The Risks and Benefits of Emotional Exposure
Many of us stay armored up. We micro-manage what parts of ourselves that we want others to see. In a way, this works out for us. We are less likely to get hurt, burned, or rejected. However, we also keep ourselves out of letting others see who we truly are. When we do this, we prevent ourselves from having a feeling of connection.
What is emotional exposure?
We are feeling people. We have emotions about everything that is going on around us. Sometimes these emotions are intense, but more often they are more subtle. The more subtle ones can be more difficult to identify. But if you check in with yourself, they are there.
Many of us learn to hold this stuff in. For whatever reason, we learn that expression of emotions doesn’t pay off. We also learn myths that say strength comes from avoiding such exposure.
This can create a lifelong problem. When we don’t show these parts of ourselves, we have needs and wants to go unmet. Many times this is unnecessary. And still we feel isolated, disconnected, and frustrated.
Emotional exposure is the opposite of this. It’s calculated and balanced, but lets others in on what you’re experiencing. If you’re sad, you let someone know this. If you’re frustrated, you let someone know this.
This doesn’t mean that you have free range to lash out at others. Instead, it means that you’re holding to your own worth as a person, and the needs that you have.
Risks of exposing your emotions
There’s a sad fact associated with emotions. Letting others in doesn’t come without risks. People can (and at some point will) let you down. You can walk away feeling hurt or rejected. And you’ve likely been through some of these experiences before, so you know what that pain can be like.
This risk isn’t entirely unavoidable. Any time you talk to someone about how you feel, you risk these negative outcomes. This is what makes sharing emotions an scary place to be.
There are some things that you can do to proceed with caution. You can make sure that trust who you’re talking to. Has this person really earned the right to hear how you feel? If not, you might have to find another support system, or work on building a more trusting relationship with that person.
You also want to manage your expectations. It’s easy to build a fantasy outcome when we share ourselves with someone else. Therefore, centering yourself to the possibility that these expectations might not be met.
If it doesn’t work out, try again. It’s very tempting after being hurt or let down to vow never to expose emotion again. But it’s possible you might have caught the person at the wrong place or wrong time. Being generous to that person means giving it another shot at another time.
Benefits of emotional exposure
The benefits to emotional exposure are connection, and a sense of love and belonging. We are pack animals. We need to know that we’re worthy of love and belonging. Although other people aren’t the ones in charge of this, we do need them to validate it.
We can focus on fostering and promoting our own worth for ourselves, but this isn’t something that can ever be fulfilled without other people. We’re simply not built in this way. In other words, we can remind ourselves of how much we’re worth, but we really need others to validate this.
There is no way to get validation of your own worth of love and belonging without letting others see how you feel. Again, this has to be calculated for it to be appropriate. And there are times when you’ll miss the mark. However, when you let someone in, and they are able to show that they understand you and what you’re saying, the feeling is like no other.
In feeling seen and understood, you feel like your part of a herd. This fostering of such a feeling is a natural medicine for loneliness, but even emotions such as anxiety and depression.
Finally, such exposure will show you that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling. The emotions that you’re feeling have been felt by someone else. Maybe not in the same exact way, but they have been felt. When we sit with someone in these emotions, we share a special experience. We can even share a bond. You then realize that you’re not by yourself after all. Even more importantly, you realize that you don’t have to be by yourself.