We share our pain, sorrow, trauma, frustrations. We share in check-ins for groups and meetings, with friends at get-togethers or one-on-one, in therapy with a counselor or psychiatrist. Sharing is a good thing. But there are times when I wonder, “Am I relieving or reliving that pain?”

Cathartic sharing whether with friends or professionals is necessary to alchemize pain and trauma, but is there a threshold where the sharing becomes gratuitous and the opposite of helpful?

I know I’ve experienced it. I shared, vented, maybe even ranted, and instead of releasing the pressure of the pain or situation, the sharing built it up. Instead of healing, sharing opened the wound. I relived my pain instead of relieving it.

Surely I’m not the only one.

So what is that threshold? Is there a magical formula?

sharing × (place + person × moment) = ??? 

How do I make the answer Relief and not Relive?

Mindful checkpoints

Self-awareness is key. Be mindful of the place, the person, and the moment.

This isn’t about absolutes. Dr. John suggests it’s the combination of place, person, and time. Striking that sweet spot does not require overthinking the formula—which can lead to even more bottled-up emotions—but rather mindfulness.

Going into the share, ask yourself: Is this a safe sharing space? Will that person or group be comfortably open to what I want to share? Is this is a good time? 

Leaving the share, take note: Do I feel better? Or do I feel worse?  

There are no cookie-cutter guidelines for this. The edges between healthy sharing and morose wallowing are different for everyone. What we all share, I hope, is the desire to move forward, to feel better, to experience relief.

We all know that person who shares the same this-makes-me-so-angry story that they shared at last month’s check-in or get together, and the month before, and the months before that. They are clearly stuck. Did their share help or put more heat under the pressure pot?

With mindfulness, you’ll recognize when you’re on a There-she-goes-again rant. You’ll be aware whether you feel better or worse after venting. And you’ll know when you killed the mood of a room or gave someone else permission to share their story. You’ll know if you’re wallowing or moving forward.

Healthy sharing of pain is important and necessary, and is healthier still with self-awareness and mindfulness. Healthy sharing culminates in relieving, not reliving, the pain.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024