What becomes a barrier to our sharing our feelings is the fear that if we share we might be seen as weak or that we will be too vulnerable.
"Relationships are built on feelings, not facts.' (Godek)*
In the book, The Knight in Rusty Armor, we meet a knight in shining armor who spends all of his time polishing his armor, along with his image.
The knight spends all his time doing this that those around him, including his family, don't know him anymore. He never spends any time with them, and eventually they want to leave. Consequently, the knight decides he is willing to change, to give up his armor. But he discovers that he has been in the armor for so long that the seams have rusted together. He can't get out!**
The knight thought the armor would protect him, but it only kept others out and him a prisoner. The same would be true for us if we do not share our feelings.
Some of us think we are sharing our feelings when actually we are sharing our thoughts. Others of us have suppressed our feelings so long; we honestly do not know what they are. Some men grew up thinking that the only 'okay' feeling was anger. They found themselves expressing it inappropriately by yelling, leaving, hitting or holding it in. The 'soft' feelings were not okay.
What becomes a barrier to sharing our feelings is the fear that if we share we might be seen as weak or that we will be too vulnerable. We are afraid if we open up, our partner will hurt us, or we will lose our independence and control. Consequently, we may find ourselves behind the rusty armor.
Getting in touch with our feelings is a door to self-awareness. Sharing our feelings and hearing the feelings of our partner is the door to interpersonal closeness. Sharing and honoring feelings is the door to understanding, this can lead to trust.
When sharing feelings, remember all feelings are okay. There aren't good feelings and bad feelings. Feelings are just feelings. What can make them harmful is how they are expressed.
Secondly, remember to correctly identify the feeling. Some of us, when we experience intense anger, will instead of saying that we are 'furious,' will use words such as 'upset' or 'frustrated.' Our partner is going to respond to the word 'upset' in a different way than if we described our anger as 'furious.'
When identifying feelings, it is helpful to think of feelings running along a thermometer. At the bottom of the thermometer are less intense feelings. The feelings become more intense as we move up the scale. For example, at the bottom of the thermometer is the word 'irritated' and at the top would be 'rageful,' 'steaming,' or 'furious.'
At the bottom of the thermometer could be another feeling such as 'concerned' while at the top would be 'anxious.' The point is if we use the right word for our feelings, our partner is more likely to respond accordingly.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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