Updated: Sep 11, 2020
“I’ve found that oversharing is also a trauma response. I used to over share so badly, I’d be internally telling myself to shut up AS I WAS oversharing.”
I always had so much shame about oversharing, and to some degree, still do. Like a daytime television program in Real Time before a live “studio” audience, oversharing is one of the cheapest, unclassy, most cringe things ever; and often, the eyes and ears *eager* for the next installment are often exactly the kind of cheap, unclassy, cringey people least worthy of knowing your business (and least wise of you to share with). The audience internally groaning and inwardly rolling their eyes (or actively avoiding) are repelled, exhausted, and beyond frustrated by that same next installment because they avoid this drama in their own personal lives for a reason.
I never had a big quantity of people to broadcast my amateur hour soap operas and “The How Bad Can I Make Myself Look Show” to, but the *quality* of people I couldn’t stop oversharing to couldn’t have been a worse—or more embarrassing—or nonsensical choice: my narcissistic, sabotaging, controlling parent; my ex-‘s parent (?!); the 5 former classmates on my Facebook...even the subject themself (who I couldn’t complain, explain, or dredge up the past enough about…creating further cycles of escalation and abuse).
Like Natasha, to even the most un-self-aware among us (me) a tiny ray of common sense would filter through, and I would indeed be pleading internally with my couldn’t-wouldn’t-stop mouth to SHUT UP and hands to STOP POSTING...watched my various pathologically, compulsively communicating body torch my reputation, don the relationship clown suit, and pay for a self-sabotaging smear campaign series of self-posted billboards that I certainly couldn’t (emotionally and relationally) afford.
There is a difference between sharing and oversharing. Sharing feels wholesome. There is an element of quiet, pure joy. Oversharing leaves you feeling like you raped your own soul and now you just want to crawl into the ground and not come back. You settle for a shower, some ice cream, and repeating the vicious oversharing cycle.
“Keeping your relationship private should never feel like you are depriving yourself of part of the joy of being in a relationship. You should, however, make sure that your definition of relational joy is more about your relationship and less about pleasing/triggering/wow-ing other people. If it’s even slightly more external, you will be robbing your relationship of the very intimacy that you complain about (and question your worth over) an absence of.
Outside validation used to dictate the success of my relationships. Keeping my relationship private was out of the question. I would prioritize the opinions of friends and family over my mental and relational health.” —Natasha Adamo
If you are reading this, you are painfully aware of the harvest of havoc and self-hate that oversharing has filled an otherwise-empty self-worth pantry with. If you want some great positive motivation on WHY you should keep your private life private, Natasha Adamo has an incredible blog post here: https://natashaadamo.com/keep-your-relationship-private/
It can all be summarized perfectly in my favorite quote from the article:
“Bottom line: the less you share, the less bullsh*t you deal with.” —Natasha Adamo
And who doesn’t need LESS bullshit?!
So how do we stop when we JUST.CAN’T.STOP.OVERSHARING?
It all starts, as is usually the case, with AWARENESS. Oversharing is a game that we play. Whether we have "mere" psychological triangulation going on, or a dodecahedron web spanning multiple continents...the reason why we compulsively (and regrettably) spew every unnecessary detail is often out of our range of awareness.
We’re too busy swept up in the self-sabotage cycle of starting drama, sharing the drama, creating even more drama, inevitable abandonment, red-faced regret, and acting out of the pain of rejection, causing MORE DRAMA and MORE REGRET...that we get so busy just trying to cope with putting out the fires that we never seem to have time, or energy, to hit the emergency shut-off valve of the fuel supply behind it all.
What Fuels Our Trauma-Based Oversharing? WHY Do We Trauma Overshare?
* Need for an alliance.
When you lack object constancy and whole object relations (understanding that things are a mix of positives and negatives, not solely one extreme or the other), every spat and slight (real or imagined) becomes a calamity.
The “Love of your Life” has become a sworn enemy in a battle to the relational death. You are terribly, terribly alone. You don’t know how to pick your battles (you’ve created your own answer to that one: “All of the Above”), but you also don’t know how to fight your own battles. Infantilized well past infancy, you only know how to rope someone else in and hide behind their skirts, hoping they can do what is impossible: change someone else—for you.
When you feel like you’ve lost your only friend (of the moment), you become beyond desperate for a new one—one that will take over the job of self-soothing you because you have no idea how to.
It’s hard to think back on the many, many times I did this; running to tell all the wrong people every angry word, door slam, and petty nonsense that JUST HAPPENED...only to dash back to the first person as soon as the winds shifted and I had something against my new-now-former ally.
It was a rotating door of unstable reactions spinning faster than the eye could follow from a whirlwind of emotions I didn’t know how to manage. There was a lot of accidentally-on-purpose collateral damage to people I really do love and care about.
It took a while to finally be able to STOP (long after I knew I wanted to stop, long after I knew this was not good and NEVER would be good for anyone involved). I also left myself very vulnerable to the suggestions and scorn of people who did not have my best interests at heart.
Eventually I realized that quite contrary to having the allies I needed, I had many more sabotaging, excuse-making, or wounded (by my tell-taling) NOT-allies.
* Need for an audience.
Drama is what we know: Home is where the...drama is. Like an eating disorder, it’s comforting in its discomfort; we feel pseudo-control while we spiral out of control. Everyone can see it (and rewards us with the attention we crave like we “crave” air), but at the same time, they shake their heads and look down on us.
All of this happens while we delude ourselves that “It isn’t that bad...I need a 'support system'…[insert excuse here].” There is a monumental difference between a trusted, proven, constructive confidante who has no conflict of interest to vent to or ask advice from...
And a public square to pillory your reputation and your sanity.
It feels good to have an audience...until they turn on you, and then it doesn’t. But then you get to be a victim and a martyr! It’s all fun and games until you are sick and tired of being humiliated and STILL alone, and your life feels ruined wherever you turn.
* Need for understanding.
If we were raised to feel alone, embarrassed, ashamed, wrong, and small, oftentimes we spend most of our human interactions gasping for one molecule of validation that we *aren’t* crazy, *aren’t* unacceptable, *aren’t* unlovable, and *aren’t* worthy of being unrelentingly misjudged. It feels as though we are, as Leonard Cohen sang in “Suzanne”, “leaning out for love, and [we] will lean that way forever.”
We just want to be heard and *finally* understood, as we have never been, from SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE.
* Need for validation.
Similar to the need for understanding, if we have always been excoriated, belittled, and had to fight for the right to be heard (and still not be taken seriously), we can be an absolute addict to the need to hear that we are right; that we really won the fight/argument/relationship (even if we obviously did nothing but drive a decent person away by being overbearing, intolerant, impossible, and self-absorbed). That somehow we didn’t really FAIL.
We are afraid of being vulnerable and giving to others what we were denied ourselves: being heard, understood, acceptable, taken seriously, and enough.
We don’t understand why a reparative gesture isn’t as good (or better than) an outright apology (which we are too ashamed and afraid to make).
We don’t understand why we would be required to give praise and interest that our insecurities can not spare for other people (since we can’t authentically give that to ourselves).
Then...after the inevitable blow up and/or abandonment...we need an outside source to invalidate with false validation the truth we know deep down inside: we were negligent and culpable. We are responsible for relationship failure. We survive by demonizing our ex- (romantic, friend, family, any relationship), but knowing what we know (the truth), it just isn’t enough; we need others to demonize with us. "Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth"...right?
There is another downside to needing an audience and validation that I have noticed, which Gala Darling explains perfectly in her blog post: Zip It! An Experiment In The Power Of Keeping A Secret
"Have you ever noticed that when you tell people about something exciting that is still up in the air, it feels like the energy gets sucked out of it? The project starts to slow down; people are less prompt with replying to emails. What had previously seemed full-steam-ahead suddenly goes quiet. What the hell is up with that?!
This is exactly the subject my friend Jasmine raised at breakfast yesterday. We had been talking about our work and all the fun things we had bubbling away on our respective stoves. There was a brief pause, and then she looked at me and asked, 'When something exciting is happening for you, do you tell people about it, or do you keep it to yourself?'
'Well, it depends on whether it’s still in process or if it’s signed, sealed, and delivered,' I said. 'I sometimes find that when I tell people about things that haven’t been finalized, it’s almost like the energy comes to a standstill. The momentum just stops.'
'That’s exactly what I’m finding!' she replied.
'Why IS that?!' I exclaimed. 'Do you think it’s something to do with having so many other people’s energy involved in the project? I’m not sure, but sometimes I think that when other people get their energetic hooks into an idea, it transforms, and not necessarily for the best.'
I gave the example of a project that had been floating around for a while, which had been progressing nicely… Until I mentioned to a couple of friends and to my parents. One friend responded in a way that made me feel like she was a little bit jealous, and since I mentioned it to my parents, every time I speak to them, they ask if I have an update. Of course, I don’t. Don’t they know that as soon as I hear something, I’ll tell them?!
'This is really interesting'” Jasmine said. 'There is definitely something to this. It’s so hard too, because I love to share what’s going on! I almost can’t help myself!'
'Totally!' I replied. 'The urge to share is so massive because you feel so excited. Really though, when you tell your friend something you’re excited about, what you want is for them to be equally excited. You want them to mirror your delight back at you, but very rarely are they able to do that. People have their own stuff going on, their own agendas, and a lot of people, despite their best intentions, feel jealousy.'"
I absolutely love Gala and Jasmine's challenge that goes with this observation (because, I mean, if it's not actionable and practical, what's the point?!):
"Want to join us in our Zip It! experiment? It’s easy. The steps are…
1. Keep things to yourself! If an exciting offer or project comes your way, despite your overwhelming urge to tell someone, resist!
2. Keep a journal which contains all the details of the project at hand. Don’t be afraid to get really hyperbolic with your enthusiasm if that’s what feels good to you. Go hard! No one is going to read this except you, so feel free to be your most ebullient self.