How to Treat Vulnerability Hangovers

In early August, at a tiki bar in Washington, DC, Erin Pedati told a group of friends that she had been struggling with depression. They are good friends, and they respond with empathy and compassion, but the next day Ms. Pedati, 40, feels strange.

“Part of me is relieved, because it’s important to have these discussions,” she said. “But another part is like, ‘Oh my god, what did I say?’ You repeat the conversation in your head and you’re like, ‘They haven’t replied to my messages, have I told them too much?’ “

Instead of having a hangover from too much Mai Tais – “honestly it’s easier to treat,” she joked – Ms. Pedati is experiencing a “hurt hangover”, a term coined by Brené Browna research professor at the University of Houston, to describe feelings of anxiety, shame, and regret after revealing something personal.

As humans, we have a competitive need to “build connections with others the way we are, but also conform to social norms, such as not sharing too much,” says Emma. Seppala, scientific director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research. Educator at Stanford University and author of “Tracking Happiness”.

The point is, it can be complicated to balance those needs simultaneously. Dr Seppala said: “While sharing offers the potential benefits of intimacy, it also opens us up to fear of judgment or rejection. “We might think, ‘Will that person think less of me now? Did I show a weakness? Am I safe? ‘”

A hangover from trauma can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating – and it can even be helpful.

First, know that others may not think about your disclosure as much as you do. Thanks to a phenomenon known as “Beautiful messy effect” In general, we view our own expressions of vulnerability more negatively than those of others.

Think about how you react to other people’s vulnerable moments, says Dr. Do you feel more connected to the party guest who is being serious and thoughtful, or the person who spills something on their shirt and is embarrassed about it? For most of us, it’s the latter, “because they’re natural,” she says. “And when someone is natural, that allows us to be natural.”

Take solace that any regrets you feel will be short-lived. Research to show that “Researchers regret it,” said Amy Summerville, a research scientist at Kairos Research in Dayton, Ohio.

Dr Summerville said: “It makes sense that in this moment you’ll feel, ‘Ugh, why am I saying that?’. However, she adds, that feeling often goes away when you look back on the years you’ve known someone.

Studies show that vulnerability can increase closeness and build trusta phenomenon importance During an ongoing pandemic, when many of us are still feel isolated.

At a work event with people she hasn’t seen since 2019, Nicole Baker, 43, revealed that she has just undergone treatment for breast cancer. That prompted another attendee to confide that she had suffered a stroke earlier in the year, “and so we had a great conversation about the health challenges at work, which we wouldn’t have otherwise.” encountered if I did not share first,” she said. . Baker, who works for a nonprofit in Denver.

And vulnerability isn’t just beneficial among friends and colleagues. Research has found that vulnerable bosses also make better leaders. “People feel more comfortable around you,” says Dr. Seppala. “What you’re showing is, ‘Hey, I’m human.’ It helps people feel comfortable.”

The researchers first described the messy effect beautifully also saw that those who practice compassion feel less important about the “mess” they were aware of compared to those who were not.

Michael Tennant, creator Really curious, a card game that builds empathy and trust. “Draw it out as, ‘What can I learn from this?’”

Test why Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist in Santa Rosa, Calif., says sharing something personal — whether it’s an inadvertent incident or you’re intentionally linking up — can help. identify your comfort “and realize, ‘OK, maybe I’m fine talking about my anxiety or depression, but I’d rather be more careful when it comes to my finances,'” Dr. Manly said. .

Regret is the psychological version of the pain you get when you put your hand on a hot stove, says Dr. Summerville; it’s useful because it can keep you from making the same mistake twice. But it can also put you in a loop of rumination — or intrusive thoughts over and over again without satisfactory results.

“If you have a tendency to ponder things – if it’s something that pops into your mind involuntarily and you don’t get anything new when you chew on it – that could be a problem. ,” Dr. Summerville, who Research has discovered correlation between ruminating thoughts and depression, although it is unclear whether one causes the other.

“But if you’re really learning something, like ‘Well, that’s not the right thing to say to that person in the moment,’ it will help you do better in the future.”

Despite the potential benefits of revealing something personal, there are still times when you may want to keep your card close to your chest.

The point is, talking about myself feels good. For example, in a small study 2012participants who were given money to answer the questions found it so rewarding to broadcast their thoughts that they gave up 25% of the payout to share their answers instead of keeping them on hold. privacy level.

It’s been especially difficult after the last few years, when we’ve all been so desperate to connect, but rusty social skills Jared Dalton, a social worker and psychotherapist in London, Ontario, says it can cause us to over-share.

Add wine, unfair judgment, can further lower our defenses. Dr Manly said: “As soon as we bring alcoholic drinks on the plane, we can share more than usual if we meet for coffee.

Mr Dalton, who regularly works with ADHD patients on impulse control strategies, recommends taking a “mind pause” – whether it’s deep breathing or bathroom breaks – before revealing something personal.

“Where is that urgency to say something from?” he say. “Is it because you really want to get closer to this person? Or because you’re lonely and you just want to connect? “

Considering your end goal “can help you scale back if needed,” he says. And that also applies to sharing online, where the connection you’re looking for can be more elusive. Mr. Dalton said, letting yourself out on social media can make you feel exposed, especially if “you don’t get the results you want”. “If you have a thousand friends and you share something super personal and you get 10 likes, it can make you feel really down.”

The consequences of being hurt can be unpleasant or surprising, but it’s often worth it, Dr. Seppala says. In the emotional intelligence classes she teaches at Yale University, she finds “that the more vulnerable and realistic I am with my examples, the more I can communicate her message. me”. Getting comfortable with the consequences of a vulnerability “it takes courage at first, but then it’s like a muscle you build.”

Mr. Tennant, who is writing a book about vulnerable courage, said he’s starting to think of it as a superpower. “So many of us are used to hiding that edge, or staying away from that edge,” he said, “when I walk towards it, people are often moved.”

Holly Burns is a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area and a regular contributor to The New York Times.

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