the accumulation of silent things
“What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us.”
"What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open."
The accumulation of silent things within us can weigh us down, create distance between ourselves and loved ones, and even become a breeding ground for shame. There's nothing wrong with being silent and it's certainly important to set boundaries with what we share and who we share it with.
Lately, I've been practicing speaking (some of) my truth and it's both terrifying and invigorating. Each time I share something, a dormant, heavy place within me opens and I often feel lighter- a sense of aliveness and usually a deeper connection to myself and others. It's not all sunshine-and-rainbows though and I do experience moments of regret wishing I hadn't shared something and may even have a vulnerability hangover afterwards (see the end of post for more details).
Giving a voice to the silent things within us can be scary and also empowering. As Brené Brown says, "When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending." Sharing your stories can be a way to acknowledge what's true for you, while also connecting to what you value.
So, if you're like every other human, you've accumulated silent things with you...
Now, let's imagine you value honesty and vulnerability, here are 5 ways to begin speaking your truth.
I LOVE the DayOne journal (app) because it's password protected on my phone (and on my computer) so I know it's secure and private. I don't know about you, but sometimes it's hard for me to be honest with myself (let alone with others), so a journal is a great place to practice being uncensored and completely honest.
A few journal prompts (reminder: what you write is for your eyes only):
What's something you've never told anyone?
What's something you've never wanted anyone to find out about?
If you could say anything and know that you'd still be loved, accepted, and not judged, what would you say?
If you really knew me, you'd know that...
What's something you're embarrassed or ashamed of?
2. Talk to yourself (or to a pet) outloud (in a private place, of course)
This is kind of like journaling, only you're hearing your truth, rather than reading it which can be pretty powerful and also good practice for #3.
Take it a step further and record yourself using an app on your phone (i.e. voice memo) or computer (i.e. garage band).
3. Talk to someone you trust
“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: "Who has earned the right to hear my story?"
Who's earned the right to hear you speak your truth? It may be a close friend or family member, your massage therapist or hair stylist, or a counselor or life coach. Here's a short video clip of Brené Brown speaking about who has (and has not) earned the right to hear your story.
After you've found that trusted person, practice by sharing one thing with them. For example, after journaling and being uncensored and honest with yourself, you realize that you've been using ________ (alcohol, drugs, sex, food, exercise, etc.) to numb painful feelings and memories and you'd like to use _______ a little less and find other ways to cope. You're scared to talk about this because you're feeling shame and embarrassment, but you choose to tell them because they've earned your trust (here's a short video of Brené Brown describing trust and a longer version if you've got 25 minutes).
4. Join a (safe and confidential) group
Find an in-person or online support group (or a small group focused on personal development) where you can share your story in a confidential space.
5. Call a 24-hour helpline
A quick google search will bring up all kinds of 24-hour hotlines and you don't need to be in "crisis" to call. This is a convenient and anonymous way for your voice to be heard. You can call anytime, from anywhere (the comfort of your own bed, even), and no one needs to know it's you.
A few of the many options:
CONTACT helpline for emotional support: 800-932-4616
Alachua County Crisis Center: 352-264-6789
Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network: 352-377-8255
National Domestic Violence hotline: 1−800−799−7233
LGBTQAI+: 800.800.0350 (option 3)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Sexual Assault helpline for Alachua County: 352-264-6760
National Sexual Assault helpline: 1-800-656-4673
The vulnerability hangover
Okay, so you've written or spoken (some of) your truth. Now what? Be prepared to experience a vulnerability hangover (thank you for the term, Brené Brown). What's a vulnerability hangover? It's that sense of feeling exposed and raw after you've shared something vulnerable. It can feel like regret or an intense awkwardness.
Our minds love to play the movie (see this post for more about "the movie screen of the mind") of vulnerability over and over. It can look like this: you share ____ with your friend and later that day (and probably for the next couple of days) your mind continues to replay the conversation over and over with thoughts like,
Why did I say that?
What was my friend thinking of me when I shared _____ ?
I shouldn't have said anything.
I should've said _____ instead.
I should've said it like this ______.
You get the idea.
There's nothing wrong with having a vulnerability hangover (and there's nothing wrong if you don't have one). It's simply a signal that you've had the courage to share your story.
Self-care after sharing
It's important to take extra care of yourself if you're experiencing a vulnerability
hangover. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of filtered water, and find ways to practice self-compassion (the Insight Timer app has free guided self-compassion meditations).
If your mind continues to replay "the scene of you sharing," practice grounding.
Example: your mind starts saying, "So-and-so is probably thinking you are really messed up after what you told them." Notice that your mind is simply playing a movie and instead of continuing to watch the movie, ground (what do you see, hear, taste, touch, smell?).
Your mind starts back in almost immediately saying, "It was a baaaaaad idea to share _______ with so-and-so. That was really stupid and you got it all wrong- you didn't even say the right things. You shouldn't have even said anything..." Again, return your attention to what do you hear, see, taste, touch, smell?
Your mind starts in again saying, "I wish I hadn't shared _______. I feel so awkward now and uncomfortable. I don't want to see or talk to so-and-so for a while." Again, return to grounding and practice self-compassion (for example, place a hand over your heart and reassure yourself, "This is a vulnerability hangover. I'm experiencing this because I had the courage to share my truth.")
Here's a 5-minute Self-Compassion Break meditation by Angela Marino.
Angela Marino, LCSW, RYT is an artist, counselor, writer, and Kripalu-certified yoga teacher who offers trauma-informed, holistic, and mindfulness-based online and in-person counseling in Asheville, NC. Please visit her at www.angelamarinolcsw.com, instagram, and etsy.