Many of my clients often come to therapy saying “I don’t know why I am here. How on earth is talking going to help?” This is an excellent question, which I think deserves to be thought about not only in therapy, but also in the context of our everyday lives. Why should we talk about our problems? Are there any benefits to doing so? Here is a short list of reasons why talking can be helpful.
1. Talking helps us process our experiences
We process all of our experiences and thoughts. We may think in depth about some and push away others, because let’s face it, thinking about every painful or difficult life experience would be exhausting and detrimental to our mental health. However, if we repeatedly avoid thinking and talking about our difficulties, overtime they may build up and spring out at us when we least expect it. Talking prevents us getting to this stage and letting our problems become overwhelming.
It is like putting our clothes away into a wardrobe. Some clothes we neatly fold away (these are the processed thoughts), some though are awkward in size and shape, so we just shove them in (the more difficult experiences we don’t think about). The more we keep just shoving away those awkwardly shaped items, the more cluttered the wardrobe gets and eventually becomes impossible to close. Talking is like decluttering, looking at what we have, seeing where it would fit better, folding it neatly, so that we can again close the door.
2. We can make sense of the situation
When we are silent we may still be thinking about our worries and problems. Sometimes we can reach helpful conclusions as to what to do about our situation. Though other times, thinking about our problems can get us into even more of a muddle. Instead of seeing a clear path out of the woods, we continue to wander around in circles. When we talk to someone we organise our thoughts, which can in turn help us find the right path.
3. Clear head makes clear plans
We can begin to plan what to do about our problems only when we start to make some sense of our situation. We can talk and think through various possible solutions, which then helps us choose the appropriate course of action. Our listeners can also have several ideas about how we may be able to solve our problems.
4. There is a listener on the other side
Talking to someone who is supportive is the key to sharing our problems. Yes, we could just talk about our problems to an empty room, but our experiences would be met with a silence. On the other hand, talking to a friend can make us feel validated and understood. Our friends are not there to provide therapy, yet a simple response such as “that sounds difficult” or “you’ve been coping so well” can also have a healing effect.
5. Recognising you are not alone
Sometimes when we find the courage to speak about our problems, we can receive a surprising response such as “I’ve been there” or “I really know how it feels, because I have a similar problem”. The importance of knowing that we are not alone with our problems should never be underestimated. This knowledge can help us regain lost confidence and hope that if someone else has been able to get through it, so can we.