I know, *real uplifting topic* (kidding of course), but important no less. When life throws you lemons, go ahead and make your lemonade.
But…it’s important not to fool yourself. If you are really struggling or suffering in the face of heartache or tragedy, be honest with yourself. That means being honest with your partner too.
A recent article I read notes how grieving couples who try to help their partners by hiding their emotional pain have been shown to fare worse in the face of tragedy such as loss of a child than those who are honest with themselves and with each other.
You can read that article here.
In the face of tragedy, you need to let yourself experience the pain and share this with your partner.
Individuals and couples get into trouble when they try to outsmart their emotions.
Because it’s impossible.
Have you ever been able to stop yourself from sneezing?
Probably not. Antonio Damasio, neuroscientist and expert on emotions, states that we are about as capable of stopping our emotions as we are at stopping sneeze. I don’t know anyone who can do it.
No one wants to experience terrible emotions
Grief, fear, hurt, hopelessness, sadness…we’d rather push them aside. Some of us are better at denying that we’re having them than others. But, the truth is that the attempt to shut off an emotion actually causes more anxiety and tension than simply experiencing that emotion.
Bottom line: we can’t control emotions.
Our emotions have hung around for thousands of years of evolution because they are keys to our survival as animals. Feelings like fear and anxiety are intrinsically linked to biological systems that mobilize us to run fast, fight hard, and have superhuman strength in times of need.
Emotions are not only keys to our survival, but they are also major communication signals that we are constantly emitting, especially to our partners.
In fact, our partners become experts on reading our emotional cues.
So if you’re experiencing an emotion but have gotten so good into tricking yourself out of it, your partner will still be able to tell something’s off. I have worked with some couples in which a partner will pick up on how the other is feeling before the other even realizes herself. It may be surprising to you that this is not uncommon.
Those pesky underlying emotional subtleties that our partners pick up on that we may not even be aware of are the cause for many-a-spar, and often result in cycles of negative interactions that become extremely damaging to relationships over time.
There’s good news though.
If you actually let yourself experience that emotion, it will pass. In the case of tragedy, you may always feel a sadness about it, but your days will not all be dark. You can lean on your partner for support and still be available to them so they can be honest with you, too.
If you are clinically depressed, you may have an impossible time getting out of your funk. But depression is said to often be the result of other emotions not realized (e.g. anger). That’s another topic – but if you are feeling depressed and you just can’t seem to shake it, talk to a psychologist.
The take home message here is to be in touch with your true feelings and express them to your partner
If you are single and lacking supporters (or depressed and nothing seems to help), find a good therapist to talk to (here’s how).
Toward the goal of achieving our best health, we all need to be in touch with our emotional experience.
And we need to be able to express it. As social creatures, we are wired to connect with each other, and in the face of heartache or tragedy, our ties to our significant others are the most powerful medicines we can take.
So be honest with yourself and lean on your partner. It will do them good too.
Sometimes we need help getting in touch with our emotions…
…especially if we have become really good at being “out of touch” with our emotional experiences.
Helping you and your partner really experience your true emotions and actually express them to each other is what Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) does. If you and your partner can’t seem to read each other (or yourselves), give EFT a whirl. It doesn’t take forever and can do you wonders.
Cheers to your best relationship,
What has been helpful to you in getting through a tragedy?