Chaplain: Emotional communication unites couples
April 22, 2013
This week's topic will be that of emotional communication. I freely admit that emotions are complex.
As one expert has noted, "emotion has long been the cornerstone of psychology and psychotherapy, yet it remains a complex and confusing phenomenon."
There was a time in my life that I thought emotions were not that important. Boy was I wrong! Emotions are an integral part of our existence and our ability to communicate.
This should give you a better idea on the importance of emotions: "They (emotions) amplify the effects of motives on behavior; they orient us toward or away from different objects in our environment; they constitute a connection between us and our environment. Emotions are not self-centered nor are they independent of others. Rather, they are directed toward others. In this sense, emotions are not simply inside us, but rather they are actions that connect us to the world," according to Leslie Greenberg and Susan Johnson in "Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples."
So, without proper emotions, we would be severely handicapped in our ability to communicate.
Now I have come into contact with many individuals (in counseling) that remind me of the "Star Trek" character Spock. Spock was essentially highly cognitive and dysfunctional on an emotional level. Emotions had no place in his internal make-up.
This would steam his coworker, Dr. McCoy, to no end. McCoy used to say some hilarious and highly insulting remarks to Spock to try to get some emotion out of him, but to no avail.
In counseling, there would be times when I would be compelled to try to emotionally move the client towards the present situation. My intent was to get the individual or couple to try to speak and listen from what was really going on in the heart or soul.
Too many times, couples communicate on "secondary emotions" instead of their "primary emotions." It is the primary emotions that serve to bond the relationship.
For instance, when the primary emotions and expressions are sadness and pain, it will communicate a need for support. Expression of fear or sadness tends to evoke protection and compassion in the partner, and this can result in closeness.
Partners need to be able to reveal their essential selves to each other and be accepted as they are. However, most times it comes out as a tongue lashing when the emotions are pretty hot. One big reason for this is a trust issue. I like what Greenberg and Johnson say, "Couples need to be able to say what they feel most deeply and what they think most profoundly without fear of rejections or fear of hurting the other."
Usually, at this level, the emotions and the tones are softer. Babies cry to get what they need from their parents. Adults, when they fight, are essentially doing the same thing that babies do when they see their parent leave. The cry is a sound of being distressed or a sound of panic or a cry for connection. It is a fight for a need to be reunited in security.
Could it be that God Almighty is trying to reconnect to his creation when he called or cried out to Adam saying, "Adam where art thou?" Essentially, couples do the same when they fight in circles. They are communicating to each other, "Where are you?" and 'I need you." So the couples are fighting for their connection, and that is a good thing. It is when they stop fighting that it is the bad news.
So, emotional authentic communication is a powerful vehicle to unite each other. Remember, there are two great needs in life: the need to love and the need to be loved. Both needs come from a powerful internal emotional drive to latch on to someone in life.
Blessed are those who have latched on to their partner for life.