Having an open, honest conversation about a subject—whether a recent experience, future event, memory, emotion, dream, desire, or person—changes your relationship to that subject. You are no longer alone with it; now another person is with you. The presence of another person may help you feel soothed, encouraged, empathized with, and understood. As a result, you may be able to take a different perspective on the subject and experience less shame and anxiety—two emotional additives that simply ruin life.

To be clear, not all painful emotions are “bad.” Sadness, guilt, and worry are natural, important parts of being a human, and can lead to useful, informative, and deep experiences. But brutalizing self-shame and obsessive, ruminative anxiety contribute nothing and are extremely detrimental to living a full life. Shame and anxiety may be understood as aspects of a poor, non-empathic relationship with yourself. An open, honest conversation with your therapist that takes into account all the complexity of what you’ve been through in life can serve as a model for a healthy relationship with yourself. Actually being with yourself may be an enormous change and encourage the other important changes you’d like to make.