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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Do Your Insides Match Your Outside?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Do Your Insides Match Your Outside?

There are times when we feel like we are a mess inside, yet we smile and say "fine, thanks," when asked how we are. Not everyone who asks how we are really wants to know, of course. And in our professional lives, social lives, and even with those closest to us, it's not always necessary to say everything. It is not always recommended either.

The glitch is that if you are walking around in emotional pain, and your insides are bruised or churning, and you are terrific at "acting as if," or you are simply not sure what do to with yourself and your pain, looking like nothing is wrong can just deepen your isolation and keep you in the problem.

More than that, though, many folks tell me that they wish their insides would match their outsides, at least most of time. People in emotional pain often wish that they could speed up the process of feeling better and not have to be in the bad feeling for so long. Even though staying with the feeling can often lead to new and better things, to more information about ourselves and to progress.

There are those who wear their emotions on their face, or whose pain is reflected in their eyes. But for those who remain pretty skilled at walking around as if all is well, yet feel like their inner world is collapsing, things can get pretty lonely.

There may be hours, or days where this is fine. Appropriate even. But after a while, acting can become exhausting. It can contribute to health issues, work problems, destructive behavior, or serious self attack.

So where's the line? When is enough acting enough? Who do you tell your troubles to? When do you answer honestly, "I'm a mess actually," or "I feel lousy," and when do you keep up the facade? Usually, I think, when we are truly honest with ourselves about how much we are hurting and are willing to credit ourselves with being worth the effort it takes to go for a more blended life, we open up to the right people. It often does bring relief when we tend to emotional pain by letting go of the pretense of being "just fine" when we are not.


jen said...

I think that too much emotional honesty all the time even in the closest relationships like marriage or close friendships can cause concerns and fear that those problems when shared become shared burdens.

I think that's why therapy is such a great thing. What I really miss about going, is that when I walked in the door and my doctor asked me."Jen how are you doing; how are you feeling?" there was no mask, no pretense or feeling like i was a burden.I just said exactly whatever "fine, great, terrible, bad week, blue, ugh" whatever was true.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Agreed! Glad to have your thoughts!

JJ said...

This is so true to my experience! I realized recently that my depression was worse in the middle of the week, every week. It took me awhile to connect the dots that I was routinely more miserable on those days b/c I had weekly commitments to a group situation where I had to (chose to) put on a "I'm-just-fine" face while inside I was totally a wreck. Trying to maintain that facade took so much energy and made me feel even more hollow and disconnected.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Thanks for your thoughts JJ!

Sherry said...

If I showed people what's truly on the inside I'd be even more isolated than I already am. It's a very fine line between acting ok and just trying to survive. I call it fighting. I'm fighting just to maintain and not allow depression to take me down. Speaking of which, I'm no longer posting at Joyful Praises but you can follow me here at the battlefield. I hope you have a blessed week.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

So noted! thanks Sherry.