions, especially those negative ones are key to good health. It needs to be somewhere you don’t feel threatened or worried that you will hurt anyone (particularly yourself). This is key to releasing those difficult thoughts and feelings. There are many ways to do it. You may be lucky enough to have friends and family who will listen, but sometimes even that doesn’t feel safe. Others write journals or run or cry, scream even to let go of those emotions.

The key here is not about confronting the person who made you angry or frustrated, but in not ignoring the feeling. You may want to confront the person, but that is not compulsory. Confronting the feeling allows you to process it understand what it is it means to you and give you the power to choose what you want to do next.

Of course this processing can seem daunting and that is why many turn to a counsellor or psychotherapist. They can help by offering a safe space and some perspective on what is happening. Helping you to uncover what is happening in your life. Yet it is possible to make that journey on your own, albeit at a slower pace.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Glasgow, G46

Written by Graeme Orr

Glasgow, G46

Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.

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