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Big Emotion

In the face of your partner's expression of "big" emotion, you might find it difficult to stay present and grounded.  If you are like most people in the world, a healthy and responsible expression of emotion wasn't modeled for you, and you've got "stuff" around it.

You may have grown up in a home or culture where emotion is expressed freely, but not necessarily in a healthy or responsible way.  Perhaps free expression of emotion was associated with equally free expression of judgment, criticism, or blame. 

Or perhaps a tight lid was put on emotion and you never saw it's healthy expression modeled.  You implicitly got the message that emotion was a thing to be avoided.  Or, if emotion was expressed, it was an extreme situation, so you learned to associate emotion with big problems.

Part of creating a healthy relationship is creating a safe space for emotion to be expressed as it arises in connection to needs met or unmet.  An important step in creating this safety is becoming aware of your own conditioning around emotion. 

In one couple I worked with recently, let's call them Jim and Sara, Jim made Sara's expression of emotion mean that there was a big problem and he was likely the cause of it.  He subtly gave Sara the message that emotional expression wasn't okay with him.  In response, Sara easily fell into her own conditioning which was to put a lid on emotion. 

As a result, both engaged in long analyses of themselves and each other.  In blocking expression of emotion, they also blocked their access to needs.  Instead of making decisions from what was alive for them, decisions were the result of a disconnected discussion.

A healthy expression of emotion has at least some of these elements:

§       Emotions are named as they come up

§       Emotions are felt in the body

§       Emotions are recognized as that which comes and goes (e.g., there's not a fear that you'll always feel a certain way)

§       Emotions are known to arise from needs and precipitating perceptions or interpretations

§       Emotions can be felt for what they are without attaching extra meaning (e.g., "I feel this therefore it means something must be wrong.")

Take a moment to reflect on your relationship to emotional expression.  What was modeled for you?  How is this showing up now?  What happens for you when your partner expresses "big" emotion?

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