While some of us are internal-processors that sort, reflect and digest best by themselves, the other some of us prefer to process externally by sharing it with others. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle: it’s wonderful to share socially and it’s important to be able to process on your own. Both are skills that can be honed and grown.
How do I know? I used to be an unconscious external processor. Not necessarily with everyone, but certainly with those closest to me (namely my best friend, my mom, and my partner). I was completely unaware of their time, energy and what my seemingly helpful process to me - was taking from them. What’s tough is they seldom communicated that it was becoming a bit overwhelming and tiring because usually, external processing can be full of heavy stuff. It’s the stuff that takes sifting and trudging through. It’s the stuff that feels good to get out, but heavy on the others if it’s not done with a good, heaping dose of healthy awareness and conscious communication. Through journaling, therapy, mindfulness and the steps below, I can finally say I’m a balanced processor.
Since external processing requires a social component, it’s important to use mindful communication tools to consider the person you’re engaging with. Mindful communication is key to healthy relationships and social well-being. Externally processing can be helpful, but can also be extremely draining for the other person if you don’t set it up consciously. Protect your relationships, consider their energy and get your needs met with these steps:
- Be intentional. Why do you want to process? What do you want to gain? Do you just need to clear? Do you want advice or feedback? Do you want to feel a sense of connection, support or just to feel seen and heard? How would you like to feel post-processing? Know what you intend for so even during the unclear parts of the process, you have some direction.
- Ask the trusted person if they have the capacity for your process. This ensures that both of your needs are met and a container is set for this type of discussion. It’s important to honor where they are out of respect for them and also for the safety of your emotional well-being. Ensuring security from both side is the only way this can be sustainable and helpful.
- Communicate your intention for your external process. Let them know what you’re both walking into and what you need so they can show up accordingly. If they don’t know what you need from this, you may end up with unwarranted advice or unreciprocated desires that create an uncomfortable rift that only gets bigger over repeated unconscious external processing.
- Close it out. Exit this container by thanking this person and communicating what you need to feel complete. This is where you can re-state your intention and needs or ask for them if they haven’t already been met. It’s assumed that at this point, the trusted person has already agreed to the intention and desires you proposed. Sometimes a little reminder is needed after all that.
If you need more help, support or connection over a specific topic you desire to process or want to start practicing internal processing for a healthy balance:
- Consider journaling or audio recording your own
- Join specific support groups if your issue is reoccurring and you need more connection
- Talk to a coach (hello!) or a therapist
- Practice mindfulness daily (hello again!) to strengthen your sense of self-awareness and clarity
We all need a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on and a moment to share. Don’t let these steps hold you back (especially you, deep internal processors!)! Just be mindful, considerate, aware and balanced. Here’s to healthier relationships and true support and connection.