Kigali, Kigali Province, Rwanda

February 28, 2016

The Power of Saying It Out Loud

Last week, I wrote to you about the unsettled feeling I have here in Rwanda, the shifting ground and lack of stability. But a funny thing happened after I sent you the letter - I felt more settled, even though nothing had changed.

Later in the week, a friend called, and talked through a frustration and inadequacy she was feeling. I wasn’t sure what I could do, so I just listened.

"I guess I just thought it would help to get it out", she said, finally. "Did it?" I asked. "Yeah, actually."

Interestingly, there’s research that supports the idea that making the effort to form our deepest fears and thoughts into words or sounds - and then expressing them - lets us change our relationship to our minds.

I was writing about this weird property of our brains this week in a chapter of my upcoming book on depression, and like many of the things we know from neuroscience, it seems too simple to be true.

But it’s real, and it works.

By taking the time to wrap words around what we’re feeling, then talk them out or write them down, we fundamentally change our relationship to our experiences.

Try it out right now. Think about something that’s been eating at you, a nagging feeling, a worry you haven’t told anyone.

Then, give it voice:

I feel            

Describe the feeling, not the cause. Instead of saying “I feel             because            ”, try saying “I’m feeling             and it’s like            .”

Get detailed. What does it feel like? When does the feeling show up? What do and don’t you like about it?

Notice it for what it is, acknowledge it, and give it a space in reality. Write it down on paper, or talk it out to someone who can just listen.

We might worry that giving voice to our deepest fears makes them more real, dooms us to their reality. But what happens inside our brains is actually the opposite - when we get our thoughts and emotions out and accept them, we’re able to see them for what they are - some thoughts and emotions.

And that simple transformation is often enough to stop the hamster wheel of worries and what-ifs.

This week, if you notice any hamster wheels or dreaded thoughts running around in your head, try giving them a voice, and getting them out of your head and into the light.

You might find, as I did, that this simple action makes a pretty substantial difference. :)

Have a great week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I read all week has been on my mind every day since I read it - amazing food for thought. It’s about one woman’s choice to leave the “conscious community.”

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