Too much of our time is lost struggling with painful feelings that we cannot express.
We try to move forward, try to put up a good fight, but there is something malign and pervasive colouring our mood. It drains our energy, saps our motivation, but remains out of sight. It’s uncomfortable, but even more important than that, it’s unclear.
Whether fear, worry, sadness or doubt—it is this lack of clarity that keeps us feeling stuck.
Next time you find yourself in such a situation, write.
Write whatever comes to mind. If you’re frustrated and at your wit’s end, write that down. If you feel totally empty, write that down. If you feel sad—but have no idea why—write that down. If you’re at the edge of murderous rage, write it down.
You do not have to figure anything out. You only need to write down what comes to mind for the magic to happen.
You don’t need to create literature, you just need to punch a hole big enough for the nebulous feeling to spill out from your internal darkness into the written light of day.
If it feels awkward and uncomfortable, you’re doing it right. If there’s a voice in your head screaming that this is bullshit, you’re definitely doing it right. Remember: it’s not about solutions, it’s about clarity.
When we put words to a feeling, something remarkable happens. We give shape and colour to something that was previously inchoate. Our relationship with ourselves changes. Even when you can only write that you feel hopeless and afraid, you are still remaking that relationship.
The words you write come from you, but now have a life and authenticity of their own: a reflection and record of your vulnerability. It gets real. The feeling is now explicit. Rather than a vague sense of unease, you know something is going on. It may not be pretty, but you have a foot in the door.
Half of the problem with unpleasant feelings is that we wrestle them without knowing it. But when you write that feeling down, when you admit that “I feel furious but I have no idea why”, the resistance loosens. This is everything.
To put a feeling into words, you have to be here for it. You can’t describe your desperation without feeling it. This is a big part of the magic.
To describe is to bring to rest. And each time we bring an emotion to rest, we develop an intimacy with it.
Writing down your worries and fears is a skill, like any other. You will improve each time you do it, and you will also expand the vocabulary of your inner life. This is a hallmark of emotional intelligence, and one of the most powerful skills we can cultivate.