Monday, August 10, 2009

Express yourself

Many of us never learned how to communicate within ourselves or with others. As we practice the skill of attending to our inner being and listening to our feeling messages, we are likely to discover that we want and need to communicate more honestly, clearly, and fully with those around us. This is not easy for many of us. Most of us were taught to be quiet from an early age (Children should be seen and not heard!). If we did dare to speak up we may have been reprimanded, ridiculed or discounted. Our precious thoughts may have been negated and our feelings invalidated. Soon we learned to withhold our true thoughts and to bury our feelings deep inside -- so deep that we may have lost touch with them ourselves. These consequences of our self-expression were painful, and it didn’t take us long to realize and appreciate the soothing relief we could find with a few cookies or a big dish of ice cream.

So now, when it is important for us to speak up as adults we may feel fearful. This is understandable given the ways our communication may have been received in the past. Ask yourself what is your worst fear if you speak up in the particular situation that concerns you. The ask, “is this fear realistic?” What’s the worst thing that could happen? Sometimes knowing what your greatest fear is can dispel the power you have given away in anticipation of a confrontation or rejection. It is easier by far to swallow a brownie than to tell your neighbor you don’t want to care for her child again. But, if you don’t speak up, and she doesn’t happen to be a mind reader, nothing will change and you will likely go on eating an endless supply of sweets, gaining weight, and harboring greater resentment towards her for taking advantage of you and towards yourself for allowing her to. Then you will need more anesthetic sugar fixes to keep that anger and resentment at bay.

So it is vital that you learn to assert yourself and communicate what your wants and needs truly are. You deserve to ask for what you want and to express yourself. Your feelings are no more or less important than anyone else’s. You can always ask for what you need and express all that you wish to express. This earthly life is your experience, and you are responsible for creating the experience you want. Others around you are responsible for creating their own life experiences. You can’t live your life to serve their needs to the exclusion of your own. Nor can you expect others to read your mind, discover what your needs are, and live their lives in service of you. Each of us must make our own choices and create the most positive, joyful life possible.

Here is a simple communication formula that many find helpful to express their thoughts and feelings.
(feeling) (behavior)
I feel___________ when you_____________. For example, “I feel angry when you leave your clothes all over the floor.” To use this formula effectively, you will first need to learn how to recognize and name your feelings. Once you are clear about how you feel, you can then name a specific behavior that you would like to address with the other person. In a perfect world, they might respond to your communication by saying something such as, “Oh, I am sorry. I will now pick up my clothes since I now know you don’t like me to leave them on the floor.” Chances of that happening, however, are slim. Usually you will have to tell them more than once. If they still do not respond to your request, it is time to add to the communication formula and to name a consequence.

(feeling) (behavior)
I feel___________ when you_____________ and if you

For example, “I feel angry when you leave your clothes all over the floor and if you continue, I will throw them out the bathroom window.” Now, your consequence must be appropriate to the crime and something you can actually do. Then you must follow through. If you communicate clearly using this technique, people will begin to take you seriously, and you will no longer feel helpless and invisible. Try it and see!

As mentioned in The Taming of the Chew, if you are lacking good communication and assertiveness skills, investigate opportunities in your area for groups or classes where you can learn and practice these essential skills. Knowing how to speak up and to stand up for yourself will empower you, and you will not need food as medication

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