"But other people have real problems..."
This might be the number one statement I hear in my office. It’s definitely top 3. People struggle with sharing their struggles because they feel it is insignificant compared to “real suffering” of other people. My response to this is always the same. One has nothing to do with the other.
Someone could be having anxiety about going to work that is really interfering with their ability to get out of bed everyday. Another person could be struggling with a cancer diagnosis. Maybe someone is fighting with their partner daily. Someone else may have just lost their mom. All of these are real problems that create real suffering. Talking about your struggles does not mean you are negating someone else’s. Both can be true at the same time. You can have work anxiety and someone else can be grieving. Comparing the two is apples and oranges.
I think people do not want to feel like they are the victim or crying ‘woe is me’. Trust me, the people who fear that are usually doing the opposite. They may be too stoic and hold in their feelings about stressful events going on in their lives. When people are “strong”, “tough”, and don’t express themselves come to therapy they usually start to feel better after just a few sessions. Why is this?
Well I would like to tell you because I have a magical therapy wand, but alas no that is not the case. It is because when these people are pushed to share their emotions and open up about what is going on for them internally they often find great relief because it is something they are not used to doing. This does not mean it is comfortable for them or easy. They are often very uncomfortable doing this and it feels completely foreign to talk about themselves, especially how they are feeling.
When we talk to another person about emotions a specific part of our brain lights up and connects the language center to emotions. Labeling emotions and discussing them helps the brain integrate the emotions properly and reduces symptoms in the body.