Did you grow up in a family where some emotions were not allowed to be shown?
Some families have unspoken rules. Family members are just not allowed to demonstrate anger or crying is not tolerated, even having too much fun is discouraged.
We are emotional beings. There is energy in emotion. It’s a signal which can propel us to act. People cry for a reason. Distress is being experienced. A need is not being met. Most of the time when empathy or understanding is shown to the one in distress, the distress dissolves. The need to be listened to, heard or recognised has been met and the distress eases. When children are told not to cry or “big boys don’t cry” the distress emotion is being silenced or ignored and the one in distress must stuff that feeling. Suppressed emotions can tend to eventually impede our cognitive abilities. Some children and even adults who live with a lot of suppressed negative emotions could end up struggling to pay attention, think clearly, comprehend, problem solve and remember.
Showing empathy is invaluable to those who are experiencing big feelings. Simply saying
“Oh my, I see you are feeling frustrated, how can I help?” or ” You seem very upset, would you like to talk about it? I am here to listen when you are ready” are fine empathetic statements to start with.
Note: It is important to NOT give advice when offering to listen to others vent their feelings. Just looking at them and listening with 100% attention is sometimes sufficient to meet their need to be supported and giving them a safe space to feel and just be.
I was amazed at my 5 year old when she was upset with me once and she found a note pad and wrote me a note, in her inventive spelling, describing to me how unfair I had been and how she felt and how she wished I could be instead.
Offering children a secret journal to vent their feelings in, is an extremely helpful practice. Reassure them that no one will ever read it and they are allowed to write anything in it, all the bad thoughts and feelings are permitted to be expressed in it. I call it emotional detox! Adults do well with this practice also. Happy writing….. to free up.