I’ve been writing a lot about emotions lately. About feeling them. About your right to express them. About not using them as a weapon. About not managing the emotions of others. I know all of those things can be uncomfortable and difficult to do. But they are important. They aren’t just important for you, they are important for those in your life as well.
The past few weeks I’ve been seeing variations of a certain pattern relating to emotions play out with various different people. In short it goes like this. One person tells a partner that they feel unloved, or not valued, or hurt. The response of the partner is something like, “it hurts me when you say you don’t feel loved. Why would you want to hurt me?”
In response, the original person thinks, “oh no, I’m hurting my partner. I need to stop that.” They stop sharing their feelings and apologize for hurting their partner’s feelings.
They do this in part because they are caring and compassionate and don’t like hurting their partner. When they get feedback that their partner isn’t happy, they try to look at their own behavior and address that hurt.
The problem is, their partner isn’t doing the same thing. Their partner isn’t saying, “wow, I don’t like hearing that you are feeling [fill in feeling of choice]. What can I do differently to help stop that?” Instead, they are turning it back onto the other person.
So what should the original person’s response be to their partner? It should be, “good! You should feel bad that I feel unloved, hurt, not valued. Wanting to not feel that way should cause you to look at what you are or aren’t doing that is contributing to me feeling that way.”
That may be stated a bit harshly, but you get the message. Let the emotions do their work! If someone loves you and feels bad when you express your honest emotions, let them look at their role in the relationship. Don’t let them turn them back onto you to fix.
That is the purpose of emotions. They not only express how we feel, they also provide us with feedback. If I do action A and get a response that I don’t like, I’ll have a emotions I don’t like. That causes me to evaluate my behavior and decide what changes I want to make to not feel that way again.
For example, suppose I say something hurtful to my partner. In return they tell me that what I did hurt them. I don’t like hearing that I hurt them. But instead of telling them to fix my hurt feelings, my hurt feelings tell me I need to consider my actions and what I did to contribute to them feeling hurt.
It seems simple in that example. But too many people avoid feelings they don’t like by telling someone else it is their job to make them go away. If someone tries to do that to you, don’t let them. Let their emotions do their job and push the person into taking responsibility for their own actions.