When we have been brought up not to feel our feelings, it can be really challenging to start. Similarly, if we've had experiences of being judged, ridiculed or not believed when we have taken the risk to express ourselves or explain how we feel, it can be even harder.
Being brought up in the 60's and 70's was a time when feelings were not discussed in healthy ways. Sure people got angry and there was laughter, but in my experience there was very little sadness, and low moods were not something that was talked about either. There was not the openness about such things as there is now, and when you don't learn how to do this stuff, it becomes difficult to learn later. But, of course it can be done.
Recently I have been working on this, with Gilly Godward - Intuitive Healer. It's been very interesting to observe my own feelings in response to expressing myself. Each time I become aware of a situation I feel uncomfortable about, it takes me quite some time to (a) process my feelings, and (b) reach a point where I can communicate with the other person in a healthy way.
Here are some ways I have found useful to work through my feelings so I can express them with more clarity:
Journaling. Writing about how I feel is enormously helpful. This way I can express my raw emotions, the ones that come up initially in response to the situation. By writing about how I feel I often realise there is another emotion underneath the ones that surface initially. Getting to the bottom of what is really going on for me helps me to gain clarity. Once I am clear about how I really feel, I can then deal with, and respond in a more positive way.
Tapping. Known also as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a powerful tool to shift both emotional and physical blocks, and relieve stress. Tapping is based on a combination of the ancient Chinese principles of acupressure and modern psychology and was first used in the 90's.
Meditation. Sitting in silence for 5-10 minutes, or longer if you want to. I find this has a calming effect and works nicely with the journaling and tapping.
Using 'I' Statements. A communication technique I learned in therapy some 30 years ago, 'I' statements, are a great way to gain clarity about how we are feeling, and to communicate without blaming the other person. By formulating how you are feeling in the following way you will have a clear and concise message to send. The idea is that you create a message that clearly describes the behaviour of the other person, how you feel, and why. You will note here that the word you is only mentioned once - e.g. When you take on more work I feel frustrated because we recently agreed this was not to happen.
Sadly, this doesn't guarantee you will get a calm and concise message in return. You will however feel good that you communicated your true feelings in a way that was non-judgemental, and that's important. This is all good practice too. The more we can communicate openly and honestly, the more comfortable we will get with doing so.
As always, I'd love to hear your experiences in the comments.