Learning to express your emotions, a healthy habit Learning to express your emotions, a healthy habit

Even though the way we express how we feel is different among men and women, we all must do this assertively and accordingly to avoid causing harm to others.

Medical Advisor Alejandra González – Psychologist

Some people are unshakable. It seems as though nothing can make them cry or laugh. When asked how they feel, they rarely respond with something other than the usual: “good,” “fine,” or “okay.” Often, these are people who have difficulty expressing their emotions, a condition psychology refers to as alexithymia.

Holding one’s emotions back is not the only challenge a person may face with them, however. The expression of one’s emotions can also be exaggerated, wrong, exorbitant, or they may intentionally hide what they really want to express.

The way an emotion is expressed is generally conditioned by people’s environment and by how they are raised from when they are little. It is therefore no coincidence that children grow up and take certain phrases to be true: “Don’t be a crybaby, men don’t cry,” “You have to be strong” or “You’re prettier when you’re quiet.”

Alejandra González, PhD in psychology and family therapy, believes that more than anything, even though emotions come spontaneously, how we express them is a matter of gender.

“As a result of social and educational models, emotions in men and women are different. We are taught to feel or repress emotions in different ways. Both girls and boys are taught what they can and should feel. Girls are taught to be delicate and sweet; and perhaps to be more careful with their feelings and emotions. Boys are entitled to be rougher and stronger, to know what they want and to express their emotions and desires.”

According to our expert, statistics on disorders that affect mental health can support this point. They show that women suffer more from depression, anxiety and phobias; while men suffer more from difficulties with controlling their impulses, hyperactivity and problems with being active.

Channeling your emotions

Since having emotions about something, whether positive and negative, is as natural as breathing, our expert asserts that irritating or harming others as a result of not controlling in emotion can be avoided by “… identifying and managing our emotions and not letting them control us.”

While culture conditions how we express our emotions, the potential threat of increasing mental health illnesses is a call to motivate children from when they are young and applaud them when they consistently and adequately express their emotions instead of repressing them. Parents are the one responsible for this. They are also responsible for the actions and examples they set to not perpetuate cultural practices that repress or condition their emotions.

Daring to show emotion, or doing it at the right time, is also important in adulthood and can be learned with the advice and support of professionals if the barriers to doing so are serious.

According to Dr. González, it can be helpful to avoid those people referred to as toxic (and those who are always criticizing or are negative), and to surround yourself with those who are positive. “Having positive thoughts, being optimistic, thinking “Yes, I can!” believing that life has many positive elements to it and that you have to enjoy those who are close to you, increases your ability to control your emotions and helps you be a better person.”

Practicing meditation, any form of spirituality and taking moments to be silent can also help.

It is also important to manage stress. Our expert says that you have to, “Slow down when you start going fast, because if we go through 30 thousand tasks a day, at the end if the day, we can feel irritable, deception or self-criticism. And it’s hard to understand what you feel when you’re going full speed.”

One step forward is to learn to say what you feel without offending others, and understand that not doing this may adversely affect your mental health. Silence is the language of the wise, but not always.

Being assertive: essential to expressing your emotions

Another key factor for expressing your emotions adequately is to be assertive. Psychologists claim that it is very important for every human being to have the ability to freely state what they want, and for the response to not be conditioned by societal or cultural pressures.

Feelings can be expressed verbally (by talking about them) or non-verbally (by acting upon them). It is very important that being embarrassed, shy or being scared does not inhibit the expression of feelings.

Emotions and feelings are different

Emotions are not the same as feelings. According to psychologist, Alejandra González, emotions are spontaneous and have to do with something circumstantial that tends to make people feel sadness, anger, melancholy, shock, fear, etc. Feelings tend to refer to a permanent experience and the significance behind it; they are the continuance of an emotion and refer to admiration, love, jealousy and compassion, among others.