Several years ago I was seeing a young woman in my practice who was struggling with depression following the recent death of her mother. In spite of how sad and distressed she looked, she seemed to be struggling to let herself cry.
When I commented that she seemed to be having difficulties accepting her feelings, she responded that this was not actually the problem for her. Rather, she was concerned that if she truly expressed what she was feeling, other people in the building would hear her and wonder if something was wrong, if perhaps she was being attacked.
She didn’t want to just cry softly. She wanted to yell and scream and protest that her mother died too young and her loss was too painful to bare. She wasn’t able to do this in the privacy of her apartment building, and she was also worried about doing it here. She was afraid that if she released this in my office someone might alert security or call the police and she didn’t want that to happen.
I sat in my chair for a while watching her closely and thinking about what she had said. I could understand she was holding a lot inside and if she let it out it would probably burst like a damn and flood the room. I was pretty sure I could listen to all of this, but I could imagine that people out side might indeed wonder what was going on and be worried.
I began to think where this woman could go and yell as loudly and as long as she wanted without worrying how others would respond. The more I thought about this the more I realized her concerns were quite valid.
It seems to be remarkably hard in our society to simply and freely express what is in our minds and in our hearts. Even with loved ones in the privacy of our own homes there always seems to be a limit to what we can say.
Sometimes we just need to let things out. Sometimes we just need to know that someone cares enough for us to listen to what we have to say, however we say it and whatever it sounds like. Not because we want them to fix it; we just don’t want to hold onto it any longer.
It is not just having a place to express oneself that is important, but also learning how to do it in such a way that we can truly listen to ourselves. When we cannot experience we cannot learn. As we learn to trust rather than fear ourselves, we experience the freedom to explore further, and so we learn and grow.
When we are afraid to let others hear us it adds one more level of complexity to the already difficult struggle of finding out who we truly are. The fear that we cannot let ourselves out anywhere to anyone is a disturbing and distressing reality.
If there is any fundamental action I try to encourage in the people I see in my practice, it is for them to find a way to express what could not be expressed before. Most people have not allowed themselves to do this since they were a child. As adults, most people cannot do it now even if they are given the chance. And they don’t even realize it.
Without this growth there will always be pain and suffering in your life. Although, even with growth, there will be pain. But the pointless of it all will end. And when we activate our own compassion and acceptance for that suffering, we will discover some of the most important lessons life has to offer.