Sometimes I think difficult thoughts. I don't mean intellectually difficult. I mean I-really-wish-I-didn't-have-to-think-about-this difficult. I also have unpleasant feelings and lots of fears.
Maybe I'm the only one. But I don't think so.
I've learned, though, that it's not the thinking or feeling or fearing that is the problem. It's the keeping it to yourself that will wreck everything.
There are lots of reasons a person might not want to share hard things: shame, more fear, the difficulty of identifying and expressing complexities. But even stacked one on top of the other, all of the reasons to withhold don't come close to the enormity of the main reason to share: It's the only way to know the truth.
I'm not being esoteric here. I mean it. There is no way to know how accurate your thoughts are, how big or small your feelings are, how valid your fears are, without saying them out loud. Trust me, I wish this was negotiable; but it's not.
Here's why. I call it the parasite theory. It's part Brene Brown and part my imagination, and it goes like this:
Thoughts and feelings and fears are neither good nor bad. They're just things. Take a good hard look at them with someone by your side, and you can name them and use them. They become like paper clips or lawn chairs or nunchucks.
Ignore them, though? Keep them to yourself for whatever reason (they're embarrassing, bothersome, dangerous)? That's when these thoughts and feelings turn into parasites. They start feeding on you, and they grow. Sucking up your time and energy, they get huge and juicy. They become unrecognizable and start clogging things up.
Naturally, the life of a parasite depends on being able to stay inside its host, so these thoughts and feelings will want to convince you to keep quiet. They'll tell you that you can handle this feeling yourself or that you shouldn't have this particular thought anyway or - maybe the worst - that you're "fine".
When you do finally expel them - which has to happen eventually - it's uncomfortable. And often gross. But once that thing is laying out on the table between you and someone else, you can look up at them and ask with your eyes, "Do you see this?!" and know by looking at them that they do.
That's when two important things happen. First, you realize that that big nasty thing is not you. Yes, it was in you, but it's not YOU.
Second, you can finally see it for what it is. Out in the air and sunshine, it starts to shrivel and shrink. In the presence of an accepting other, it's never too big or too scary. You're able to say, "Well, that's ridiculous," and flick it in the trashcan or "Well, that totally makes sense," and stick it in your pocket.
So, whatever it is, say it. Just try. If it's too scary or too vague at the outset, write it down first. Then find a trusted someone - a spouse, a friend, a skilled counselor - and bravely read what you wrote, share what you think, show what you feel. Say, "I'm afraid of what my future will look like," or "I think I'm a terrible parent," or "I'm completely broken over how things have turned out." Believe that saying something out loud will not make it more powerful, it will make it more manageable.