Couples Counseling Articles

You’re Getting Upset. Can We Just Be Rational About This?

pointing-fingersIt’s challenging to talk with another human being about what’s happening inside.

If we do, one or both people might get triggered setting off a chain of thoughts and emotions most people try to avoid.

The meta message? “Let’s not get emotional about this and let’s be rational, shall we?”

But we can’t.

The rational part of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) has important work to do but there’s something else going on.

We now understand emotions are so important they have what’s known as ‘control precedence.’ That means they govern everything and are finally being acknowledged for what they are; vital information.

Emotions cue us to what’s important.

They tell us what needs our attention….. and we ignore them at our own expense.

Disney explains emotions delightfully in their new film, Inside Out.

A distressed couple provides other examples of emotions at work; like when a simple conversation starts with the best intentions and goes downhill – fast.

  • Fear and anger pop up and an argument ensues. Then… if they’re lucky, partners go their separate ways to cool off.
  • Other times, one partner might turn to a friend or relative for support and their comforting words signal: “You’re not ‘the problem’ s/he is.”
  • Yucky emotions get packed away – until the next argument. Or they seep out later.
  • The other partner is hurt and turns inward to build a wall of self-protection. The whole situation then ‘goes to committee’ creating unpleasant internal dialogue and… Wooosh!
  • Those irksome emotions get stuffed into an imaginary underground vault – and life goes on.

062815People who love each other get locked into these kinds of negative patterns launching a downward spiral that creates painful emotional distance.

When new conversations express those buried emotions directly….. and both partners support each other with empathy and compassion…..the relationship is on its way back to joy and playfulness.

Simple concept. Difficult to do.

Couples who want to be happy (together) discover it’s worth the effort.