Walking in Your Partner's Shoes

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Disclose "Softer" Emotions

When things happen to us that we don't like, we experience hard emotions such as anger, irritation, impatience, resentment, frustration and disgust. These emotions express a strong self that says in no uncertain terms "I'm upset with the world" and "I'm not going to take this anymore." Expression of these feelings is beneficial because it often provides release for some of the negativity we feel and because it establishes our boundaries with others. Unfortunately, it often invites a response in kind: anger may elicit anger and resentment. Not only can this lead to escalation, but it may also discourage the love and compassion whose absence evoked the hard emotions in the first place.

In contrast, the expression of "soft" emotions such as hurt and fear can trigger caring and concern in your partner. When we see others in pain, particularly others we care about, we naturally feel compassion for them. We want to comfort and protect them. We forget about our own needs and reach out to them. Unfortunately, soft emotions and soft thoughts usually go unexpressed in conflict. Often they are attempted but sabotaged by the atmosphere of hard emotion around them. One may voice, "I feel hurt by you," but the manner in which the admission is delivered and the emphasis on the "by you" at the end make it more of an accusation than an expression of pain. However, a genuine expression of soft emotion, voicing that you are lonely or hurt or disappointed or feel neglected, is difficult because it opens you up. It presents you as vulnerable and defenseless. It may feel uncomfortable to do in any circumstance and impossible to do when you are angry.

Continued on page 4:  Disclose the Other Side


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