I have recently learned the importance of emotional vulnerability and felt it was important to share. I was having coffee with a friend and what she said to me I found fairly profound. "You have a tendency to state things matter-of-factly, and by doing that, the people close to you are probably not understating how much you're being affected by this". The specific situation isn't important, but what she said was the opposite of what I had assumed. I have been dealing with some pretty severe bouts of depression and anxiety for awhile; these often manifested themselves in some pretty bad days. I had assumed that my family understood what I was dealing with because they saw the outward characteristics. They were able to see the irritability, the frustration, the lack of energy and motivation.
This conversation, along with sessions with my counsellor, have helped me remember something important - emotional vulnerability can be a good thing!
"By not allowing myself to be angry, upset, scared, or sad, it actually became harder to deal with stressful situations."
When I first started dealing with my mental health, I assumed that living a functional life meant minimizing troublesome feelings. Emotional vulnerability was out of the question as in my mind it would make me appear weak and incompetent. What happened instead of me being functional was that I built this wall between myself and the people around me. It got to the point where my family and friends couldn't tell what was bothering me, or if I was having a bad day. I became totally unapproachable. Repressing these feelings also created a chasm internally. By not allowing myself to be angry, upset, scared, or sad, it actually became harder to deal with stressful situations.
I'll give you an example of how that plays out, and how I positively move forward from it. I had an awkward situation at work, I was trying to go above and beyond to do something. I was incredibly proud of my work but my boss came along and poured it down the drain. Instead of allowing myself to be upset and then dealing with that, I got angry with myself. It really bothered me that I was allowing this seemingly petty situation to upset me as much as it did.
I recounted this incident to my counsellor. Expressing my frustration that I let this situation bother me. My counsellor explained to me that I was trying to intellectualize my feelings and dismiss the situation as unimportant. By doing this, I was denying myself the opportunity to be upset and subsequently deal with those feelings. My lack of emotional vulnerability was actually hindering me from moving on. I realized that I was looking for validation and support for going the extra mile, which is why this situation was so upsetting. When I didn't get this support I felt abandoned - which is a bit of a recurring issue I struggle with.
Taking Inventory Of The Situation
If I had allowed myself to be emotionally vulnerable, and took inventory of why this situation upset me, I might have uncovered that deeper hurt. From there, I could have used the tools that my counsellor gave me to deal with that hurt.
My first step is simply recognizing and being okay with the fact that I'm upset (or angry, or sad, etc.). My second step is to try and identify whether there are any deeper factors at play. Next, I make peace with the situation. I might say something like "It's okay that I'm upset. I was really hoping for support there. But it's okay that I didn't get it. And I'm okay." By using these steps, I can both allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable enough to be upset, and then move on from the situation.
Finding a counsellor on TranQool could be a great first step for developing these skills. A professional counsellor was essential for me to find a process that worked with my personality. I encourage anyone I talk to about mental health to find a counsellor they connect with.