So, where did I leave off? That’s right… Friday night and presentation #2. After we all came back down from dialoguing a new couple was at the front of the room with the priest and ready to begin their presentation. This one was about our emotions. The first thing they wanted to give us is a definition of emotion. Here it is:
Emotion – A spontaneous inner reaction to a person, place or situation. It is the feeling that I have within me when I come into contact with something outside of myself, or even with a thought that I have.
Likewise, they wanted to differentiate between emotions (feelings) and thoughts. Thoughts can cause emotion, but they are not feelings. The rule they gave was this:
If in a sentence you can replace the words “I feel” with the words “I think,” you have expressed a thought, not an emotion.
If you can substitute the word “am” for “feel” then you have expressed a feeling.
That’s a pretty neat little trick. They also said that we should avoid the statement “I feel that…” Again, this is not an emotion. It is the beginning of an opinion. Light bulb! So very true! Finally, they said to avoid using why, because, or any other explanation for your feelings. We are not looking to talk about the situation, we are just looking to talk about how we feel about it.
So, how do you do that? So far it sounds like a lot of “don’t”s. To help with that they gave us a few tips on how to be specific about our emotions.
- Rate the intensity of the feeling on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
- Make sure that you use the right word – be precise. Utilize the list of feeling words on the handout and stretch your vocabulary.
- Go beyond/ below the surface, like peeling an onion. Find your first feeling (anger) and then dig deeper – what is underneath the anger? Fear? Insecurity? Doubt? Now, be even more specific – is the fear more like terror, dread, horror, anxiety, panic, distress, etc.?
- Describe your feeling in as much detail as you can.
- Identify your emotions alone, not your thoughts or opinions.
- Try to communicate in a way that your spouse can understand. Knowing your audience can help you get your point across more effectively. Think of ways that they can relate to your feelings.
- Use analogies for your feelings such as images, similes, metaphors, and examples from nature.
- Utilize shared memories or experiences. Think of a time when you and/or your spouse had that same emotion. Call on past events to help you explain what you are feeling now.
- This is not a time to blame. The point is what you feel, not why you feel it.
- This is not the time to change your spouse.
- This is not the time to make a decision.
- Exchange books in silence. Avoid negative body language.
- Remember, this ability is not innate, but it can be learned. Practice!
- Find the word that most closely relates to your feeling
- Rate the feeling on a scale of 1-10.
- P –> Identify the physical feeling that you have
- I –>Describe the feeling in terms of an image or something you can compare it to
- M –>Recall a shared memory – an incident that you both experienced and can relate to.
They then gave us a mini-example. Here it is, step-by-step:
- They asked us to think of a specific moment that day. The moment I picked was writing my blog about our last counseling session.
- They then told us to look at the feeling words list and pick the one or two that are closest to what we were feeling at that moment. The emotions I was feeling were lost/confused and frustrated
- Then they asked us to rate the feeling(s) on a scale of 1-10. I rated them both at a 7.
- Next, they wanted us to describe the physical sensation we had at that moment or a physical sensation that describes that emotion. The physical sensation that these emotions gave me was fatigue. My body and mind were both exhausted.
- Next, they asked us to come up with an analogy. Mine was, “I felt like I was in a swirl of thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t differentiate, like walking through an unfamiliar place in the dark.”
- They then asked us to elaborate on our feelings and find a way to speak to our audience (our spouses). I wrote, “I couldn’t remember the exact order of things or specifically what we had said. I could finally relate to how not remembering would feel for you.”
- Finally, they asked us to come up with a way we can relate to our spouse using a shared memory. I wrote about a time that we got lost.
- Fear of rocking the boat
- Defeatist mentality (there is nothing I can do, our marriage is already over)
- Not keeping an open mind
- Not following directions
- Burying emotions
- Falling back into old patterns from our culture or background
- Dwelling on the past (acknowledge, but focus on the present) – what are your feelings NOW?
Before we were allowed to go to bed, we also had three more questions to answer, this time focusing on our feelings. The questions were:
- What do I like best about you? How do I feel about my answer?
- What do I like best about me? How do I feel about my answer?
- What do I like best about us? How do I feel about my answer?
Just like Friday night, I am already starting to feel exhausted. Our writing and dialogue went well on this topic. I’m going to save you all of the details of my answer. I will add, though, that given we had one bed in our hotel room, the couch was more like a loveseat, and most importantly, I now felt closer and more safe with Mr. Mess we shared a bed again that night. It felt like the right thing to do, especially since we were going to be leaving all of the recent mess behind us for the weekend to focus on repairing our communication and overall marriage. It was a good decision that I do not regret.