‘Again and again, I have observed that people rarely express what really matters: the tender, shy, reluctant feelings, the sensitive, fragile, intense feelings, the concrete, actual messages and meanings’ (C. Moustakas & K. Moustakas)
We can continue to learn how to express and communicate authentically throughout our lives. Expressing our thoughts and feelings, sometimes even finding the language to do so, can be difficult and anxiety provoking. To share ourselves authentically with another person may feel unbearably exposing, particularly if we have not had positive experiences of doing so in the past. We may not have been received with acceptance, empathy and understanding.
For many people, communication with others in day to day life can be limited to disconnected exchanges in the workplace, in the wider world and often at home. Many factors can impact on the quality of interaction we share with others. Time restrictions, fear of the other’s response, fear of judgement and rejection, lack of confidence and self esteem and at times, disinterest, anger and frustration may all present as barriers.
The strength of difficult emotions and even some of our more pleasant feelings, can seem overwhelming and fill us with anxiety. Allowing others to be with us in these feeling states and communicating a sense of this can feel impossible when we are already highly stimulated. In these states, fully alive and seen by another you may feel very vulnerable and this can be very uncomfortable to start with. The researcher Dr. Brene Brown has written much on the themes of vulnerability and shame, widening discussion on the role it plays in relationships and communities.
‘If we do not sense our connection with all things, then it is easier to destroy or ignore these things’ (P. Levine)
Being in relationship with an other can be unpredictable, painful, exciting, tiring, exhilarating and evoke many feelings in between. Experiencing all those feeling responses can be tiring and disconnection can seem like the safer and more manageable alternative. Connecting with another can be fearful. To experience them fully as human and to be present with our response and theirs involves navigating the unknown of intimacy. It is also often a deeply fulfilling experience and an ongoing opportunity to better understand ourselves and others, to challenge our relationship with trust and to develop and grow in the process.
Authentic communication and being seen as we are, deepens relationships and can provide a way out of loneliness and isolation. There are many ways to start communicating more authentically, but all involve sharing those parts of ourselves which might be clouded with shame, guilt, helplessness and inadequacy, that we are less proud of, that we think are wrong or not good enough or that are deeply sad or in pain. This may seem unattainable and unmanageable at first. We can start small and integrate living more openly in daily life, holding in mind that all we share should be done willingly when we feel safe enough to do so. As we integrate this new way of living, we might notice a loosened grip, less struggle and an opening as we start to experience being with ourselves and others.