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“I had never felt comfortable speaking about how I was feeling. For as long as I can remember I always tried to maintain my composure by not telling people about my emotions. I suppose that I was a bit frightened about what would happen if I started to open up. If the floodgates opened, would I be able to close them again?

I knew something about that approach wasn’t right, but I had bottled things up for so long that I didn’t really know how to express my emotions to people. It got to a point where I felt pretty out of touch with my own feelings. I had gotten so used to hiding them from others that I suppose that I was hiding them from myself.

“And then it happened, I woke up one morning and started crying. Even now, I don’t think I could tell you what I was crying about. I couldn’t go work in that state. The doctor said it was stress and signed me off work. When I had been off work for about a month, the doctor suggested that I might benefit from talking to a counsellor. “That’s a laugh,” I thought to myself, “I don’t even talk to my closest friends about my feelings, so how on earth could I talk to a perfect stranger about them?”

Regardless of my misgivings, I made an appointment and met with the counsellor. It was not as strange as I expected it to be. He was very warm and friendly and we spent the first session exploring my doubts about coming to see him. He emphasised that it was my choice if I wished to return and I agreed that it might be worth trying for a bit longer.

I arrived for the second session with a funny feeling inside, like I had something to share that needed to come out. I sat down, started talking and the strangest thing happened. For the first time in years, I started speaking about how I felt. How I felt frustrated with my job and angry with my parents. How I felt jealous of my friends and how I felt like nothing I did was ever good enough. It all came pouring out and the more I spoke, the more I felt. I realised that, over the years, I had become numb to my own internal emotional world. It was still going on, but I had just stopped listening.

Having a place to speak openly about these things, without fear of being judged or criticised, enabled me to get back in touch with my emotions that I had denied for such a long time.

And it didn’t stop there. After several sessions of expressing my emotions openly in counselling, I noticed that I began to be more able to express my emotions in other parts of my life. If a friend’s habit of not returning my calls was upsetting me, I found the strength to share my feelings with them. If my partner said something thoughtless and hurtful, I was able to turn back to them and tell them exactly how it left me feeling.

As I grew more in touch with my internal world and more confident sharing it with others, I noticed that people began to treat me differently. My friends seemed more sympathetic, my husband more thoughtful… I even had an apology from my boss.

I was no longer expecting them to read my mind or guess how I was feeling - I was spelling it out for them and the result was that they understood me better and were able to respond in ways that were satisfactory to me.”

Taigh Sàmhchair: professional counselling and psychotherapy
Hereward Proops MBACP, registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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