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Don't Talk About Emotions, Talk About Feelings - How You Can Be Understood And Cared For Too

by Silvia Hartmann

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus when it comes to talking about feelings and emotions - hardly! It is a fact though that women use language differently to describe their feelings and emotions, to a point where a man doesn't understand any longer what they are talking about and switches off altogether, gives up even trying. Here is a very easy, brand new way to talk about emotions in such a way that even a man - yes, even a totally unemotional man! - will be able to understand you ... and possibly even start to take care of your real emotional needs.

There is one way, the common, standard, pop psychology way of talking about emotions, and that is using metaphor and labels and a whole mountain of words that jumble one into the other:

"Oh I'm so upset! I really don't know how you can make me feel so bad in front of the neighbours - especially after what I told you last week about how I need you to emotionally support and socially enable me, so I can build trust and we can come to a whole new level of togetherness ..."

Gee ...

Now let's back up for a moment.

We have a lady here who is, clearly, really upset. And something happened during a party perhaps where the husband said something, or didn't say something, and that's also real.

  • What the husband needs here to make sense of it all is for the lady in question to state the actual problem AND HER REAL FEELINGS simply and accurately, so that he has any hope in hell to be able to respond.

When I say, "state her real feelings accurately" I do not mean even more convoluted labels or metaphorical descriptions of "feeling like you pulled the rug out from under me" and "sinking into shame and abandonment", but about how all and any of that REALLY ACTUALLY FEELS.

In EMO, we have this key question as we ask, "Where do you feel that emotion in your body?"

Where does that lady feel her "so upset"? And more importantly, HOW does she feel it?

If we ask her, she thinks for a moment, because this isn't her natural way of communicating, but then manages to make the switch and explain that her head is really hot and throbbing, her throat and stomach feel tight and hard, and there is a noticeable trembling all through her body.

That's real.

The husband may say, if the "upset" is explained in these terms, "Wow. That's - heavy! And all of that because of something I said earlier?!"

"Yeah," says the wife. "There is something that happens to me and it starts up like that, I feel ... ahm, I feel real pain in my stomach when you say you don't like my cooking."

"Really? Pain?"

"Yes. Stabbing pain. It hurts, right here." She points to the place where she feels the pain.

"Wow ... I had no idea ..."

Now, not all husbands, obviously, will be loving and supportive enough to then go on and, if this is offered to them, help make it better. But a lot of men, if the problem is explained correctly and precisely, will be more than willing to do whatever it takes to make their wife happy again.

"What can I do?"

"You could come over here and put your hand on where it hurts. Hmmm... that's better. And please, don't do it again. Please don't hurt me."

"Wow. I'm sorry, I didn't know ... I had no idea ..." Embraces and kisses wife ...

With a bit of practice, it makes a lot of sense to talk about emotions like that. Instead of saying, "I'm depressed ..." or "I'm under the weather ..." or "Oh I can't be bothered ..." to describe the ACTUAL PHYSICAL SENSATIONS which happen to be present at the time, has many benefits.

For example, to say, "My head is hot and it hurts," rather than, "The kids are driving me crazy again!" opens the door for all manner of interventions, plus on top it gives a lot of information as what to do, and what not to do.

If someone says that their head is hot and hurts, you're not going to start yelling at the top of your lungs - you NATURALLY AND AUTOMATICALLY know what to do, even if you're not a neurosurgeon by trade.

"Here, sit down. Put a cold flannel on your head for a moment and put your feet up ... would you like a cup of tea?"

With accurate information, even so-called emotionless husbands can act and do the right things to make someone feel better. Not just husbands, but even very young children can understand and take action, and this produces for a person who has learned to talk like that a whole lot of support that was never there before - and often from the most unlikely of people!

Talking directly about the feelings in the body rather than talking emotion talk, pop psychology style, with all that judgement and blame and shame and so forth, has another major advantage.

  • It gives people who are said to be incapable of talking about their emotions a way to communicate about their REAL feelings.

Even a teenager can learn to say when they are feeling a pain in their chest, or a churning in their stomach; that their legs feel heavy or their hands won't move properly, or are cold, or hot, or trembling.

Those are the REAL emotions, direct, there can be no mistake, and there is no need to label them, or judge someone for having them.

An ex-General can learn to tell his wife when he is feeling stiff and cold, and his breathing is difficult - hey, most people would call that "being afraid", but we don't have to, and it doesn't do any good to call it that, or anything else, for that matter - it changes nothing.

If the General says he is stiff and cold and he has trouble breathing, there is no "shame" in his wife making him a hot drink, sitting him down, rubbing his hands and his back, or doing one of many possible things "to make him feel better".

From this simple, factual explanation of how he feels, he can accept someone helping him - which isn't possible once you engage all the words and labels.

And so in most cases, it turns out that men have feelings after all - they always had them, even the ones who were said to be so unemotional, or emotionally challenged, or emotionally illiterate, or backward, or even autistic.

They do feel THE SAME things - the cold hands, the churning in the stomach, the pain in the heart, the throbbing head, the burning eyes, the heavy legs, the deep trembling in the center, the shivers down the back and all the rest of it!

What a revelation!

I was once present when a husband and wife of some 30 years tried this way of talking about their feelings for the first time. The wife described one of her emotions in that strictly physical way, and the husband jumped from the chair and literally shouted, "YOU FEEL THAT TOO? I thought it was only me - and I was crazy!"

And there it was - the common ground between men and women, the emotional and the unemotional, and it wasn't Mars and Venus anymore, but two human people, right here on Planet Earth, for the first time being able to compare notes on how they REALLY FELT.

It isn't difficult to talk about emotions - just drop the labels and try and describe what you feel in your body, without metaphors, just simply what is there.

When you do that, the other person - and it really doesn't matter much who they are! - begins to understand what it's like inside for you, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE SAME FEELINGS as you do.

It's a fabulous way, a very simple way to a whole new level of communication and true understanding, especially in family relationships - and all you have to do is to remember to drop the labels, and don't talk about your emotions - talk about your feelings instead.



Posted Jan 8, 2009 by Silvia Hartmann   
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