Grumpy Butts and Mayonnaise: How to Talk about Difficult Feelings


Today I want to share something that I hope makes uncomfortable or difficult feelings easier to talk about. Before I get into this something, I want to clarify that I'm not sharing this with the intention of minimising challenging or uncomfortable feelings, but because I want to share a way that might help talk about them without the heavy weight of stigma looming over the conversation.What is this way?Silly words.Yes, you read that right: silly words.Talking about feelings is important, incredibly important. But words like "sad", "lonely" and "depressed" all have a certain weight to them, a weight that can make talking about them challenging and uncomfortable in itself.This started for me during an innocent conversation with my partner, where one of us mis-heard the other saying "grumpy-guts" as "grumpy-butts".Naturally, grumpy-guts is now no longer a word in our household. Grumpy-butts, on the other hand, can describe a spectrum of sad or grumpy feelings and interactions ("I woke up feeling grumpy-butts this morning", "He was pretty grumpy-butts about it").Grumpy-butts is a way of diffusing any tension and introducing empathy into the conversation if one of us is complaining about something, and the use of the word is a signal that the other person needs some empathy. And, because it sounds kind of funny, it takes the weight out of the conversation. We can talk about how we feel with ease, and give each other the empathy and hugs we need, without using 'serious' words that carry multiple undertones, social stigma and potentially bring us down even further.As well as this, being able to say "I feel really grumpy-butts about X" or "I'm feeling a bit grumpy-butts right now" has a similar effect to the mindfulness technique of saying "I notice I feel XYZ" instead of "I feel XYZ". It helps us notice, experience and share the feeling, without becoming consumed by it.Having that shared language automatically helps me feel more connected to him: I know that he understands what I mean when I feel grumpy-butts, and vice versa (even if people around us think we're nuts).A few months ago, I read a post by Carolyn Rubenstein in which she described a similar occurrence in her family. Instead of using the word 'malaise', her mother calls it 'mayonnaise' ('a cuter name for malaise').Cuteifying or adding a touch of humour to uncomfortable or challenging emotions isn't about negating them, denying them or pretending that they don't exist.It's about having a shared language of acceptance and understanding, and making it as easy as possible to talk about this stuff.What are your thoughts: does this idea resonate with you? Leave a comment and let me know. Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc