As a society, stigma around the practice of sharing our emotional and mental realms seems to be fading. Wonderfully – we’re starting to open up about personal struggles and mental health issues, with more vulnerability than ever. It’s no understatement to say the benefits of this shift are enormous.
While spending some time at Happy Buddha, I was introduced to a wonderful practice called ‘emptying the bucket.’ I saw this simple and effective tool evoke positive shifts within myself, my relationships and those around me. It’s definitely one worth sharing!
How It Works
Emptying the bucket just essentially means unloading it all off your plate. The ‘bucket,’ refers to our current inner experience, thoughts or feelings. In the context of a sharing circle (but you can of course try this practice with your friends, family or partner), each member of the circle was allowed four minutes to simply talk.
That’s it! No preparation or prior thought, just a ‘ready, set, go.’
The other members of the circle simply witness this process and allow the speaker to be heard. At the end of the four minutes, we were given the choice of asking for verbal feedback, advice or support. This was a wonderful bonus, but so too was the opposite choice. Sometimes it’s nice to just let it out – and let it go.
You’ll find this practice is way easier than it seems. At first the idea of speaking for so long straight – essentially monologuing – can seem a little daunting. But more often than not, you’ll notice it just seems to flow. We each have so much going on in our beautifully complex minds and worlds, this really is the perfect opportunity to funnel our experience into words. It’s a beautiful chance to express gratitude, vent, rant or try make sense of it all.
What This Practice Brings
Verbalising things gives them shape. Have you ever had the experience of frantically mulling a problem over in your head, and getting absolutely no where? Of course this is the case – as it’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed by an issue when it’s an amorphous blob in your head! Speaking about something will give it structure – it clarifies our thinking. Doing so also makes us more aware of our emotional experience from an objective viewpoint, rather than a felt experience. Both aspects are important in finding clarity.
Tip: for this reason, video journaling by yourself is also a powerful tool!
An awesome benefit of this practice is that as well as helping you to understand yourself better, it gives you an insight into others. We see our worlds through our own unique lenses – and that means we may be making assumptions about the experience of others, without even realising it. Sometimes, hearing the authentic truth of another offers us a reality check. We might be surprised to hear they had a totally different take on something.
Chatting and sharing can offer relief in simply being an act taken in the direction of relief. It can also be hugely comforting to feel you have a sharing support structure. Not to perpetuate the idea that misery loves company, but it is true that being with people who are dealing with similar issues can be extremely reassuring. Sharing vulnerably will always be a connective experience.
A Better Legacy
Older generations tended to share the general outlook that internal stuff simply shouldn’t be discussed. Many who grew up in households where things weren’t talked about, are still dealing with the fallout of this. The outdated attitude of ‘sweeping under the rug,’ leads to all sorts of negative consequences. Science has proven that squashing down emotions or psychological issues – especially past traumas – tends to culminate in a host of problems. Currently as it stands, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The great news is, this is all beginning to shift. When we learn how to healthily express our emotions, we pass the same knowledge on to our kids. Studies have shown that children with higher emotional intelligence are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships and are more empathic.
As noted by psychologist Marian Margulies; ‘parents can help their children learn a vocabulary of feelings early on by modelling it themselves. This gives children the feeling that it is not only okay but healthy to express themselves through all the colours of their emotions.’ And this means all shades of emotion! In situations where kids feel unfairly treated, ignored or bullied – the alternative to healthy expression is repression, resentment or acting out. She explains, ‘the time to start talking about feelings is as early as possible.’
If you feel this practice would benefit you, definitely try it out. It could open a new doorway for you. Plus, you might even give the green light for your loved ones to do the same.
Sharing circles are a key and magical part of Happy Buddha retreats. If you’ve got something to say, we would love to have you come along!