• Karen O'Moore

Emotions and feelings in Relationships 3. Dealing with emotions

Over the last couple of issues we have been looking at feelings and emotions, what is the difference between the two, what are the sources of emotions and what impact do they have on relationships.

It is worth stating again that Love is a feeling and is ever present in us. Emotions erode the love we have between us so that it hard to return to the state within the relationship. As Diana and Michael Richardson put it: “love more easily reveals itself in an

atmosphere of tranquillity and contentment than in a haphazard war zone.”

In this article, we will be looking at ways of dealing with, and transforming emotion.

There are 5 keys to transforming emotion: See, say, separate, move, return. The first is to recognise that you are in an emotional state, the second is to admit and acknowledge this out loud, the third is to separate from the source of conflict and emotion and do it as respectfully as you can, the fourth is to consciously indulge in sustained physical activity and finally return to your partner.

Of course this does not happen overnight, it takes practice and the length of time that we can be in an emotional state cannot be defined. In accepting that it will simply take as long as it takes for you to move out of the emotional state and that mistakes will occur as you learn this new way of relating, then you are setting the foundation for the transformation of your relationship. With the view that emotions are unexpressed feelings, it is reasonable to assume that one way of becoming emotional is to express the feelings as they arise either in words or using the body. Also while it is acceptable to express the “positive” feelings such as love and to share them and it is good to do so, it is important to express what people may consider to be “negative” feelings such as anger. If you take the view that they are all part and parcel of the human experience and all valid then this acceptance allows expression to occur, though it is important to note that the feelings such as anger should not be directed at your partner and you take responsibility for expressing them. For Harville Hendrix, anger represents a corrosive element in relationship whether it is expressed or not. When turned on our Partner it is also by the workings of our subconscious turned on ourselves, however Anger and Love are two sides of the same coin, the same life force in two guises and is best released in measured doses, in a safe-environment and then converted back to it’s original life-giving form. The ability to communicate and express feelings is something that many of us have to re-acquire and I do a lot of work with clients and it is extremely common for people to reveal that there is a family history of burying and suppressing feelings. As has been said, starting statements with “I feel” is very powerful but it takes practice and the willingness to be open to change and facing the fear of expressing what you truly want and desire, communicating from the heart and from the present moment. Harville Hendrix favours a behavioural change approach, including exercises such as “caring days” and the continued use of such positive caring behaviours changes the “Old Brain” perception of the partner as “someone who nurtures” and erodes the beliefs that partner’s can read the other’s minds in terms of fulfilling unmet needs and defeats the tit-for-tat power struggle that can occur. For optimal effectiveness though when combined with learning about what unconscious motivations for behaviours can be consciously transformed into supportive behaviours and that by accepting the limited nature of your own perceptions and are receptive to your partner’s, then rather than a source of conflict their views become a source of knowledge. A good place to find knowledge on our motivations is within the spoken and unspoken criticisms we experience. Many of your repetitious, emotional criticisms of your partner are disguised statements of your own innermost needs: Some of the repetitive, emotional criticisms of your partner may be an accurate description of the disowned part of yourself and some of your criticisms of your partner may help you identify your own lost self and indeed some of your partner’s criticisms of you may reflect a disowned trait. Frequently however, this understanding our partner’s world is hindered by several blocks to communication, including denial, automatic defensive responses and indiosyncratic language. It is common to overcome these using a three phase communication technique: Mirroring (repeating back what is said to gain understanding), Validating (affirming the internal logic of each other’s remarks) and Empathy. Effective communication is about knowing when to listen, when to speak, when to be silent and what intention is behind what you say and do. It is also important to accept the other person, to not take what they say personally or rake up the past and to talk about yourself and not the other and never say that they are emotional.

They are of course all strategies to reduce the amount of time you live from your emotions, but for many the living in an emotional state can be very addictive but that ultimately it erodes the ability to build sustainable, powerful relationships built on trust, intimacy and love. It is also important to avoid the angry sex scenario, sex itself can be a potent source of emotions as well as a means of superficially release emotions, but sex in an emotional state is more a sense of a power play rather than a meeting of lovers.

Finally, I mentioned earlier that client’s had often said that the inability to express feelings ran through families. It is important to keep emotions away from children as they will effectively imitate the parents emotions and enable this passing down of emotions through generations. By keeping the emotions away from children and encouraging children to express feelings (and acknowledging them) and leading by example, then the link in the historical chain can be broken.

Mark Sutton May 2014

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