Extroverts tend to be better at talking about their feelings, but practice and attention can help those without a natural gift for it.
How to Get Better at Expressing Emotions
The term “emotional intelligence” has now reigned for 20 years. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book of the same name popularized the idea that the capacity to understand and wield emotional information is a crucial skill.
Part of that is expressing emotions, be it through writing, body language, or talking with other people, and researchers are finding that unlatching the cage and letting those emotional birds fly free could have some real health benefits. Some studies have linked the repression of negative emotions to increased stress, and research suggests that writing about feelings is associated with better health outcomes for breast-cancer patients, people with asthma, and people who’ve experienced a traumatic event. And in a study of people who lived to be 100 years old, emotional expression was found to be a common trait, along with a positive attitude towards life, among the long-lived.
So expressing emotions, on the whole, seems to be good for you. But if you’re someone who is used to holding them in, that could be easier said than done. And the solution is not necessarily to just pop the top off that champagne bottle of emotions and watch them spray all over the place. You might not even know what’s in there!
Emotional intelligence is a skill, and some people are better at recognizing and communicating emotions than others. Among the Big Five personality traits—openness, extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism—several studies have found that people high in extroversion tend to have higher emotional expressiveness, while people high in neuroticism tend to be less expressive.
Like other skills, the ability to communicate feelings can be strengthened through practice, and a big part of it is first recognizing the emotions you’re having, as well as what’s causing them.
Wanting and not wanting the same thing at the same time is a baseline condition of human consciousness.
The Benefits of Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty
Gary Noesner is a former FBI hostage negotiator. For part of the 51-day standoff outside the Branch Davidian religious compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, he was the strategic coordinator for negotiations with the compound’s leader, David Koresh. This siege ended in infamous tragedy: The FBI launched a tear-gas attack on the compound, which burned to the ground, killing 76 people inside. But before Noesner was rotated out of his position as the siege’s head negotiator, he and his team secured the release of 35 people.
Jamie Holmes, a Future Tense Fellow at New America, spoke to Noesner for his new book Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing. “My experience suggests,” Noesner told Holmes, “that in the overwhelming majority of these cases, people are confused and ambivalent. Part of them wants to die, part of them wants to live. Part of them wants to surrender, part of them doesn’t want to surrender.” And good negotiators, Noesner says, are “people who can dwell fairly effectively in the areas of gray, in the uncertainties and ambiguities of life.”
For most people, that’s pretty difficult. It’s natural for humans to be uncomfortable with uncertainty—if you don’t know what that dark shadow in the bushes is, there’s a good chance that it’s a threat. But beyond the caveman metaphors, there are benefits to being able to cope with ambiguity and ambivalence. Noesner thinks Koresh was of two minds about surrendering, and Holmes suggests that if the FBI had been more cognizant of that, it might not have rushed to attack the compound. He also suggests that in less strained situations, in our everyday lives, we might avoid a lot of anxiety and jumping to wrong conclusions by accepting that sometimes people do feel two ways at once. Things can be similar without being exactly the same. Some things we can never know.
Black-and-white rigidity is actually one of many symptoms of people with borderline personality disorder.
The Dangers of Getting Only One Point of View
by David Mills
Experts say people who only seek out information that backs up their opinions may become angrier, less empathic, and unable to have meaningful relationships.
On electoral maps, Democratic states are portrayed as blue.
Republican states are represented by red.
However, it appears the ardent supporters of both parties are only willing to see things in black and white.
With the proliferation of websites, the availability of personal social media platforms, and the narrow specialization of cable television news networks, people in the United States are increasingly seeking out information that only jibes with their vision of things.
A 2014 report by the Pew Research Center concluded liberals and conservatives turn to distinctly different outlets when they want to get news and information
Conservatives flock to Fox News. Liberals go to MSNBC, NPR, or The New York Times.
Molitor says this selective information seeking isn’t limited to politics, although that tends to be the most emotional.
It can also be observed when people are taking sides on education issues such as charter schools or parenting issues such as vaccinations.
“It’s a broader issue for society,” she told Healthline.
Besides creating underinformed or even ill-informed readers, Molitor says the confirmation bias phenomenon is also producing some worrisome social trends.
She said it can erode people’s ability to be sympathetic, to be tolerant, or to utilize their critical thinking skills.
“Often times there are no simple solutions,” she said.
She discloses to her employers that she has “vague” problems with her mental health, but hasn’t told them she has borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Should You Tell Your Boss About Your Mental Health Condition?
By Hannah Ewens
Most people I know with an ongoing mental health condition haven’t told their employer about it. We’ll send one another memes about panic attacks and joke about periods of psychosis, but there’s no way we can be that casual in the workplace.
In a fair world, employers wouldn’t judge you for having a condition, and anyone who has an illness would have access to some form of work—which often helps with self-esteem and managing an illness—if they wanted that. But we’re far from this being a reality, particularly in an economy in which employers don’t want to take perceived risks on people they deem as sick—or, even worse, unproductive.
“When I had a breakdown, my work wasn’t particularly supportive at all,” remembers Sarah Mitchell, a 30-year-old mom with bipolar disorder, who used to work in an office in London. “They said: ‘Can you just work from home on this day? Can you come in for a half day?’ It just wasn’t conducive to getting better at all. When I returned to work, people were talking behind my back, openly emailing about me… people who I thought were friends there shunned me, basically, and that made me more ill.”
This lack of understanding from both employers and employees meant she had to leave the job and focus on recovery. She has since decided to stay working freelance because it was easier than trying to find an employer that would work with her illness rather than be scared of it. “It’s very difficult to explain that gap in your CV,” she says. “I should be honest, but people aren’t usually receptive when you go into an interview and tell them you have bipolar.”
It’s important to add that disclosing illness doesn’t always—and shouldn’t ever—end in misunderstanding or punishment; sometimes it can improve your working conditions immensely. Fraud investigator Paul, in his 20s, suffers from anxiety and depression, and described a nurturing, female-dominated environment where the older women in the office look out for him.
From being slapped to being shamed, members of marginal communities have few places to seek help for mental illnesses.
When bigotry invades mental healthcare: Women, sexual minorities are most vulnerable to harassment
“I was talking about my nightmares to my therapist and while in the middle of that I accidentally told him that I am a bisexual and out of nowhere he just slapped me and asked me to go away. The incident did make me badly depressed, took a toll on my health and everything. I already have ADD and OCD and that’s what I was seeing the therapist for. So the depression just doubled from there and although now I have overcome it slightly, it still keeps on running in my head.” – Vinay (Name changed)
There are about 4,000 psychiatrists, 1,000 psychologists and 3,000 mental health social workers in India. This stark inadequacy, given the population of this country, is compounded by the widespread social stigma attached to mental health, both acting together to prevent individuals from accessing the care they need. If these were not enough, we have to contend with the bigoted attitude of mental health professionals towards sexual and gender minorities, women and members of other marginalised groups.
It is time we talk about this unnerving situation where a therapist denies treatment to a person or shames them for having contradictory views about society or politics, gender roles, identities, or sexual orientation. Such prejudice targets many marginalised communities, and continues to take a big toll on LGBTQIA+ people as well as on cis or heterosexual women.
The recently passed Mental Health Care Bill holds out an element of hope. Clause 21(1)(a) states, “there shall be no discrimination on any basis including gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class or disability”. But the problem lies in in pervasive prejudice among healthcare workers.
Carelessness can also be observed. Being told to look at the less fortunate lives to overcome the ongoing depression or propagating religiosity as treatment to surpass stress are some of such widely performed ill treatments. The following experiences by narrated by two women speak volumes..
“I have borderline personality disorder. Got diagnosed at a very young age and was taken to several psychologists and psychiatrists. While some gave me heavy doses of medication without hearing me out properly, others gave me huge lectures on morality about how my lifestyle and opinions are very wrong for a “girl” and how I am difficult and should be more passive. I had been in an abusive relationship for a long time and my previous psychologists slut-shamed me for having sex with that person out of marriage and kept calling me a “psychotic” all the time” – Shruti (Name changed)