“We are emotional instruments,” stated Lesley Greenberg, founder of Emotion Focused Therapy, in his workshop in Hong Kong last month.
Think of it… don’t you find there is something fundamentally wrong with our society that often bans the expression of our emotions. “Boys don`t cry”, “No you are not hungry, you just ate”, “This does not hurt, it`s just a scratch”. We hear those words over and over when we are children, so it is no surprise we don’t express our feelings easily in adulthood.
If what one feels is not validated by the closest relationships, the individual closes himself up into maladaptive schemas that won’t really serve in life.
We feel particularly vulnerable and fragile when we become parents for the first time. It is a huge adjustment into the new step in life. This isn’t just a transition, it is about taking on a whole new role. And the couple and family therapists will agree, a number of romantic relationships go through the real tough life tests in those moments.
An example, when one of the partners takes care of the new born while the other financially supports the family. The stay-at-home partner will naturally seek additional support and adult interaction after spending the whole day with the baby. What often happens is that the working partner will need some quite time in the evening after spending a long day at work. Therefore, the more one partner seeks interaction, the more the other withdraws.
This, or other negative interaction cycles, creates frustration and pain in both partners. They start to feel that they drift apart. This is a crucial moment in their relationship, and it is important to communicate their respective emotions.
When I say emotions, I mean primary emotions. Primary emotions are the underlying emotions, the very first emotions one feels in the particular situation. Unfortunately, we often do communicate our secondary emotions, the ones that cover up our true feelings and thoughts. These are our defences, and they serve a function of protecting us from further hurt and anxiety.
As a responsible individual and parent, one needs to learn to identify his/her primary emotions – develop emotion intelligence, and act from that place. Unless, they are purely instrumental – if you don’t get this for me, I will feel sad.
It is OK to be vulnerable with your partner and communicate what you feel. Communicating from the place of your primary emotions will only make your alliance stronger and more nurturing for both of you, and the family as a whole.
Anna Glazkova is a mother of two lovely children. Founder of The Giving Tree Multilingual Preschool & Primary. Anna is completing her Masters degree at The University of Hong Kong, specialising in Marital Counselling, Emotion Focused Therapy, Psychodynamics and Satir Family Therapy.