The More You Talk About It, The Better It Gets

One of the points I mentioned in my last post, about how to make it through tough times, was to tell your story.

This is, by far, the thing I’ve found works best for me and many people I know.

There are a couple more in-depth “tricks”–things that make the difference between just whining about your situation or making it worse and actually working through your pain or healing.

Aim for Objectivity

When you first start talking about a bad breakup, a failed crush, or any other rough emotional issue, those early stories are going to be raw and full of emotion. That’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be. The wound is fresh and all that pain needs to pour out. In fact, letting it out helps cleanse the wound (just like a little bleeding helps clean out a physical cut) and prepare it for proper healing.

But after those first few tellings, work to refine the story. Start looking at it as a story. Who are the characters? Why do they do what they do? If you can, talk to other people who were involved–either directly or who saw events take place–and ask their opinion of what happened. Don’t make stuff up, but incorporate all the facts you can. Write it down, edit it, re-edit it, tell it again and again and again.

As time goes on, you’ll find that the pain has ebbed. You’ve detached and worked through the more visceral parts of it and, most likely, been able to put things in a bit more perspective.

Break it Down

Every story has chapters. Look at the span of events that lead up to the bad part and see if you can tell where the chapter breaks would be. Where were the cliffhanger pauses? The rise in dramatic complication? When were new characters or information introduced?

Again, this serves to help you detach some of the more intense emotions from the events themselves, forcing you to use more of your logical brain to gain objectivity and distance from the parts the hurt the most. It can also give you quite the bit insight into yourself and anyone else involved. When you step back and look at the big picture, you may find that what happened was a bit more inevitable than it originally seemed. Alternately, you may be able to see where things went wrong so that you can avoid the same mistakes the next time around.

Don’t Place Blame

One thing not to do in most situations is try to place blame or fault. Now, sometimes, that’s difficult or impossible to avoid, but try.

Accept the fact that each character involved (yourself included), it a flawed and ever-changing individual. Everyone is capable of bad decisions, poorly thought out choices, self-inflicted pain. Comparatively few are actively malicious. Many times, that pain someone causes us is just a side effect of them hurting themselves–or of them just being plain blind to the effects of their actions. Rarely is it the personal attack it feels like at the time.

And when you get down to it, the plot of the story–much like history–is bigger than the characters. While their joy and pain play into it and are effected by it, it goes on oblivious to that. It flows from beginning to middle to end and there’s nothing that can be done once the point of “now” has passed.

Yes, there are always reasons things go wrong–but there’s not always someone to blame for those events (and most especially not yourself, every time). Usually, in the long run–maybe outside of the current chapter or book, even–more things play out that wouldn’t have been possible without that one tragic event.

On the Down Low

Don’t want to be fully open about it, no problem, there are anonymous ways to share your story.

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Post Secret. It’s a little blog where people anonymously send in post cards with short, one sentence “secrets” that they’re keeping. Over the last few years, it’s really grown and there have been a few collected books of these postcards published and a lot of time spent on talk shows. There have been a number of similar, copycat sites.

Recently, I came across one of those sites that’s expanded on the idea a little. It’s called Letters I’ll Never Send and features things a little more long-form than Post Secret. Some of the things there are heartbreaking and brilliant.

Finally, there is always the option of starting up a blog where you can post anonymously about what’s going on in your life. As you grow more comfortable and experience how much good being open and honest can do, you may eventually reconsider the “anonymous” part. It’s quick and easy to set something up on Blogger.com or WordPress.com.

Pain Shared Is Pain Halved

Perhaps the most helpful part about sharing the story of what hurts us is that it lifts the burden of dealing with it a little from our shoulders.

If we re-tell our stories the right way, we gain insight and strength from them. With each little bit of improvement, the pain ebbs a bit from us. We gain that emotional distance from continuing to look at the story in a critical way. We gain support from our friends who now know why we’re down–even if there’s nothing they can actively do, a good friend will listen (at least as long as you are growing and healing from telling the story).

Most amazingly, you’ll find that sharing your rough times with others will make them open up and talk about their own rough times. That leads to everyone feeling a little less alone and gives others a chance to heal just as you are.

No, it’s not an over-night thing. It’ll hurt for weeks, months, in some cases maybe even years. But the more you talk about it, the better it gets. Little by little. For as long as you work at it.

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