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Download Audio: How to Express Your Emotions Without Being "Emotional"
Some people are labelled as ‘emotional’, as if it’s a bad thing. Well, you know what, we’re all emotional. All the time. We are all, every one of us, at every single moment, having an emotional experience. Experience, which is the state of being alive, is felt through our feelings, our emotions.
So being ‘emotional’ is being alive.
Being able to be in touch with our emotions, to feel them, to know them and to express them is a very important skill in life. Particularly in relationships.
A lot of us aren’t good at that. Some of us grow up thinking emotions are ‘bad’, particularly negative emotions. The message you get is: It’s bad to be feeling bad, so don’t feel bad. Um, so what you are supposed to do with those feelings? Well, either you suppress them, pretend they’re not there, and just let them fester. Or you become overly ‘emotional’, intense and not being able to express cleanly.
It’s actually a little healthier to be overly expressive in your emotions than to suppress them. At least they are getting out and not festering. But if they are not being expressed well, they get violent or abusive and that is not at all good. That’s out of control.
So how do you express feeling without suppressing or getting out of control?
Firstly, take some time to identify what you’re feeling, yourself, internally. Be as clear as possible to yourself before you speak. If you’re the type of person who processes outwardly, that can be confusing to your partner, it’s messy and unclear to them, so try to have processed as much as possible before you speak. Conversely, if you’re the type of person who processes inwardly before speaking, make sure you don’t take too long as that could be upsetting to your partner too. At least let them know you’re processing so they don’t think you’re supressing or ignoring an issue.
Secondly, make sure your partner is in the right state to engage. There’s no point trying to talk with someone if they are busy or distracted as they can’t be receptive. It’s better to postpone to a time when they can listen – but do set a time and keep to it.
Thirdly, speak cleanly, being aware of both keeping yourself calm and paying attention to your partner. You need to be co-regulating, making sure you support each other so that neither of you gets triggered and dysregulated. That means breathing well, looking at each other, using a kind tone of voice, touch, allowing space for the other to take in what you’re saying. If you notice your partner is getting a little dysregulated then focus on calming rather than pushing your point harder. If you notice yourself getting dysregulated then breath more deeply and slow down a little, ask for a hug or a break if you need it.
Remember this isn’t easy, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced and mastered both as individuals and as a couple. The better you get the better you can express your thoughts, feelings and emotions without it getting overly ‘emotional’. You’ll get understanding and through that you’ll get resolution.
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