For the next few days I encourage you to pay attention to what you say and how you treat those you most care about. Listen to the words you use and how you say and use them. Pay attention to the emotional state or feeling behind your words and actions. Are you feeling irritated or angry? Maybe you feel lonely or disconnected like nothing much matters. Perhaps you are joyful or light hearted and you feel like nothing could change this good mood. Or maybe you are feeling bored. There is so much more in how we communicate than necessarily what we communicate.
When something is bothering you it is very difficult to shake the bother out. It sticks with you unless you just deny what bothers you and act like it doesn't matter. Attempting to identify and sift out emotional responses can be very difficult for some. For others it comes easily and they know exactly how they are feeling and are able to identify the feeling. This is an incredibly important skill.
In the language of attachment, this is the ability of reflection. We are able to step back and observe our emotional reactions without being consumed or controlled by them. You are then able to talk about what you are feeling with some degree of objectivity. Reflection also includes our thoughts and physical sensations. It is self awareness of our internal life and without it we are unable to understand ourselves and consequently unable to empathize and emotionally connect with someone else.
Most of us have some capacity for reflection or self awareness. It is developed in the flow of our primary family relationships and it is directly related to our degree of emotional security. Children of chaotic, abusive, or emotionally neglectful families have very little capacity for identifying and communicating their emotional states. In emotionally charged moments they are likely to be caught up in a sea of swirling and sometimes violent emotions which carries them along in a fearful rush. They are emotionally hijacked and the thinking, self observing part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex, is disengaged. The only thing that is communicated is raw, negative feeling. And it likely overwhelms whoever is on the receiving end.
For the majority of us who are able to manage our emotional reactions and actions in the heat of the battle, we still experience them, along with negative thoughts and physical reactions to the battle. And we need to do something with them. If as children we were able to go to our parent and receive comfort, support and understanding then we likely are able to seek someone out and do the same thing.
It is very important that we realize how much we need each other to do this. Too often we stuff what we are experiencing inside. As you're paying attention to the emotional background of your words and actions and you become aware of your thoughts and feelings, let the other person in on your experience. It is amazing how this simple act of sharing our insides opens the door to healing and deeper intimacy.
I have recently become aware of the connection for me between feeling bored and over eating. This might be obvious to many of you but it was a revelation to me. I never really realized how often I felt bored and that I really did not know what to do with the feeling. I had no self awareness or capacity for reflection regarding feeling bored. And I dealt with the emotional agitation this caused by eating. I am learning to pay more attention to when I am feeling bored and what is boring me. I am talking about this with my wife and other people I trust. And I am consuming fewer calories, and letting my wife get to know more of me.