It’s been said that people come to therapy to talk about what they don’t want to say. But whether it’s on the couch, in the kitchen or in any other area of life, talking can be difficult, and uncomfortable. It may be the bread and butter of my job, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone (me included). Sometimes, we’d rather not say it out loud to another person. Because then it becomes real.
Talking essentially means confiding. This isn’t a conversation that glosses over or that is superficial, but it shouldn’t feel like treacle-wading either. It should feel good. Cathartic. Like a deep sense of ‘aah’ inside (I’m treading on Bisto ground here…). Confiding involves expressing your emotions and asking for support, which helps to increase closeness and trust between people.
Having close confiding relationships is one of the best things we can do for both our physical and mental health – it’s just as important as eating 5-a-day. And we don’t even need five relationships – as few as two good quality relationships with people who are there for us in times of need and in who we can confide in is enough to keep our mental health in check. McVitie’s has highlighted this in their recent ‘Let’s talk’ campaign. Biscuits help – particularly if there is tea to dunk them in. Tea has actually been shown to help recovery from stress, leading to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
As well as the provision of biscuits, there are things we can do to make talking easier. Some recent research shows that even how we talk about talking matters. Asking someone if they would like to ‘speak’, as opposed to ‘talk’, can be more helpful in certain situations – it feels less heavy and loaded, and a person is much less likely to be resistant. For those who ‘don’t wanna talk about it’, this could be a nice door-opener.
It’s also important to think about who we are talking to – take your talking to someone who can take it. Look out for signs that the other person is really listening: do they ask you questions and try to get to the bottom of your worries? Does the person give you time? Are they critical? Do they flip the conversation so it becomes all about them instead? Above all, does the person respond to you actually, not factually – do they respond to the true you, in other words, to your emotions? These kinds of things will influence how much you talk to the person and whether you come out of the conversation feeling like it’s good to talk.
And I can’t mention biscuits and sweet cupboard staples, without saying something about Cupboard Love, and why it’s important. Cupboard Love first came about because people were asking questions about relationships. It wasn’t perfect, no theory ever is, but it has important roots for how we think of attachment and relationships today. It came from a place of being curious, asking questions and looking inside; it started a conversation. So don’t get hung up on talking being perfect – the conversation that you have that day will always be a function of time and place, as most things in life are. Anything that gets the conversation going is always good.
My recipe for bejewelled biscotti with Turkish delight and pistachios was inspired by this life lesson.