Friday, May 23, 2014

The 9 core Emotions...

This suggestion was key in opening our communication back up when it had been slammed shut as a couple.  At the time, we couldn't even finish a conversation without one of us leaving (and not coming back to finish it later when we felt better) or getting into the drama triangle and staying stuck there, etc.

It's important that the rules are communicated ahead of time (see below), as well as a minimal commitment to 2 months daily.  It won't work if you just decide to start implementing this into a relationship without both parties agreeing to it.

The 9 core emotions are:
Anger
Fear
Pain
Lonely
Shame
Guilt
Joy
Love
Passion

The rules:
Each person will share the 9 core emotions for their day.  We don't always have every emotion every day, so it's okay to skip any we didn't experience.  Emotions can be shared either by one person sharing all 9 followed by the other person or one share anger then the other shares anger followed by the first person sharing fear then the second person shares fear...you get the idea.

When the person is sharing there is no "cross-talk."  This means we don't interrupt.  It's their chance to share.  Remember I Statements?  Now is a good time to use them too.  This is what you experienced from your day and we need to learn to own our feelings, negative emotions included.  "I felt angry/afraid/hurt/lonely when you ___."

It is not a time to argue.  That is not the purpose of sharing these emotions.  Pull out of the Drama Triangle if you recognize yourself in it or tempted to join in "The Game."  We don't use our sharing time to volley the blame back and forth.  Maybe I felt angry because my husband said or did something.  That's fine to share.  Maybe he felt angry about the same situation, but maybe his anger was because I said or did something too.  We don't need to justify or prove one of us is "right."  That's not the point either.  The purpose of this exercise is to allow the relationship to be a safe place to share all emotions.  We can listen even without agreeing.  We need to play nice or it won't work.

As we became more healthy and our communication improved, we were able to have an actual conversation with each other.  Now our sharing is safe to ask questions about what the other shares.  We have learned to own our own feelings "I felt..."  and just because I felt something because of my husband's choices or vice versa it doesn't mean we are a "bad" person or "wrong" and the other is "right."  Our feelings just are.  We can take ownership of our actions and use this time to validate, speak tenderly, and sincerely apologize for any wrongs we may have cause whether those hurts to our loved one be intentional or unintentional.  Either way, they have a negative emotion because of choices we made.  We can't own their negative emotion, but we can own our choice.

A few other thoughts:
I also started doing this with my children.  I loved that my then 2-year-old would say "I was joy when..."  <3  It gives them an opportunity to learn about feelings.  My older two caught on pretty quickly, but my littlest took some time to remember what each emotion feels like.  Over time he would remember and I was amazed at experiences from his day he was able to accurately tie to emotions.  It is helpful to review the day with them.  This gets them into good patterns to take accountability.  We all need to learn to review our days, old or young. 
*What went well? 
*What went better than the previous day? 
*Where can I see the hand of the Lord in my day? 
*What mistakes did I make that I need to repent and make right or improve on for tomorrow? 
 With my children, this helped to problem-solve too.  When we discussed times of negative emotions, we can brain-storm together about what to try for next time.  That is truly when they learn to improve or change behavior: when they can "connect the dots" of what happened and what that caused to happen.

Another thought is we made the decision to not do our discussions right before bed as a couple.  If there was something that didn't go over well or we had to pull out of the drama triangle, we didn't sleep well.  We moved it to during my husband's lunch time.  That gave us time to process through.  Usually by dinner time or for sure before bed, most things were ironed out and we could see eye-to eye. 

Try it out and see what happens!  Like most situations, improving communication can be tricky.  Especially when the communications is with one (or two) parties that aren't used to healthy communication.  This can be a good place to start.  It felt like a set of training wheels for us to get us rolling.

 

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