communicate

How to Know When it’s Time to Talk About Your Feelings

I’m sure you expect that as a therapist, my advice is always going to be to talk about your feelings. But honestly, there are times when that just becomes exhausting and unhelpful. I’m a huge believer in talking about our feelings! When it’s going to be helpful. And a lot of the time it is. But how do you know if it isn’t?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t talk about our feelings enough.

And that’s definitely not good either. If you are upset about something or your feelings are hurt, it is 100% going to affect the way you interact with that person if you don’t hash it out. And I know, I know, saying 100% is quite the claim, but I feel confident in that assessment. Feel free to let me know if you’ve seen otherwise. . .maybe I’ll say 98% to be safe ;-).

So it makes sense that the majority of the time therapists are screaming from the rooftops to talk about your feelings with your loved ones.

Most of the time that is probably the right answer. It’s just that sometimes it isn’t.

Take this story as an example. Imagine that you had a really long day. Work was so busy that you barely had time to pee, so naturally, eating was out of the question. You drive home through traffic and you can almost feel your blood pressure rising. You breathe through your frustration, but despite your best efforts, you can tell that your nerves are fried.

By the time you get home you just want to shovel food into your face and sit down. But when you walk in, your husband doesn’t move from the computer. What you really want is for him to acknowledge your presence, and make some pretense of giving a shit that you may have had a hard day. But he doesn’t. He grunts from in front of the computer. Doesn’t even really turn his head. You feel a burning pit of resentment get stoked deep in your chest. Silently, you stomp your way into the kitchen without so much as grunting back, and find snacks. Halfway through the bag of pretzels, you realize that actually your husband is kind of cute. And now he is talking to you and asking about your day. Suddenly you realize that you may have been more hungry than genuinely resentful. Would it have been nice for him to be a bit more responsive when you walked in? Probably, but it certainly isn’t something that you feel you need to gripe about. Your day was already long enough, and he’s being pretty solicitous right now.

This is a prime example of a time that it would not have been helpful to talk about your feelings (especially not in the moment). You were able to move through the feelings quickly and easily, and while it might be helpful to say a quick sentence about greeting you when you come home, before you’ve eaten and after a long day probably isn’t the ideal time to do it.

And honestly, this is just one of many examples of times that talking about your feelings isn’t really going to make anything better.

So yes, most of the time talking about your feelings is the right thing to do. But if you’ve ever opened a can of worms that made things worse than when you started by trying to do the “right thing” and talk about your feelings, then you know this isn’t always the best thing to do. If you follow these steps, you will have an ironclad grasp of when it makes sense to say something, and when it might make more sense to just hold your tongue. When we figure this out, you will notice that when you do choose to talk things out, it makes much more of an impact, and then the rest of the time you can enjoy way more of the time with your people.

TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS FEELS LIKE A CHORE

The thing is, if you keep talking about every little emotion that flits across your consciousness, you are eventually going to burn out. For a while you might be able to keep it up, but it won’t be long before you decide that it’s too much work, and although it may be the “right thing to do”, you just don’t have the energy. The upside of this is that things that genuinely need to be talked about end up getting ignored because you used all your energy talking about how the dishes need to be placed in the dishwasher in a more organized fashion. This gives the real issues more time to fester, and no one wants that.

COMMUNICATING WHAT MATTERS

If you can talk about the stuff that really impacts your quality of life and relationship, you get to expend your energy on conversations that really matter. This means that you get to enjoy more of the time with the people in your life, and don’t develop festering resentments. You can feel closer to the people in your life, and feel good about the way you are standing up for yourself, too.

relationships, therapy, online therapy, communication, virginia, richmond, charlottesville, albuquerque, santa fe, boundaries

LEARN HOW TO TELL WHEN TO TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS, AND WHEN TO LET IT GO

You may be feeling bogged down by the pressure of always talking things through. . .always trying to be open and vulnerable, and frustrated that you aren’t getting the results you want in your relationships. The key is to use your energy purposefully. That means learning when it makes sense to talk about your feelings, but also when it might make more sense to work through your issue on your own. Read on to learn easy to follow steps to determine when to talk it out, and when to wait it out.

ASK YOURSELF THESE FOUR QUESTIONS

The main issue here is that we are telling people to talk it out, regardless of the circumstances. Even good advice is bad advice if we aren’t talking about when and how to use it. It makes sense that you’re feeling exhausted by emotional discourse if you have no qualifiers to indicate that it’s the tool you want to use. So let’s talk about how to make sure that the energy you expend on being emotionally communicative actually increases your quality of life and relationships.

Question #1: How upset am I right now? Am I capable of having this conversation productively?

Here’s the thing, when we are the most upset is when we feel the most urge to talk things out. But there’s a problem. Maybe you can spot it. When you are the most upset is the exact time that you are the least capable of having a productive conversation. If you ask yourself how upset you are, and the answer is very, please, postpone this conversation for a time that you are going to be more emotionally available.

With my clients, we spend time identifying the signs and signals that we are beyond being able to productively communicate, and then we identify skills to initiate these conversations later on.

When you learn to discuss important issues only when you are emotionally available you will notice that your discussions (notice I didn’t say arguments) are shorter, less frequent, and more productive. Seriously. Do this.

Question #2: Who is this person that I’m upset with? Who are they to me and what is the nature of our relationship?

This one is a bit more complex to discuss. But the major point stands; if this person is very important to you and you have a close and important relationship, then they are worth more of your energy investment to keep the relationship healthy. If the person is not as close or important to you, it might be more of an energy drain to try and discuss the your issue. You may choose instead to either cut off the relationship, set boundaries that protect you without discussing the emotional information behind your decisions, or to change the nature of your interactions moving forward. As you can see, there are many different ways to handle a situation where you are upset by the actions of someone else. But here is the most important thing I’m going to say about it: not everyone is worth your openness, and not every relationship is owed your emotional vulnerability. I can’t tell you how often people try to have healthy, purposeful communication with people who just aren’t an important part of their lives. And usually it is not particularly cathartic or productive.

Together with my clients we identify what we want out of the relationship, and we do thought exercises about how useful we feel different types of communicating would be. This often helps my clients to hone their communication to be most appropriate to the circumstances. This helps my clients to feel confident and empowered when they are entering challenging conversations or handling uncomfortable situations.

Question #3: How long am I actually going to be upset about this?

One of my personal rules is to wait a good 24-48 hours before I talk about things I’m upset about so that I can determine if the thing still matters to me or not. If you are going to be upset about something for only a couple days, having a conversation that lasts hours might not be a good use of your time.

On the flip side of this, if you don’t talk through something but you still notice a shitty feeling every time you think about it, this is definitely not helping you or preserving your relationships.

Getting to know your unique “tells” for when something is going to bother you for a while versus when something is really just a minor inconvenience is something we can make some real progress with in therapy.

Question #4: How are you going to feel if the conversation doesn’t go well? What are the consequences?

Guys. . .this is so important. This isn’t even really talking about when it would or would not be advantageous to the relationship for you to discuss an issue or not. It’s more about taking care of yourself and making sure that you are going to be okay no matter what happens.

This is what I tell my clients. Consider your emotional state. Now walk yourself mentally through the experience of having an unsuccessful encounter. How are you? Are you angry and disappointed but you’ll take a bath and drink a glass of wine and get over it? Or are you devastated? Is this the kind of feeling that you will be able to process through in a matter of hours? Or is it going to take you days or even weeks to bounce back?

The thing is that even if it is the right thing to have the conversation, it doesn’t make sense to talk about it unless you know that even if it goes to hell you are going to be okay on the other side. That doesn’t mean that the outcome doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to feel good if it goes to shit, it just means that you’re going to be okay even if the conversation doesn’t. You can’t control the other person. That means you can’t control the outcome of the conversation. Having these talks is only the best option if you are in a place of strength inside yourself and you will be able to get through the hard stuff.

Learning when and how to talk about your feelings is honestly quite the task. Talking about things too much can be exhausting and unnecessary, while keeping your feelings inside can be really destructive both to your sense of self and also to your relationships. Learning how to differentiate is as easy as asking yourself four simple questions. Therapy can help you explore your feelings and relationships so that you can feel good about your choices to engage or not.

If you feel lost in how much to share in your relationships, I can help you sort through it. Email me today to schedule your free consultation.

2 Things you never knew about Being a Teenager (Even if you are one)

The teen years are a time of huge transitions. Not quite adults yet, but definitely not kids anymore, teens are tasked with getting to know themselves and also learning how to have a new kind of relationship with the people they love.

Being a teenager is an exciting time of growth, but it’s also excruciating.

Suddenly your parents feel like an aggravation rather than a safe haven, friendships and romantic relationships start feeling more complicated, and the pressure from school starts to mount.

Trying to figure this out by yourself can leave you feeling stressed, and scared to make any decisions lest you make a mistake. With so much riding on you, something has got to give, and so far it’s been your sanity.

Whereas you used to be able to go to your parents for help and support, some things are just too weird to talk to them about. Other times you may come to them wanting support and end up getting irritated or worse yet, starting an argument. So you keep your stress to yourself or talk to your friends about it. It’s nice to have someone to to commiserate with, but since they’re going through the same thing you are, it doesn’t always help.

Maybe it looks something like this: you’ve always been really conscientious about making the “right” decisions. You want to make yourself proud, and that means not getting into drugs or alcohol, and certainly not being stupid about sex and dating. But lately you’ve been feeling so overwrought with school stuff and trying to make everyone around you happy, that you feel like you want to let loose.

And not only that, you don’t want to waste these teen years being too responsible, because goodness knows once you have a job and a family you’ll get enough of that.

So when you got invited to that party and you know there’s going to be alcohol there, for the first time you feel tempted to throw caution to the wind and show up. You’re the only one in your friend group who is as responsible as you are anyway, so surely having one or two drinks wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Normally you would talk to your parents about pros and cons but you know that they wouldn’t approve and you don’t want them making your decisions for you forever. The issue is that then the only voices you’re listening to are your friends, and they are hardly reliable for sound advice. You want to be able to be a teenager and experience being reckless and irresponsible, but you also want to stay safe, and protect your future.

Eventually you end up either feeling resentful that you’ve wasted your teen years being responsible and adult (everyone always said you were really mature for your age) or you end up making more and more reckless decisions that feel like they’re spiraling out of your control.

The truth is that experimentation is a normal part of being a teenager.

That means starting to make more of your own decisions and having a broader range of experiences so that you can practice boundary setting and self advocacy. When you go away to college, you aren’t going to have your parents as a buffer anymore, so it’s going to be important that you have a better understanding of your limits.

It’s okay to not know exactly who you are and exactly what your limits are. That’s what this time is for. It’s just important to make sure that while you experiment, you can do it safely.

Being a teenager is a stressful experience of growth and change. It can be helpful to know a little more about what is going on in your brain and the developmental tasks of this age so that you can feel free to grow and change, but still keep yourself safe and protect your future. When we keep in mind the purpose of these years, it can be easier to make decisions that satisfy our need for adventure while not losing sight of the things that are going to matter moving forward.

Keep reading to learn 2 things about the teen years that can help you live these years to the fullest.

teen therapy online relationship communication boundaries how to

TOO MUCH STRESS AND RESPONSIBILITY

Left to navigate the teens years on your own, it’s hard to drown out the noise of everyone else’s opinions so that you can figure out what matters to you. Even if you are somehow able to identify what matters to you and what doesn’t, then you have the problem of balancing it all and learning how to communicate with people without everything becoming an argument or a power struggle. Living like this is unnecessarily stressful and turbulent.

SAFE EXPERIMENTATION AND LEARNING TO BE YOURSELF

Although there is nothing that is going to make the teen years feel easy, if you learn more about what is supposed to be happening during these years, you will be better able to get to know yourself and feel comfortable with the decisions you’re making. When we choose to engage in the teen years in a full way and immerse ourselves in the developmental purpose of this time, we can get through it with more confidence and excitement about the future. You can learn about what is making the teen years so hard so that you can safely explore who you are and who you want to be moving forward.

2 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE TEEN YEARS SO YOU CAN EXPERIMENT AND GROW, AND STILL BE SAFE

The teen years may have you feeling stressed, lost and frustrated. The key to making the most of this time and getting everything you want out of it, is learning more about what’s happening in your brain, and what the point of these years is in the first place. It may surprise you how much more clear things become with just a bit more information about why things feel the way they do. Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.

Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.

1) Suddenly you feel an itch to be reckless

One of the hardest things about being a teenager is suddenly feeling like everything is boring and all you want to do is everything you know you shouldn’t do. It’s the weirdest thing the way it comes on. One day you feel content to focus on getting good grades and doing the responsible thing, and the next day it just doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. You just want to stretch your limits, experience more of life, and learn more about who you are and how you respond in different situations. Suddenly the fact that your parents would hate it, makes it seem like a much better idea.

It makes complete sense that you’re feeling this way when you know more about what is happening in your brain and why.

Teens are naturally reckless and adventure seeking

This serves a purpose that makes a lot of sense when you think about it for a moment. When kids are really little, they want to live with their parents forever. The idea of ever moving out and starting on their own feels terrifying, and well it should! Small children are dependent on their parents for everything, but as we get older, we become more and more capable of taking care of ourselves. Teens are on the precipice of moving out, finishing school, developing intimate relationships, and all in all making a life for themselves independently. As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of courage and daring. How can you get to a place of independence, if you stay risk averse? Becoming an adult is full of risks and challenges, and it means your whole life is going to change.

You feel adventurous now because you need to embark on the huge adventure of creating a life for yourself.

Now that you know that this is a natural part of the teen experience (and why) it can be used to your advantage. If you try to quash this instinct it will end up spilling out of you later or actually stunting your growth and development.

When I work with teens I make sure to respect this instinct and urge that teens have, while engaging with the teen to ensure that they explore their limits and identify safe ways to experiment and adventure.

This instinct is a wonderful part of being a teen, and when we work with it as opposed to against it, it can help us create wonderful memories that we can look back on as adults (because we made it to adulthood safely).

2) Why are your parents suddenly so annoying?!

One of the first things I think of when I consider the difficulties of being a teenager is the way your relationship with your parents is changing. This is hard for so many reasons. Your parents used to be the best place to go when you needed to sooth disappointment or heartache. One day going to your parents for support or just hanging out with them the way you used to doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. In fact, most interactions you have with your parents lately have been ending in arguments and frustration. You at once lose access to the calm and safety they used to afford you, and gain these irritating overlords who seem hellbent on making things more frustrating than they need to be.

It makes sense that your relationship with your parents is becoming more challenging when you consider the challenge of developing an identity that feels one hundred percent your own.

Your developmental task is to figure out who you are.

In broad terms, the task of the teenager is to learn who they are separate from their parents. Whereas a small child might ask their parents what is best and follow that lead, an adult may ask the opinion of others, but ultimately makes his own decision. In order to create this boundary, a teen needs to take on the task of mentally separating himself from his parents so that he can gain a clearer understanding of who he is as an individual.

Cue arguments about how your parents need to stop telling you what to do. This explains a bit of why you have a strong inclination to do the exact opposite of what your parents might want you to do.

Therapy is a great place to spend some time really exploring your own mind and your own beliefs, apart from the influence of your parents.

The more exploration you do in therapy, the less impulsive you will be, and the more able you will be to interact civilly with your parents.

The idea is to give you opportunities to learn more about who you are without having to act it out as much, and giving you skills to develop this new relationship with your parents.

Learning more about the tasks of being a teenager can help you to have a full and exciting teenage experience. You can absolutely get to know yourself as an individual through experimentation, and maintain the progress you’ve made towards the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

Therapy can give you a safe space to explore your values, your limits, and ways to re-create relationships as an adult.

Schedule a free consultation by emailing me today at rebeccanewkirklcsw@itherapymail.com

3 Ways to Tell You Need More Boundaries

Relationships are hard. Trying to find the balance between being there for the people who matter to you and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself is like walking a tightrope.

Having to deal with relationships is a constant in your life. If you know how to tell when you need more boundaries and how to use that information to take a step closer to your loved ones, your relationships can be a source of comfort and connection, rather than a source of conflict and stress.

Unnecessary and fruitless arguments can leave you feeling exhausted and discouraged. Staying in contact with people you genuinely like and enjoy can start to feel like a chore if you don’t feel like you can say “no” when you need to, and through all of this it is all too easy to feel like giving up on the whole venture.

You may have even decided that avoiding everyone is the only answer, only to eventually give in and start talking to everyone all over again.

Going back and forth between holding no boundaries at all and then feeling like you need a complete break from everyone can give you some figurative whiplash.

You end up feeling like your relationships are always on again off again, and frustrated that no matter what part of the cycle you’re living out, you don’t ever seem to be actually happy with it.

Consider your relationship with your parents, for instance. I know for many people our relationships with our parents is a prime place for this dynamic to play itself out.

Imagine that you schedule dinner with your parents once a week. In the beginning everything is great! It’s nice to be able to catch up, and since you moved out you just haven’t been hanging out that much. They are super supportive and excited about everything you're doing in school.

It makes you wonder how you have ever thought that they didn't care or ask real questions about what is going on in your life. Weirdly enough, you really look forward to these weekly dinners.

But then you get busy. Finals are a couple weeks away, and the mountain of homework you need to do is only growing. Your parents stress how important it is for you to take breaks, but they don’t seem to understand everything you have to do. It's not that you aren't mentioning how busy things are getting. It just feels like they don't hear you, and if they do they don't care.

You drop a bunch of hints about how much there is to do and how little time you have, but they just don’t seem to get it, and they are still talking like you’re going to come over this week for dinner. You go, but you are terse the whole time; irritable.

You start snapping at them with the smallest provocation, and find yourself wondering if you ever really made any progress in dealing with your anger.

When you finally leave you shake the evening off and silently determine that you aren’t going to put yourself through that again. It's true that you used to take your anger out on others, but you've worked your ass off to learn how to chill out. Then one night with your parents and here you are again.

You don’t like the person you are when you’re around them, and they just don’t get the kind of pressure you’re under.

You end up avoiding them to try and avoid something that is true about yourself, rather than learning how to interact differently with your parents so that you can feel respected and appreciated, and still get to have your time with them.

Does this sound familiar? You start engaging with people you care about and it feels good, because the relationships are important. But when you need some flexibility you don’t feel like we can ask for it.

You end up doing what is expected of you and hating it the whole time.

You have such a bad experience that you decide that the relationship itself isn’t worth having to feel that again, and you shut out people you love. It doesn’t have to be that way. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have relationship with your parents in a way that feels good to you?

Look, boundary setting is hard. It’s hard to even really determine when a boundary is necessary. So we end up lonely half the time, and smothered the rest of the time.

When we are learning to set boundaries, it is really common to feel like you are swinging wildly from one extreme (getting walked on) to the other (maintaining strict and inflexible boundaries that keep you isolated).

So then, the very first part of the work is to determine where you are on that spectrum, and what to do about it.

It’s true that navigating relationships is really hard. However, if we can learn to tell when we are lacking boundaries we can start to feel comfortable and connected in our relationships.

When we learn when we need to set some more boundaries, and get some practice at using them effectively it is absolutely possible to enjoy our relationships. Keep reading for 3 surefire ways to figure out if it’s time for you to be setting more boundaries in relationships and a good next step.

Don’t let guilt and anxiety make your relationship decisions.

Like it or not, relationships are a huge part of your life. If you continue to allow your relationship choices to be directed by your guilt and anxiety, you will end up in relationships that don’t meet your needs. While you may feel like that’s ok now, your feelings will make themselves known. If you don’t communicate with intention, your feelings may come out in a way you don’t feel good about.

If you don’t end up losing your shit and feeling like an idiot, you will likely end up emotionally distancing yourself from people you care about. The ironic thing is that this ends up harming the very same relationships that you are trying so hard to preserve by meeting their needs. As counter intuitive as it may seem, setting boundaries saves relationships.

Living this way is just not sustainable. Your relationships feel like chores and responsibilities, and you are in a constant state of vacillating between beating yourself up for not being “there” for people in the way you think you should and avoiding them altogether.

You can get your needs met in your relationships know when you need better boundaries.

Although you feel compelled by guilt to put yourself aside and focus on the other people in your relationships, you can absolutely take care of yourself and only engage in your relationships when you really want to.

If you can set boundaries from an intentional place you can feel closer and more connected to the people you love. If you can get more comfortable and noticing the signs, you will notice that you can identify when to start setting some more boundaries and enjoy your relationships more.

boundaries healthy relationship communication

3 Ways to Know that It’s Time to Set More Boundaries in Your Relationships

You are feeling lost in identifying when you need to set more boundaries in your relationships. The key is to learn to pay attention to the way that you feel about the relationship. When you think about learning to identify when you need to set more boundaries, it may seem completely out of reach.

What you are neglecting to consider is how much information can be gleaned from paying some attention to how you are feeling and acting in the relationship. Take a look at these 3 signs that indicate that it’s time for more boundaries in your relationships so that you can enjoy being around the people you care about.

Take a look at these 3 signs that indicate that it’s time for more boundaries in your relationships so that you can enjoy being around the people you care about.

1) You Notice That You’re Feeling Resentful

Your feelings serve a purpose. If you are noticing that you are starting to resent spending time with someone, or feeling bitter about the effort or energy you are expending on them, it is a sign that you don’t feel like your needs are getting met in that relationship.

It makes sense that you would be feeling resentful if you are putting a bunch of time and energy into doing what someone else wants or expects of you if you don’t feel that you are getting what you need.

Identify The Perceived Expectation and the Outcome of Not Meeting It

When you notice that you are feeling resentful, it’s time to do something to protect your energy. This is a good time to take a step back. See if you can identify what you feel the expectation is and what you fear will happen if you don’t meet that expectation.

If you decide to try counseling, this is something we can do together. When you are able to identify what you fear will happen if you don’t do whatever it is you feel is expected of you, you can make an empowered decision about how to go forward.

2) You Find Yourself Being Passive Aggressive

If you notice that you are being passive aggressive, it is likely that you feel like you need to communicate something that has made you angry. If you don’t feel like you are allowed to communicate openly without creating a really big issue, then passive aggressiveness becomes the only way to get your needs met.

Communicate Openly and Explicitly, Why You Are Upset

I know it’s hard, but communicating explicitly almost always has better outcomes. If you are being passive aggressive it is completely possible for no one to actually understand why you are upset. At least if you are open about what you need and what upset you everyone is on the same page.

Together with my clients I identify the passive aggressive behavior, explore what might have triggered that response from you. We then practice communicating the anger in a way that the client feels good about so that there’s not a need for the passive aggressive behavior anymore.

3) You Notice Yourself Avoiding People You Care About

Avoidance is a really common way of dealing with relationship issues. Sometimes that means we are just avoiding a challenging conversation, but other times it might look like staying late at work so you don’t have to deal with your spouse when you get home.

It makes sense that if every time you have tried to bring up things that are bothering you you have been met with resistance and anger you would learn to avoid the whole deal.

Bring Up the Elephant in the Room

If you just flat out identify that you are feeling avoidant because you don’t trust that what you have to say will be well received, it is the beginning of a conversation instead of the end of a relationship.

There is, of course, no guarantee that what you say will be received well, and certainly it is a difficult thing to hear and uncomfortable to talk about, but talking is a step above not talking.

Your relationships are not going to get better by not talking.

When you schedule a session with me we will identify a good starting place to open the lines of communication. We will practice different ways to have these difficult conversations in session and identify how you would know if it is a good moment to bring it up or not.

I can help you to start to bridge the chasm between you and your loved ones.

You can increase the intimacy in your relationships and enjoy the people in your life again. You can absolutely feel relief from the expectations you have been holding yourself accountable for.

Together, you and I can identify the signals that it is time for you to set some more boundaries. Then we can take it step by step to identify how to set these boundaries in a way that feels good to you and respectful of the people in your life.

Call me today for a free 30 minute consultation.

Call or email me today to schedule an free 30 minute consultation to see if we can heal your relationships.