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  • Kim Keys, LCPC

Why We Externalize Our Feelings and the Power of Claiming Them

Updated: May 30, 2019

On a daily basis clients come into session and talk about things that bother them, the hurts, the pains, the traumas, the fears. We’ve noticed when things get deeply personal, it often sounds like this:

“You know, everyone feels this way. You’re hurt when someone you love tells you they want to kill themselves.”

“When you hear words like that from your mom, you hurt.”

“When you go through something like a car wreck, you get scared.”

I’d imagine you understand, as we counselors do, that when we talk like this, when we say “you hurt’, what we really mean is, “I hurt” or “I was scared, I AM scared now.” So why do we do this? It’s almost instinctual to change our “I’s” to “You’s.” The answer is that we instinctually guard against vulnerability. We guard against exposing our human pain to the possible rejection of another human being. In a nutshell, it’s scarier to say “I hurt. I am scared,” than it is to say "you hurt." "When that happens to you, you hurt."

When we change our “I’s” to “You’s” however, we rob ourselves of our own experience in the pain. We hide from other people and rob ourselves of the opportunity to connect with another person in our pain, to witness our pain and those are the very things that HEAL our pain.

I have an adage I often tell my clients when we are walking through pain:

"We name it, we claim it, we feel it, we heal it.”

Using our “I’s” is how we claim our own pain. Because no, YOU didn’t go through it, and NO, not EVERYONE experiences it or feels it. YOU felt it… "I felt it and it hurt ME!"

That’s a terrifying proposition to claim your own pain, but primary to healing.

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