I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
This is a discovery not from learning, but life: being open with others about hardships you’re going through can relieve your internal feelings of anger and anxiety.
Many people know this intuitively, especially women; many of them don’t have to be taught that telling their friends about their problems will help them feel better. And some people—we all know them—go overboard with telling others about their problems and could use some introspection for a change! But others of us, for various reasons, need to consciously learn this truth.
Here’s how this discovery manifested in my life.
I have the unique situation of being chronically ill but not technically disabled, meaning that I can work a full-time job but it takes every last ounce of my energy. But I didn’t always understand it this clearly. For a long time I struggled through my days feeling irritable and anxious. On especially bad days I would unintentionally snap and scowl at the people around me. I hated being like that, but my anger resulted from my defensive position—me against the world.
As I began to understand more about what I was going through, I was able to tell others about it; it wasn’t complaining so much as just being honest about what I was going through and letting people in more. As a result, I felt my defensive anger and anxiety diffuse. It was no longer just me against the world; I had companions to help bear my burden.
I think this truth can help many of us who don’t intuitively have it down pat. For example, an alternative to snapping at your significant other is saying honestly how you feel. When talking to friends, an alternative to hinting sarcastically at pain you’re going through is to own up to it, simply and honestly.
This kind of emotional honesty means becoming somewhat vulnerable (it does get easier with practice!), but it’s the responsible way to handle our negative emotions.
This poem expresses this point very well:
By Robert Frost
We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.
‘Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.
But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.