Turn Your Emotions Into Clear Signals
Does trying to understand your partner’s feelings ever feel like your flying down the freeway going 100mph with no brakes? Sort of like the cult classic movie SPEED. Emotions kind of get a bad rap in that way. They are seen as being irrational, out of control and all around useless. Like I said, a BAD rap.
And it makes me sad, because the truth is our emotions and feelings are the most amazing signaling systems we have, especially in relationships. Emotions are our response and reactions to a situation and truth be told, every emotion makes sense if we slow down long enough to put it into context.
They’re also amazing signals of our needs! For example, when we’re feeling sad, it signals our need for comfort. When we’re feeling happy, it signals our need to celebrate and connect. When we’re feeling angry, it signals our need to be heard and find resolution.
So if our emotions are so useful, how can we begin to turn them into clear signals that allow us to have our needs met?
1) Accept them
First we have to start by giving our feelings and emotions the credit they’re due. I can't tell you how often I see couples in my Sacramento therapy office flat out denying their feelings. Who me? I don't have feelings! I'm one of those people that doesn't need them. They seem so silly to me. What a waste of time. Can't we just find a solution without messing with our feelings?
I know you’ve probably met these folks too. And I’m sorry to say, but you can’t turn your emotions into clear signals if you deny their existence.
If it’s been a while since you've allowed yourself to feel a feeling or to sit with the discomfort that feelings can bring, then this can be an overwhelming process. But a very necessary one. Scan through your body. Do you feel any discomfort or tension? If you do, you're likely having an emotion. Sit for a moment and try and identify what it is.
2) Be congruent
You have to create congruency between your emotions and behaviors to clarify the signal. For example, if I'm feeling sad and my behavior looks like me stomping my feet and criticizing my mate, my signal is really unclear. Now if I'm experiencing that same sad feeling and I slow down and show that vulnerable need to be comforted, my signal is really clear and the likelihood that I'll be comforted is a lot higher.
The more congruent you are between your feelings/emotions and your behavior, the more clear your signal becomes. And you’re also more likely to have that signal responded to in a positive way. Pretty cool, huh?
3) Be open
Lastly, you have to allow the feeling/emotion to be met and soothed. I realize it's much easier to maintain a mentality of "I can do it all". But in order for an emotion to be a clear signal, we have to allow that signal to be answered.
We have to close the loop.
And it's really vulnerable to allow that to happen.
Say I'm feeling scared, I've a) recognized the feeling, b) created congruency between my feeling behavior thus allowing my mate to see my need and now I have to c) allow them to come close. If I just take steps A and B, I don't allow for the signal to be responded to. I then risk feeling even more alone or end up rejecting my mate when they come to soothe me.
And yes I realize this can look like advanced stuff, especially in a relationship that may be fragile right now.
So just start with the first step.
Just start with accepting you have feelings and identifying what they are. As you build awareness and confidence, you will be able to move to the second step.
I would love to hear from you. Where are you at in terms of turning your emotions into clear signals? Which step gets you the most stumped? What's it like when you're successful with this? How does it create connection in your relationship?
If you find yourself getting stuck in the same step over and over, maybe now’s the time for some extra support? Couples counseling is an awesome way to get things back on track!
As always, I want to hear from you! I want to know what your journey through connection and love is like.
Send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, give me a call, 916.955.3200 or comment below.
I can’t wait to hear from you.
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