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Marriage 911 09/19/17

All Emotion Is Useful

Broken heart

"I don't want to feel any more sadness," the woman said emphatically. "I'm tired of hurting."

No doubt this was true. She had been suffering for a long time in a troubled marriage. However, stuffing her feelings of sadness and hurt would not serve her well.

"I have been hurting so long," she continued. "When will it stop?"

Of course, I couldn't answer that question. What I could say to her was that her feelings could be useful to her. They could help point to her what might be missing in her life and changes she needed to make.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

"But, I can't think clearly when I'm feeling so much emotion," she said.

"Yes," I answered. "That is sometimes true. Sometimes our emotion is so overwhelming that we must step back, reflect and let our feelings settle before we can make sense out of them."

"That sure is the case for me," she said. "One day I'm feeling one way, another day I might be feelings something else."

I shared with her how my feelings tend to settle overnight. While I might be wrestling with some concern, a good night's sleep tends to help me settle issues. Just as sleep deprivation negatively impacts mood and disrupts our emotional balance, a good night's sleep enhances positive mood.

She agreed that she could often think clearer after a good night's sleep. She also had discovered that letting her feelings settle helped her make better decisions.

I shared with her some things I've written in my book, The Power of Emotional Decision Making. I shared the following facts about feelings:

1. All feelings are useful.

While we would all prefer joy over sadness, delight over despair, even uncomfortable feelings have value. It is best to not think of feelings as either good or bad, but rather useful and God-given.

2. Feelings help us know what is important to us.

Feelings help us know ourselves better, including our values and what might be amiss in our world. Managing our emotions, and the thoughts that drive them, help us. Scripture says, "He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly." (Proverbs 14:29)

3. Feelings help us become more intimate with our mate.

Feelings are often the pathway to vulnerability, leading us to connect honestly and in a healthy way with our mate and others. Vulnerability helps us connect, while defensiveness creates distance and conflict. Sharing vulnerably makes it easier to truly understand each other.

4. Manage your behavior while taking time to understand your feelings.

Since it is likely to take some time to understand what you are feeling, and why you are feeling that way, endeavor to act wisely. Guard your tongue. Notice your 'typical' default mode and endeavor to respond respectfully, regardless of how you feel. Scripture tells us "The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore, stop contention before a quarrel starts." (Proverbs 19:11)

5. Do not judge your feelings.

As you take time to understand them, they will make sense. Rarely can we make sense of our feelings while also trying to think. I couldn't process why I was feeling threatened when Christie asked me to move my car. A seemingly innocuous request wasn't landing well with me. However, I wasn't able to think quick enough to know that I was feeling put upon when I was already anxious about my schedule. Being with my feelings has been a tough lesson to learn.

6. Agree to talk about your feelings, and listen to your mate's feelings, when you have time to truly attend to the other.

Trying to share feelings in the heat of the moment is rarely productive. More often than not this will only lead to an escalation of feelings. Move slowly, be kind in your reaction, and agree to talk about the situation when you can think! You will be able to think more clearly when you have calmed down, have plenty of time to attend to your mate and be attended to, and can feel and think simultaneously.     

Do you take necessary time to reflect upon and understand your feelings? Does it take time for you to understand what your mate may be feeling? Join the crowd. We'd love to hear from you. Share your feedback below or send us a confidential note and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center and my Marriage Intensives on my website. You'll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

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