Why Saying What We Feel Helps Us Heal
When we use our words to describe feelings, we're able to release them.
Thanks for reading Almost Sated, a newsletter about the messy process of detoxing from diets and diet culture and the personal growth that comes from it. If you like what you’re reading, please consider subscribing and sharing! It’s free to join, and subscribing ensures you never miss a post. On Mondays, I round up the most interesting reads and listens from the last week.
I want to talk a little bit about the power of words. Most of us here on Substack believe, at least to some extent, in the power of words—to heal, to influence and to change lives for the better. But I want to talk more about the power of influence and suggestion we gain from naming our feelings.
In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a few variations on this idea, but the gist is that when we are able to name a fear, concern or worry, we take away its potency. Sometimes it’s simple validation, by naming our fear, concern or worry—allowing it—we feel comforted. We’re sometimes living with an irrational fear, concern or worry, and by naming it, we’re able to see how preposterous it is.
Some people swear by naming feelings. The evolution of that is to be able to name the feeling, or emotion, and where we feel it inside our bodies. I referenced’s interview with somatic educator a couple of weeks ago about cultivating somatic wisdom—reconnecting with and listening to our bodies—as a means of improving our relationship with money. But cultivating trust in our bodies has benefits way beyond finance.
“Somatic awareness is about noticing the places in our bodies where the feelings arise while working with money. While some people believe we should name the feelings, I prefer to describe the sensations instead. One reason is that naming an emotion usually has judgment attached to it. …When we realize emotions will not harm us, and we can move through them by watching and breathing, it frees up our energy to make better decisions for the long-term. It also brings our frontal cortex back online so we’re less likely to make hasty decisions out of fear.” —Cristy De La Cruz
As I’ve recounted a few times, before I quit diets and embraced intuitive eating, I was disconnected from my body. This is not uncommon. We’re taught from a young age not to listen to ourselves or to honor our bodies’ signals, which causes us to lose that sensing within ourselves. Trauma can also leave us disconnected. When we experience violence so great that we mentally and emotionally leave our bodies, it takes work to reconnect. Because of my own history with trauma, I didn’t think it would be possible to reconnect with my body without doing that work with a professional, which is why I hired an intuitive eating-certified therapist early in my recovery.
I’m still doing that work with her. In the beginning, she challenged me to feel emotions inside my body—which was almost an impossible task. Today, when she asks me to do this, I can sometimes feel the feeling inside me. It’s often a real answer from a real place versus in the beginning when it felt like a guess, but I often still don’t “trust” the sensation, because I sometimes don’t know why I’m feeling this particular emotion in this particular place. This is progress for me, and still there’s more work to be done.wrote last week in about using money affirmations as a means of making them come true. I wrote a few months ago about the magical power of the 10-year plan for a remarkable life. When we put words to paper or say them aloud, this is a form of manifestation. But what I’m talking about here is different. It’s about identifying feelings as a means of letting them have less power over us.
The reason naming our thoughts and feelings is so powerful is because we are acknowledging them. So much of us spend so much of our time hiding from true feelings or being consumed by things we don’t want to face. We call them something else, lock them away or hold onto them so tightly and don’t dare share them—or say them aloud.
But when we use our words to describe feelings, either alone or with someone else, they become less scary. In acknowledging them, they somehow become less intense. The power is in releasing them. They do less harm when we loosen our grip on them.
What’s at the root of this practice is mindfulness. Rather than remaining unaware of our feelings and emotions, our bodily sensations, by tapping into the feelings and emotions, we’re practicing mindfulness.
Buddhist meditation teacher Tara Brach discussed this topic in her most recent podcast episode, Awakening from the Trance of Self-Centeredness. She says the unease we have within ourselves is an invitation to deepen our attention.
“So for me learning to recognize that background sense of self was the beginning of a really profound deepening on the path. Just meeting it over and over again with awareness, with kindness and tenderness, it dissolves. … It’s like sunlight on an ice cube. It just naturally lets go.” —Tara Brach
Rather than ruminating over and over again on our fears or worries, we stop and pay attention to them. We view them from a place of kindness and compassion, and somehow this allows us to move back to whole centeredness. These check-ins are about reconnecting with ourselves and our bodies, cultivating trust and reliance.
Has this worked for you? I’d love to hear from others who have named their thoughts and emotions and found release in the process. Share your thoughts in comments!
Other Interesting Reads and Listens This Week
Since I spent so much time thinking about words this week, it was fun to seeof break down the phonological evolution of the word tomorrow.
“The next time use the word “tomorrow” in conversation, remember that every syllable is a time capsule of sorts. And: this is true for every single word.” —Andrew Smith
My favorite read of the week was Joe Garcia’s piece in The New Yorker about how Taylor Swift’s music has kept him connected to the world he left behind as he navigates years in prison for murder.
gave us the first installment in her new series Fat Girl Gets Married, documenting the full experience as a fat-positive activist planning her wedding.
“Laying on the top bunk, I would listen to my cellmate’s snores and wait for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” to come around again. When it did, I would think about the woman I had lived with for seven years, before prison. I remembered bittersweet times when my sweetheart had visited me in county jail. We’d look at each other through security glass that was reinforced by wire. It didn’t seem fair to expect her to wait for me, and I told her that she deserved a partner who could be with her. But we didn’t use the word “never,” and deep down I always hoped that we’d get back together.” —Joe Garcia
of wrote a powerful essay about navigating the guilt and shame of her teenage years while now parenting teenagers. Thanks to my husband, we discussed this essay over breakfast with teenage and early 20-something daughters yesterday morning.
“Marriage is one way to express and celebrate love, and right now is probably the best time in all of U.S. history to be a plus-size bride.” —Virgie Tovar
of explores the differences between the words wellness and wellbeing, the latter being something that perhaps can’t be measured on a grade card. While wellness is more a measure of health, wellbeing is the more the feelings of satisfaction and fullness we have about our lives.
“What a difference 20 years make, or in my case, over 30. Our codes on this are clearer now and women so much more aware, and if I was raised now instead of then, I might have never been in this situation to begin with, noted the red flags along the way, or at least done something after the fact.” —SleepyHollowInk
She posed an important question: How is your sense of wellbeing?
It’s something I spent time thinking about this week, and I can say I love my life right more now than I ever have at any point before it. It seems like that puts me in opposition to many of my friends, who seem fixated on combating menopause and the body changes that come with it. This is subject to change, but right now I’m feeling good about my life and my body.
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