How Talking About Things Can Actually Worsen Your Mood

“Does reliving the issues of the day serve any real purpose?”

Recently I met up with a few co-workers for happy hour. Yet moments, after we clocked out and headed to our destination I had a sneaky suspicion this hour, wasn’t going to be very happy….

We weren’t even out of the building before the talk turned to our annoyances: co-workers that weren’t pulling their weight; customers that were demanding things we couldn’t do; workloads too big to manage. And before I knew it a conversation that started out as a mere recollection of events turned into an exchange that had all the makings of an argument (elevated voices, sharp speech, aggravated movements)… only, we weren’t arguing.

And here’s the sad truth:

YOUR BODY CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE.

Your body cannot tell the difference between the first time the THING happened, and your re-telling of the THING that happened, especially if the same emotions resurface. Your body goes through everything all over again. As long as you remain emotionally invested in the re-telling of the THING… you’re going to suffer.

Let’s say you come home from work and your spouse asks, “How was your day honey?” You start by telling him about an argument you had with a customer and then the emotion you thought you left at work is now sitting on the couch right between you and your spouse. You haven’t seen your spouse all day, and he just wanted to know how your day was – but now you’re fighting because you got offended that he didn’t want to listen to your story, or that he was taking the customer’s side.

Your fuse is much shorter because your body doesn’t understand that you aren’t arguing. And instead of getting over the issue you had, you’ve now given it more power. You’re no better than you were…

“There is a fine line between processing the experience to make it manageable, and reliving it and re-traumatizing yourself.” – Philippa Perry

Want some advice on what you can do to save yourself (and your spouse)?

LET IT STAY WHERE IT STARTED.  

You give that issue, that person, that thing more life when you continue to revisit and rehash your situation. You’ve “fanned the flames” by re-telling the story and allowing the emotion take over.

Remember most humans are empathetic and if your spouse is like mine he will take on your pain, your anger, your frustration, and your sadness. Then BOTH of you are affected by whatever it was that originally had only happened to you.

When you get home don’t even acknowledge that it happened. Because… I ask again, “does reliving the issues of the day serve any real purpose?”

Tell me about it: Why do you re-tell stories of frustration to other people?


(Image courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lentzstudios/)