Although I should and do know otherwise, I still tend to think in cartoon stereotype terms when anyone talks about psychiatrists.
In my mind’s eye, he (for it is always a he) looks like Sigmund Freud, and talks like him too.
He sits with a notepad on his knee, his patient recumbent on a brown leather couch, uttering the words in a thick Austrian accent, ‘How does it make you feel?’
Now it’s easy to view that question as a cliché, but stop to think about it for a while and you may agree with me that it can actually be pretty rare to talk about your feelings.
Even at my relatively advanced age, I still struggle sometimes to put my feelings into words.
I find it pretty easy to talk about how I think: but when it comes to feelings, well, it can be more challenging – for me at least.
So here’s something to try.
In the next day or so, you’ll probably find yourself in a situation in which you have an opportunity to tell someone what’s on your mind.
Perhaps it will be at the end of a day when someone asks you how it went.
Or it could be in a telephone call.
Maybe it’ll be when you sit down to eat with someone.
As you ‘download’, ask yourself if you’re talking about events and thoughts, or whether you’re actually articulating your feelings.
Are you explaining situations rather than relating how they make you feel?
Most of us do, to some extent, sometimes because we haven’t taken the time to work out what we do feel.
Yet talking about your feelings can be an excellent way to help you process them and, indeed, to understand them better yourself.
To make things easier, imagine there are just four basic emotions: Happy, Sad, Angry or Scared (they’re pretty good for starters).
As you tell your story, why not make a conscious effort to build in an element of ‘and that made me feel…’?
Even better, add in a ‘because…’ explanation.
Opening up to someone can often make you feel better.
Letting another person in can be good for them too.
Even if their name’s not Sigmund.