Hi! Welcome to Month 8, Week 3 of the Ready, Set, Love program! This week we will practice exercises designed to build skill in dealing with feelings and emotions. “Speaking emotion” is much more about practiced skill than it is about knowing the difference between thoughts and feelings. We can usually tell when our partner is in his or her feelings, which may not line up with facts, but we don’t always respond in a way that works. These exercises will help:
- Sit with one another. One partner begin by sharing crazy feelings about something that has nothing to do with reality. For example, your anger about blue dogs that drop down from outer space. The other partner’s job is to listen without judgment, show care, and remain curious, asking questions. This will train your brain to disengage from logic mode when listening to feelings and turn on a different part of the brain which can be creative, non-linear, and respectful of imagination as an important form of communication. Then switch so you play both roles.
Feelings are generally representative, meaning they connect to many different experiences at once. Your partner may be upset that you didn’t clean the house, but his/her feelings about it will be tied to all the times that that has happened before, not just with you but with college roommates, the cousin who visited, and related childhood experiences. For this reason, being able to listen to feelings in that same scattershot kind of mentality helps us stay present for their expression and resist the temptation to put feelings in a box that is too narrow for the broader meaning they represent. This type of listening also affords us the opportunity to heal more broadly by providing a loving response that we may not have received growing up.
- One partner talk about a subject that is moderately sensitive in the relationship. Make an effort to describe your feelings about the situation, staying away from logic or fact-based reasoning. Use the emotions chart from earlier this month for help if you need to. The other partner does not interrupt, change the topic, look away, or turn the conversation toward his or her own thoughts and feelings, but rather remains curious, supportive, and asks questions. Do this for 3 minutes, then switch.
This is a practice for attuned communication and helps build critical skills for emotional connection.
- ‘Matching.’ One partner act out a feeling: sadness, happiness or anger. The other partner matches his or her mood, tone of voice and expression to make a connection in that experience and show solidarity. So if partner A gets angry, partner B gets angry with him or her. If partner A gets sad or happy, partner B becomes sad or happy as well. Continue for one minute, then switch. Matching is a quick and easy way to make a connection with someone in an emotional state.
See you next week! John