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Managing Emotions

Emotions are the spice of life, but when they run the show, all hell breaks loose. Where do emotions come from? Everywhere. They are a product of our chemistry, our culture, our families. We take emotional information from our friends, the books we read, the movies we watch, T.V. and most of all from our families of origin. Most of all, emotions reside in our brains. They may be based on ancient information that at one time in our human history meant the difference between life and death.

When couples are fighting, I often hear, "I couldn't help it. If he or she didn't do that, I wouldn't do...". The truth is that we manage our emotions all of the time. If we didn't we'd be dead or in jail. Think about the last time a driver made you mad. Did you run her off the road? Did you shoot him? Probably not. Why? Because you soothed your emotional response and decided it would not be in your best interests to give in to your anger. You made a choice about how to behave in an emotionally charged situation.

Why don't we do this with our partners. One reason is that our grievances feel more personal and tend to last longer. The driver didn't hurt our feelings; he just made us mad. Typically people are less civil with their mates than they are with most other people. There is a sense of entitlement about our feelings that seems not to exist in other relationships. Perhaps we feel, based on a sense of mutual interdependence, that we are more likely to get away with bad behavior or incivility. It takes a lot to break up a relationship.

People who don't manage their emotions can do irreparable harm to their partners and their relationships. John Gottman the noted researcher and psychotherapist, describes relationship deal breakers. He calls these "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". These are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stone-walling. People who resort to any of these tactics torpedo their relationships. Nothing can make up for it.

How do you avoid the Four Horsemen, and learn to manage your emotions? It's important to understand that while you can't always control what you feel, you can control your thoughts and your actions. Taking a time out, deep breathing, physical exercise, can help you to self soothe enough to decide how you want to respond. You are then in charge of yourself and much more likely to make a useful choice about what to say or do.



Check out the new video on How to Have a Fair fight.
Also see Emotional Maturity by clicking on the title. I hope you'll find it useful.


Sally LeBoy, M.S. MFT (14768)
>> Don't Justify It!
>> Guidlines for couples Communication
>> Being Alone
>> Appreciation
>> The Holidays (Again)
>> A Bitter Taste of My Own Medicine
>> Sex!!!
>> Do I Do too Much?
>> Managing Emotions
>> How to Have a Fight
>> Emotional Maturity