Are You Expressing Your Feelings, Or Just Creating Drama?

Most of us are feelings-illiterate. I don’t say this as a judgement; I say it as a sad truth.

We live in a culture that emphasizes most things masculine (doing, progressing, thinking) and undervalues the qualities of the feminine (being, reflecting, feeling). And while we all experience the entire spectrum of emotions, most of us get lost in this territory.

Well, hopefully I can help with that.

In this article I’m going to discuss feelings and drama, and why the quality of your relationship depends on you knowing the difference.

Feelings and drama get grouped together all the time, as if they’re the same thing. Most commonly in this way: That emotional chick = drama. But it’s not necessarily true.

Yes, women tend to be more feeling-attuned and emotive, but this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s part of what makes us so attractive–expressiveness, vulnerability, and openness are all beautiful qualities of the feminine.

However, there’s one way our feelings take a major turn for the worse, into the realm of drama. And that is: when you blame your feelings on someone else.

Drama is making your feelings someone else’s problem!

It’s crucial for you to remember that your feelings are YOUR feelings. They belong to you. So they are your responsibility to work through. Lots of us didn’t get that memo.

Here’s the thing, we all have very unique personalities and triggers. What makes me feel bad is very different from what makes someone else feel bad. That’s because my wounds dictate my challenging feelings.

My wounds (and subsequent feelings) are not caused by someone else (in the present moment). I know it feels like they are, but they aren’t.

Are my feelings provoked by someone else? Yes! All the time! But this doesn’t make it their fault or their responsibility to fix.

The sooner we recognize this, the happier we’ll be in relationships. Because when you take responsibility for your feelings, you don’t have to deal with the madness of trying to get someone to make it better (which never works anyway).

So how do you avoid drama while simply feeling you feelings? The easiest way is this:

When communicating an emotional experience to whomever you feel provoked by, say this:

“I feel _____.”

Seriously, that’s it.

I feel scared.

I feel really angry.

I feel sad.

You can say it while you are hysterically crying (even better, actually; it’s authentic and therefore elicits an empathic response); you can say it when you’re fiery angry. You can say these words in the midst of any emotional experience (it may take some practicing). And that’s all you have to do.

The reason “I statements” are such an important tool to use in relationships is because they promote connection. An “I statement” is the opposite of blaming; it automatically keeps the person you are talking to undefended and therefore, more likely to stay open and caring towards you (which of course, is what you want anyway).

When we don’t use “I statements” in describing our feelings, we sound like this:

You made me feel  _____!

The message in between the lines is:

You screwed up.

You did something I don’t like.

You’re wrong.

This communication style makes us defensive and furious! It’s attacking to the person you’re talking to, which is why it leads to a bigger fight. “You statements” = drama. They just don’t work.

(Side note: Be careful for the sneaky “I statement, that’s really a You statement”: I feel like you _____. This is just undercover blaming; keep “you” out of it.)

It’s really important for us to learn how to live with our feelings in a love-promoting way. Because we all have feelings! They’re a natural part of life. They’re a beautiful part of life.

Instead of labeling feelings as something to be ashamed of, why don’t we embrace them, and try to do them right?

The next time you feel something, think twice before you make it into drama (someone else’s problem). Simply go the route of feeling your feelings, take responsibility for them, and communicate them in a way that will keep the other person open to your experience. Connection and love will follow as a result (guaranteed).

In the comments below, I’d love to hear how you experience of the difference between feelings and drama. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Comments

Liz

I’ve been practising this response to situations which feel like victimisation of me, for 5 years now – I learnt it just before my current 5 year relationship began, & it works perfectly every single time!
I feel so proud of me, for keeping control of what could have/would have, previously escalated into a battle of who’s right & who’s wrong!
And, my partner often says “geez, you’re so different to other women, aren’t you.” :)

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Mary

Thank you again Shelly for this article (I read it and commented on it in MindBodyGreen which in turn lead me to your site) I have lots to learn from it. And thank you Liz for your response, I hope in five years time I can say the same thing … I am always escalating small upsets into furious battles of who is right and wrong. I hope that my partner of 22 years (who has stuck by me through thick and thin, and who I direct all my “right and wrong” battles at … ) will be able to turn around and say, “wow, you’re so different to that other woman you sometimes were!” (Hope that makes sense). I’m looking forward to feeling nothing but “connection ” from here on in … thanks!

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Athena

How about toxic or carried shame? Toxic shame is the feeling of being flawed and diminished and never measuring up. Carried shame and carried feeling reality is an overwhelming experience. Carried shame causes us to feel “worth less”.

It is true what the blog post says about “I” statements, this is the only way to communicate how one feels. But here is the but I would like to share, as someone who has been bound by toxic/carried shame. Initially it means that you can’t even speak up for yourself. For such a person being told that they own their feelings or are responsible for them – this is what such a person may think: I feel overloaded, I’m flawed, there is something wrong with me, I need to do better etc. In other words perfectionism kicks in.

Toxic/carried shame is usually carried over (not your own feelings) from primary caregiver (parents) in childhood and the only way to recover from them is to realize that they are not your own, do for example an exercise (on you own or with a therapist) where you return those feelings (silently/mentally and not in the presence of the caregiver) to their owner (without resentment) and start stating to your self: I’m good enough just the way I am (at this moment, in this moment).

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Vicky

I recently had my sister over for couple days. She bought lots of food for us to eat and felt very at home. She would cook lunch and dinner like it was her own place. Now I began to get irritated, even angry because I felt she thought that I was not capable of cooking good tasting food… I stopped and asked myself that what if it was only with good intentions that she was doing this. She left back home, but I do regret for holding the anger and not communicating to her how I felt.

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Al

Thanks for the article!

My gf and I both like dancing very much and that’s what brought us together in the first place. We’ve learned most of what we know about dancing studying figures together (there are few courses in dances we like here)

I’m in a situation where I acted pretty selfishly on a couple dance courses that I took with my gf. During the courses she asked to dance with me privately but I insisted on staying with the group that was changing partners constantly to aid learning. She didn’t learn much because the other men were not good dancers and there were more women than men so she had to wait for her turn constantly.

Nowadays many times when I ask her to dance she remembers those situations and feels the same feelings of hurt and being unappreciated and left outside. It doesn’t matter that I’m eager to dance with her. Or if we are at home by ourselves.

I’ve talked to her several times about this. I’ve done my best to understand her point of view of view and feelings and after understanding her view I’ve definitely decided to behave differently. She has also had situations in previous relationships which had brought up the same feelings before. I know she has not completely worked those through because they are still very painful.

I have my wounds too from before we met and for the most part we’ve supported each other with them. But I’m starting to get frustrated.

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Lily

Thanks for your articles, i always love reading them.

Just a question. You mention to not sneak in an undercover blame statement. Could you please help me then rephrase how I should say something when my partner has done something to irritate or hurt me?
I understand from your blog to say… I feel … blah blah (in my case irritation), but when he asks me why… I kind of have to say “because you…”

So “i feel irritated when you make only food for yourself” or blah blah whatever the case is… how would I tell him without trying to make him wrong or guilty or that he screwed up but just want to let him know?

Your help is appreciated. Thank you!

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Elizabeth

Well, your help is certainly appreciated. I’m dealing with a problem mostly of my own creation. I allowed myself to become dependent on my adult son and his wife for several years. Now, I know that sounds horrible, but I had an injury and my stay with them was bracketed by two knee surgeries … lame (lol) excuse! I did work for their company all the time I was there. I received no pay except commissions on buy-sell goods and my son and daughter-in-law’s hand made goods, and of course I got to keep the income from my own work less expenses (we made wood crafted objects – art and musical instruments). So I wasn’t a complete leech when I was there. I worked hard. I kept us in the black. I even kept things running while they moved on to other jobs for more money. Slowly they stopped making stuff at all. They never said they planned to drop the business, but then they stopped buying the buy-sell items, and finally they got rid of me. I think part of the problem was that the pain medications I took post-surgery made me cranky, and I had a bad attitude. I would have moved on sooner, but my income was ridiculously low. I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else, and for awhile the downstairs apartment in their four bedroom house was great! Seemed perfect. We still were officially in business, and I hadn’t been told otherwise, but It went south, though, and when it did, I was forced by my son to apologize to his wife on my knees. I’m not kidding. I did it. I groveled, and I didn’t really understand exactly what I had said or done. I know I was a pain in the rear end to live with some of the time, but I didn’t expect to be literally thrown out. I was literally thrown out on New Years Day 2013. I had planned to leave that very day for California and a temporary housing arrangement, I had Motel 6 reservations all the way through, but my son needed to do something more … I don’t know … aggressive … manly … by packing my car with everything that fit and rudely sending me on my way in the rain and the mud and the tears. So much of my stuff left behind. The mind replays what the heart can’t forget.
So, it’s been 1-1/2 years. We’ve had only a few conversations since. We run into trouble almost immediately if I express my feelings which he describes as “drama.” He wants none of it. There’s little I can say that doesn’t sound like drama to him. I dare not even ask what’s become of some of my early artwork, my old portfolio, many things that should be kept. Ahhhh! I’m sure they’ve thrown this stuff out, and I’m so mad and hurt.

Bottom line, though, is that I’ve made a very comfortable life for myself here in California. I live alone with my dog, Molly. I get some art jobs, and Social Security and that floats me along. I haven’t had to ask them for help. My knee is still messed up, but I get along on a cane. My son and I have one more bit of business to finish up between us. The car. When my old car broke down I asked to borrow a few hundred for repairs. They decided to buy me a new car. They asked me what can I afford? I said I couldn’t afford a new car. They bought it anyway. So when I’d been in California for awhile, they told me to take over the insurance payments, which I did although I was in a mighty struggle to survive at that point. Then he said he wanted me to take over loan payments. So I have paid just as much as I could every month. I could hardly get him to acknowledge receipt of payments that I’d made through money order (’cause I’d gotten a little cash from a sale). So now I have to register it here in California and he has all the paperwork which forced a conversation which quickly went south due to my “drama.” But I can’t seem to say very much that doesn’t hit a “drama” button.

I’m hoping I can raise enough money to buy him out of this car. I have dental bills, rent, utilities, like everybody else. It’s really hard to come up with money. Jobs are difficult to get at my age. If there are laws against age discrimination, they are entirely toothless. Unenforceable. So I struggle on, but with pride that I’ve gotten so much accomplished with so little seed money. I’m makin’ it!!! I’m making it work. But what about my beloved son. I love him still. Can I try to convince him that not all emotion is drama? Can I, do you think, convince him that I don’t blame him … much. I really try not to blame him. That is … I try not to convey blame. Although I really feel it. I do blame him. It’s true. He’s right. I do blame him. The injury to my knee was caused by his enormous dog who side-tackled me right at that already arthritic joint and took that sucker apart, knocking me back about three feet and down to the ground. My son was there. He did nothing to stop the dog, he just stood there helplessly. I do blame him. Maybe we need to settle this business with the car and just not speak ever again, because I see now, that he’s right. I blame him.

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