Here is a principle to live by: have no pain or wounds in your life that you have not reflected on and talked about with a trustworthy person. Stated simply, express the unexpressed.
Without awareness, you can't grow.
With awareness, you have a chance.
Speaking about your pain increases awareness.
If you are unwilling to talk about pain in your life, there's a good chance you are somehow stuck, yet you might not even know how much more freedom you can experience.
If you have recurring thoughts about something that happened to you but have never given voice to it, there is untapped potential for growth in your life.
Giving words to your experience helps you make sense of it.
Telling your story of pain, loss, grief, or accomplishment that has never been expressed brings self-awareness and increased peace and emotional freedom.
Even when you first express the unexpressed that you have been avoiding, you can begin to feel lighter and more hopeful.
Some signs you have significant unprocessed pain:
1. If you have thoughts about something that happened to you but tell yourself, "It's not important" or "Just get over it."
2. If you criticize yourself when you have been wronged.
3. If you have made a timeless vow or meaning of the world founded in negativity or categorically based on mistrust due to something that happened to you. For example: "Don't trust men." "Women will only let you down." "Never express your true feelings." "All Asians are [fill in the blank criticism]."
4. If you have ongoing, pervasive shame and critical self-talk.
5. If you have sworn to never speak of something that has happened to you, something you did, or something you experienced.
6. If you struggle with ongoing resentment towards someone.
7. If you are overly critical and lack compassion for people in a specific area. For example, you are highly critical only of people who commit adultery.
Perhaps the two most fundamental elements of healing from any wound are courageously and curiously expressing your thoughts and feelings to someone safe, and the willingness to go to any lengths to heal and grow*.
"We're only as sick as our secrets."
Said by many in Alcoholics Anonymous.
"Until you own your story, your story will own you."
What struggle, pain, or wound remains unexpressed? Who can you tell?
Shame shouts in your unexpressed silence and is silenced when you are deeply known and loved.
Sometimes the first person to tell your secret to is a pastor or priest who will listen deeply and love you well. Sometimes telling a psychotherapist will be life-giving because they are bound by confidentiality and trained to help you heal from trauma. Sometimes walking into your first Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery meeting, or similar type of recovery group, as terrifying as it will be, is the most important decision you could make for your healing and growth. I've tried and benefited from all the examples above.
If you feel uncomfortable reading this, I hope you reach out to someone and express the unexpressed.
* See p. 58 in Alcoholics Anonymous