Expressing Emotion

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A huge mistake that many of us make in the realm of emotions is to assume that one size fits all, that since emotions have objective universal attributes, properly expressing these emotions like everyone does is indicative of mental health. We neglect the obvious fact that people have different temperaments, and these temperaments play a huge role in how we relate to and express our emotions.

It can be quite difficult to tease out whether a person’s seemingly dampened down or overemphasized expression of emotion is due to traumatic past experiences or simply due to a personality trait. But I believe the only person we can really trust to answer this question is the one who has the emotion. Everyone knows deep down whether they experience and express their emotions in a way that feels authentic and nourishing or inauthentic and limiting.

A way to start considering your relationship to your emotions is to think of your internal experience and external expression as two sides of a simple equation. Ask yourself whether they are usually in balance. Some people scream, shout, and cry yet feel dead inside while others emote very little yet feel very intensely on the inside.

When we can just let ourselves feel whatever it is we are feeling without judgment and then express these feelings authentically through outlets that don’t cause emotional or physical harm to the people around us, we can feel pretty confident that we are on the path of emotional well-being. Well-adjusted, contrary to how many contemporary psychologists define it, does not mean feeling and expressing emotions the same way as everyone else, it means noticing and honoring what is actually there and making your internal world sync up with your external expression.