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Mandy KloppersMandy Kloppers
videos concerning mental health issues

Should You Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve?

Mandy Kloppers Updated: Jul 1st 2013

Every decision has a positive and a negative aspect. Sometimes the positives outweigh the negatives and sometimes it’s the opposite. When it comes to being open about our feelings there isn’t a clear cut answer.

hand holding heartIt’s something I have often given thought to and I wanted to do a post on this purely to try get to the bottom of whether or not it is more beneficial that not to be open and express our feelings to others.

Some people are innately more expressive and open than others. Women tend to be more forthcoming about their feelings and emotions than men and this may be down to social conditioning. Boys are taught not to cry and to ‘man up’ and even though parents are more aware of challenging gender stereotypes, the divide still persists.

The old nature/nurture debate is relevant here too, as children who grow up in families where there is little expression and talk of feelings are likely to learn this way of behaving and keep their inner thoughts to themselves. Children brought up in environments where everything is ‘perfect’ (the parents hide emotion thinking they are helping their children by shielding them from emotional issues) can also learn to be emotionally sterile and inept at dealing with life’s ups and downs as they never witnessed distress or trouble being dealt with at home.

Advantages:

Being open helps communication and encourages rapport and empathy with others. People are more likely to relate to you when they know what you are feeling. Social support is more available when we are open.

Expressing yourself can take a weight off your shoulders and help you to feel free of tension and worry

Asking for what you want and letting others know is a great way to increase your chances of getting what you want. As the saying goes, “if you don’t ask you definitely won’t get”.

You are more likely to get your needs met and to be more content and less likely to become involved in addictive behaviour such as overeating, gambling, drugs etc

Disadvantages:

Expressing yourself can leave you open to abuse and makes you more vulnerable.

Suppressing emotions can lead to poor memory, anxiety and depression in the long term and physiological symptoms

Being open to exploitation from others can lead to stress

Being too open can lead to one feeling insecure and vulnerable which can lead to counterproductive behaviour in order to try ‘undo’ the damage of expressing oneself

When taking everything into account, it would seem that, in general, it is healthier to wear your heart on your sleeve. Suppressing emotions creates an imbalance internally and this can lead to tension, dysfunctional behaviour and even physical illness. A crucial factor though is WHEN to express yourself and to WHOM.

It would seem it is beneficial when in the company of people that care. When in the company of people who may have a hidden agenda or do not care entirely about your welfare, it would be best to exercise caution. Expressing yourself has many cognitive, emotional and social benefits though and can lead to a more connected, fulfilled life with others.

 

Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist living in the United Kingdom. She runs a private practice (see http://www.mandyjane-lifedesign.com for details) and offers regular advice and tips in her blog Thoughts on Life and Love. She specializes in working with step-families and relationships (especially relationships involving mental and emotional abuse) through online skype therapy sessions.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Hmm I don't know.. - kev - Jan 30th 2015

Maybe we are quick to generally type genders into one or another.. but most of the guys I know are the kind who are more open with their emotions than women.  They wear their heart on their sleeves so to speak, get hurt, hate it, love it, they don't even realize it.  Yet i have had a much harder time with getting women I know and have had relationships to open up.  I mean surface feelings are one thing, but feelings real honesty and real depth are very hard to comeby from the female gender.  Why is that? 

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