When We Repress What We Wish to Express

Dara LevanBlogLeave a Comment

Some things are better left unsaid. Do you believe and live by this old adage? Or, do you speak your truth no matter what the consequence? I often tell my children that it’s important to express how we feel at the right time and in the appropriate way.

I have struggled with being vulnerable for several decades, which I only realized recently. Reading that statement, even for me, is a bit surprising. Anyone with whom I am close knows I do not fear confrontation; I welcome honest, open, and reciprocal communication.

When I was young, strength meant “it could be worse.” I cannot tell you how many tears I have shed alone and in silence. I am still uncomfortable crying in front of my kids, husband, and best friends. For a woman who is passionate and as my folks always said “emotional,” it is quite a conundrum. Although it’s finally starting to make sense.

Today I want to share about a candid, unforgettable experience. I understand that if I’d called this person immediately, our exchange may have veered in a vastly different direction. Let’s call him Michael. I started our phone call gingerly and within the first few minutes, I said, “My intention is to share my feelings with you. I am not blaming or accusing, and I just need you to hear me. I am hurt and unsettled; and you need to know why.”

Forty-five minutes later, I felt an unanticipated release of repressed hurt. I am thankful for this open-hearted soul. I have always known Michael to be humble, insightful, and immensely compassionate. I hoped he would not only hear me but listen as well. Michael’s reaction far surpassed my hope that he was not going to be defensive.

He literally said, “You didn’t deserve this, Dara. I was wrong. I failed you, and I am very sorry. And I am so grateful you took the time and cared enough to call me.” I wasn’t surprised because his character has been consistent. His words and the earnest energy with which he spoke provided closure, clarity, and much-needed connection.

It has become increasingly difficult for me to repress that which needs to be expressed. And why should I or any of us do so? We only have one life (well, depending on your spiritual beliefs), and I can tell you from personal experience that what we suppress manifests as dis-ease in our physical bodies. If we are truly living mindfully, then we must follow our intuition regarding what to say, to whom, and when.

But speaking from the mind versus sharing from the heart are not the same. I suppose my safe haven has been the intellectual, rational nest of the head; I resided there as a matter of self-protection. Even as I write this today, my hands are damp, and my chest is visibly pulsing. I am bold. I am brave. I easily advocate for others. Yet talking and writing about personal moments is downright terrifying.

I have promised myself, although it is far from easy, to stop thinking and start feeling. I waited several months before initiating that phone call. It’s fitting that we spoke in the spring instead of another season. In the fall, I released expectations that Michael would reach out first. In the winter, I hibernated and sat with uncomfortable emotions. During a time of fresh growth and new life, speaking my truth in the spring felt right.

What do you evade rather than express? It’s easier for many of us to avoid certain discussions. It can be scary to vocalize raw feelings. But look what can happen when the time is right! I have also learned that if I cannot let something go, it matters to me. I’m not one to hold grudges or anger toward others. This meant a lot on many levels.

As Oprah Winfrey said, “There is one irrefutable law of the universe. We are each responsible for our own life…You must be fearless enough to give yourself the love you didn’t receive.”

I am immensely grateful. My intention was to not only address a particular situation but to speak up for the collective. He got it. He appreciated it. We ended our call with even more mutual respect than when our conversation began. Michael followed up immediately with an email I will cherish.

I do know that not all expressions of truth end with such harmony and resolution. I feel lighter, liberated, and loved. Several people I know (you probably do as well), can learn from Michael’s humility and accountability. Instead of emailing back, I dedicate today’s blog post to you, Michael. Thank you for inspiring me to write it and for giving me the courage to put myself out there. And above all else, I am at peace and hopeful that our tough talk became a life lesson for both of us.

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