Emotions can be ~ a w k w a r d ~ when you’re not a therapist, and when you’re not used to people expressing themselves openly and emotionally.
For a long time in our history, emotions were something that children expressed. But as adults, you were expected to grow out of them. Only, the thing is, is that we don’t “grow out of them”. Experiencing emotion is a central part of the human experience. It has evolved through the mammalian centres of our brain (known as the limbic system) to help us thrive as a species. Although often perceived as weakness or vulnerability, emotions can actually help us to learn, relate to other people and develop a deeper & more compassionate connection with ourselves. But a great deal of the time, our emotions are suppressed, denied, or numbed away. This is often through a fear of confronting them fully, or in an effort to not inconvenience other people or embarrass ourselves.
So we think it’s time to give emotion a bit of a rebrand. Emotions aren’t these big, scary things that need to happen in secret. They are part being human! But allowing others to lean into their emotional experiences with a sense of validity and security is often really hard & confusing. We were never taught how to do it in school!
Remember, you don’t need to help get rid of someone’s feelings, or try and make everything ok. Sometimes, the kindest thing to do is just be there for someone, hear them out, and see what they might need most in that moment. We’ve created a handy guide below, outlining some language shifts that help hold space for someone when they’re feeling through some challenging emotions.