"What Are You Feeling?"
Sometime ago I was working with a lady who was having difficulty acknowledging her partner's emotions, particularly anxiety.
Her difficulty was not so much that she could not see her partner being anxious, but it was more about disregarding the fact that he was and not taking it seriously.
One way this played out was by her partner calling her one day during our session and asking her to pick up a medication from the pharmacy closest to their place while he was still at work, with the rational that the pharmacies might be closed by the time he finishes work.
He did not explain further that now with the lockdown it would be best and wise to enter the fewest locations possible, and as he has great difficulty walking and needed the medication, it would be quite stressful for him to leave work and then try all the pharmacies on his way back home just in case they were still open and they had what he needed, and that he would also have to risk being in a lot of pain until the next day which would have had seriously affected his mood.
My client interpreted his urgent and a little loud request differently. She thought that his intention was to take her out of her personal schedule out of laziness and so she initially resisted thinking that I have other priorities right now, I can instead drive to his work place later, pick him up, and they could then try the pharmacies on the way home as one of them was bound to have what her partner needed.
The only thing is with what she was proposing, her partner would have to tolerate his pain during traffic, at every potential start and stop and waiting time, as well as risking whether the medication was available and his mood escalating, whereas if the medication was not available at the pharmacy close to their place, then driving around to find the one that did, would be justified and much easier to tolerate by him.
In a way all these practical challenges were on the surface. The true challenge was recognizing that despite their differences, her partner was in pain, he was feeling anxious by the thought of missing the chance to pain relief, he needed support, he was asking for hers in his way, and he was offering an efficient and workable plan.
We were lucky in a way that he called during the session as we had a chance to discuss this, her justified feelings of frustration in the way he makes his requests, how everything more often than not sounds urgent, how it triggers her resistance, and how the process blocks her from recognizing and acknowledging his emotional states to the point it has become a habit.
We also looked at the two 'proposed' plans of action, which one would be most efficient, and which one could lead to more stress for both of them and escalation not just for the day, but its spilling effect to the rest of their week.
In the end, she chose to visit the pharmacy close to theirs, without resentment.
It is strange in a way that one of the most fundamental aspects of being human and a person, our feelings, how we experience them and how we express them, tends to remain unknown or unexplored and even unacknowledged for a lot of us until quite late in life, and even then only if we are lucky.
I cannot help wondering what difference it could make to the quality of our lives if we were in a position to learn about our inner worlds, our feelings, what they mean, what to think of them, how to interpret them, and how to manage them, from a young age, yes at school, and yes in our families, and to continue learning and honing our understanding in adulthood.
It is strange in a way, I think, that we have to go through pain, disconnection, and fractured relationships to even consider initiating such a process, let alone choose it, instead of approaching it proactively to whatever levels are possible.
I believe it would create a very different experience for us were we to choose it.
If you would like to strengthen the way you understand your partner's feelings and you are unsure how, I offer a 45mins Complementary Clarity Session to help you get clarity and form a plan of action. To arrange your session, you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or choose your time from my online calendar by visiting http://TheLantern.as.me/relationships
Constantina Stamou is a certified Life & Relationship Coach, NLP Master Practitioner, and has a PhD in Stylochronometry. Constantina is currently volunteering for the mental health charity Mind.