Importance, Defensiveness and Responsibility
We all want to feel cared
about. We want someone to feel empathy for us
when we are in pain. That pain may take the form
of hurt, sadness, or "anger" (see discussion of why
anger is a secondary feeling), but in all cases
we want someone to care how we feel. This is an
evolutionary survival need. It was critical to
our survival that when we were injured, we were
able to express ourselves, to get someone's
attention who cared enough to go out of their way
to help us. Before we had words, our emotions
expressed themselves in moans, cries, tones,
facial expressions, body language, etc. The
better we were at communicating our pain, and the
more empathy we were able to get, the more likely
we were to survive.
Also, the more
important we are to someone the more likely they
will care about how we feel. Thus we all want and
need to feel important. If we meant nothing to
the tribe that we were in, they might just decide
to leave us behind at some point. But if we were
important to the tribe for some reason or
another, they would make an extra effort to help
When we are in pain
though, it is a bad time to start trying to
become important to someone and to get them to
care about us. This is better done before we are
in pain. Once we are in pain, we may quickly
become bitter if we need their help or
empathy and for some reason they are not giving
it or showing it. If we then start to attack
them, they will become defensive. Again, this is
strictly an evolutionary survival response. The
more we attack them, verbally, psychologically or
otherwise, the more defensive they become. And,
importantly, the less empathic they become. This
was something I discovered by chance one day when
I was being attacked for not caring, for not
showing empathy. A girl I was dating started
crying and said "..and you don't even care
how I feel! Do you!?" I paused a moment and
said "Well, actually right now I really
don't because I am just thinking about how to
defend myself." I realized later that day
that feeling empathy and feeling defensive seem
to be mutually exclusive. You simply
cannot feel empathy when under attack. This
apparently is due to the hierarchy of survival
responses: we have evolved to protect and take
care of ourselves first.
When you most need
someone's empathy and caring then, it is probably
counterproductive to attack them for not caring
about you. It is probably not helpful to say
things like "If I were important to you, you
would....." or "You don't care about
me!" You might be able to get the immediate
behavior you want from the person, but you are
unlikely to be generating sincere feelings of
empathy. More likely you are generating feelings
of guilt, which is not a healthy motivation for
behavior. It is a common one, but not a
healthy one. Those who learned to get their short
term needs met this way are in effect using guilt
to manipulate the other person. That person will
feel resentful over time. And their self-esteem
will suffer because they are not acting out of
their own free will. They experience a loss of
power, so there will be future power struggles in
an attempt to reclaim it. Feelings of
competition, superiority, inferiority, victory,
defeat, punishment, judgement and general mutual
resentment may be the result, all of which are
toxic to a romantic relationship.
Part of being
emotionally skilled, then, is expressing your
feelings in a non-attacking way. And part of
having a high level of innate emotional
intelligence is being aware of the emotions you
may be generating in the other person. If you use
your emotional intelligence in a healthy way, you
will produce positive, loving emotions in the
other person. But if you use it in a negative way
you will produce feelings of resentment, guilt
etc. How you use your emotional intellience is up
to you, once you become aware that you have
choices in how to apply it.
Now let's look at
the four branches of emotional intelligence as
defined by Mayer and Salovey. (source) These four branches are:
1. the ability
to perceive accurately, appraise, and express
emotions; identifying emotions in oneself and
2. the ability to access and/or generate
feelings when they facilitate thought; using
emotion in reasoning and problem solving.
3. the ability to understand emotion and
emotional knowledge, and
4. the ability to manage emotions in yourself
and in others; the ability to regulate
emotions to promote emotional and personal
First, let me say
that I agree with Mayer and Salovey for the most
part on branches 1 through 3 when they say these
are the components of emotional intelligence. But
I disagree that the ability to manage your
emotions is a sign of high emotional
intelligence. I believe this is more a product of
your environment than of your innate level of EI.
But that said, let's look at each branch
In a romantic
relationship it definitely helps to be able to
accurately identify and express your own
feelings. To do this you must be able to
"access" them or in more common terms,
you must be in touch with your feelings. When you
are feeling hurt, upset, etc. your feelings
definitely will generate thoughts on your part.
But the key word is "facilitate." I
take this to mean that your feelings help you
think more clearly about what is happening. With
high emotional intelligence, a healthy upbringing
and helpful skills training, the thoughts you are
generating are helping you solve the problem. But
if your innate emotional intelligence has been
corrupted by a dysfunctional past, your thoughts
may do just the opposite. In other words, they
may make things worse. (see cognitive distortions)
Also, if you are
able to understand emotions and know what is
likely to happen in your partner, you are less
likely to attack when you need empathy and
caring. Thus by using some self-regulation and
choosing your words carefully and thoughtfully,
you may indeed be growing emotionally and
intellectually, while helping to get your needs
met and strengthening the relationship bonds at
the same time.
A simple example of
this is to say "I feel hurt," rather
than "You hurt me." Here is where we
take a step beyond the academic definition of
emotional intelligence and move to the more
practical applications. You are now expressing
your emotions with feeling words. You are not
blaming or attacking your partner. You are simply
If you expect or
demand your partner to make you feel better,
though, you still are not taking responsibility
for your emotions, something fundamental to my
definition of emotional fitness. Many people try
to change their partner, ofen in a manipulative
ways. Perhaps they invoke feelings of guilt or
responsibility when they say either "You
hurt me" or "I feel hurt." This
could be done just by their tone of voice.
As I see it, the
more you blame your partner for your feelings and
expect them to change or do something about your
feelings, the worse the relationship. Instead,
after you express your feelings it is healthier
to leave it up to them to voluntarily decide what
to do with this information. (See above section
on voluntary change)
When you express a
feeling, it is wise to make a mental note of it,
or perhaps write it in your journal. If you find
you are experiencing the same feeling over and
over again, I suggest you not blame your partner.
Part of the value of clearly identifying your
feelings, if not the primary value, is to help
you decide when it is time for you to
make a change. This change may take many forms,
but the point is to take primary responsibility
for taking care of your own feelings.
This is something I
very rarely see in the world, and something I
have trouble doing myself. Nearly all of my role
models blamed others for their feelings. They
then spent vast emotional and intellectual
resources trying to get the others to change,
through any number of tactics: guilt, coercion,
bribery, punishment, reward, subtle manipulation,
threats, intimidation, fear, etc. Not only was
this what I saw in my immediate environment, but
it is what I continue to see around the world on
TV, in film, in literature, in schools, business
The ability to break
away from this dysfunctional model, to take
responsibility for managing one's own emotions,
emotional health and happiness is a real
achievement. We might say it is better called
emotional enlightenment than emotional
intelligence. When we reach this level of
emotional growth, we are close to emotional
self-sufficiency. We are able to meet more of our
own emotional needs. When we do find that special
person for whom we have passionate romantic
feelings of love and desire, we are much more
likely to bring happiness into the
relationship rather than try to get happiness out
|At the Beginning of a
Use the 0-10 scale to find
out the level of the feelings listed below. Then
take appropriate action to move in the necessary
direction and check back with your partner.
Periodically check on these feelings.
Define your terms-
for example, respect, support, listening,
Use discussions of
your feelings to discover your values, beliefs, expectations and needs.
Discuss how you each
believe love is shown.
Agree on a method
for resolving conflicts.
Discuss the concept
of punishment - for example, withholding
communication, changing plans to hurt the other
person. Find out if your partner uses punishment
when they are hurt. Find out what your partner
does when they don't get what they want. How they
resolve problems. Find out whether they have
bitterness from past relationships; how they felt
with their parents.
- Be sure you
don't confuse loving someone with needing
them. Need is based on insecurity and
dependency. When you need someone, you
believe you can't live without them. When
you love someone, you can be happy alone
and you can continue to love them even
after you are no longer romantic
- When you feel
bad for something you did, tell your
partner immediately. Ask for forgiveness
and/or offer restitution.
- If your apology
is not accepted, you must forgive
yourself. You can only offer an apology,
you can't force someone to accept it.
- You can also
feel sorry that a person is hurting
without feeling guilty for the being the
one who cause the pain. Sometimes,
though, the other person wants you to
feel guilty. If this seems to be the
case, you might think about how they want
you to feel and why. If they want you to
feel guilty it is probably because they
want to change you.
- Take more
responsibility for your own emotions.
- Learn to
explain your emotions without blaming
your partner for them. Take
responsibility for your own insecurities,
defensiveness and unmet emotional needs.
- Learn to manage
your own negative emotions. The more you
can do this, the more you will be
available to help your partner.
- Ask "How
do I want to feel?" and "What
would help me feel better that I can
do?" rather than thinking in terms
of what someone else could do.
- Ask "How
do I want my partner to feel?" and
"What can I do to help them feel
- Learn to
identify the primary emotions when you
feel "angry." (See section on anger.)
- Learn how to
tell your partner what you need from
- Remember that
sometimes, expressing your feelings
triggers feelings of defensiveness from
others. Sometimes they feel responsible,
manipulated, blackmailed, or pressured,
even if this was not your intent.
- Thus it is
necessary to assume responsibility and
ask for help, rather than expect or
demand your partner do anything to help
you feel better.
- Also remember
there is a difference between caring
about how someone feels vs. feeling
responsible for how they are feeling or
for making them feel better.
- And sometimes,
although full disclosure is the ideal,
perhaps it will be better to keep your
feelings to yourself, or share them later
- Become aware of
your unmet emotional needs (UEN's) from
your childhood. (See human emotional needs for help with this)
- Do not depend
on your partner for your happiness. If
you do you will start to need them rather
than love them. Need starts to take
priority over love.
- Remember that
happiness is something you bring into a
relationship more than something you get
out of it.
- Learn to change
your demands into preferences.1 and reduce the
demands you place on your partner.
- Learn to listen
using the techniques of EQ based listening. In particular,
listen for the emotions behind the words.
This is very hard to do when you are
feeling attacked, but that also may be
when it is most important.
Also Try to Remember
defensive and empathetic are mutually
exclusive (so try not to attack your
- Feelings are
- There is no
point in defending your feelings. It will
probably put others on the defensive.
- It doesn't help
to try to explain your feelings when
someone isn't interested in them.
- Emotions unite
us, beliefs divide us.
- Judging and invalidating quickly kills
- Sarcasm is an
indirect expression of resentment,
hostility, bitterness, disappointment,
hurt, anger, etc. Try to identify or
express the feelings directly.
responsibility releases resentment. (AR3)
(see more on resentment)
attracts. Resentment repels.
- When one person
is shouting, angry or walks away, they
are most in need.
feelings can change quickly. Expecting
consistency will lead to disappointment.
Instead, try to accept feelings at each
can be avoided by having no expectations,
or by at least not having unrealistic
ones. Remember you create the
disappointment more than the other
person. (see more on disappointment )
- You are
primarily responsible for your feelings
of resentment and bitterness, not your
partner. This is because most of these
feelings come from your past and your
unmet emotional needs.
- You can't heal
an emotional wound with logic.
- Whoever needs
the relationship most has the least power
- To help your
partner feel important, place their
feelings above everyone else's besides
Here are a few more
When you feel
discouraged or hopeless, list all the things
which favor you.
Never assume how
your partner feels, always ask.
Seek first to
understand, then to be understood.
feelings in three word sentences starting
with "I feel....". Then wait to see
how the other person responds. Don't try to
force your explanations on them.
To show respect
to your partner: (a) respect their feelings
(b) ask them how they would feel before
Listen to your
body and take a time-out when you feel
intensely attacked, hostile, angry, etc.
If you are an
intense, quick thinking person, slow down.
Especially in arguments.
Try to avoid
using someone's own words against them. This
is a particularly personal and hurtful form
Avoid people who
take information you have given them and use
it against you. (Though I generally don't
like labels we might call this behavior
xxx end of jan 2007 editing
One of the values of
identifying feelings with feeling words is to
help you recognize patterns. For example, if
similar situations reoccur you will have similar
feelings. By identifying the feelings precisely
you can see the similarities faster than if you
just try to compare one situation to another. The
mind naturally makes comparisons between similar
situations, so you are just facilitating the
As an example, think
about the many ways a person can be helped to
Mary does something
helpful for Paul. Paul fails to thank Mary.
Mary does something
else helpful. Paul criticizes the way she did it.
Mary gives Paul a
compliment. Paul rejects it.
Though each case is
different, the feeling Mary has is the same: she
What a person does
when they clearly recognize a pattern depends on
many things, for example what kind of
relationship Mary and Paul have. Did they just
meet or do they live together and have a child
together? Part of emotional intelligence is
figuring out the best way to manage negative
feelings. Different situations call for managing
the same unmet need in different ways.
for managing negative feelings in a relationship
- Identify the
- Express it with
an "I feel.." message.
- See how the
other person responds.
- Identify your
feelings about how they respond.
- Use your
feelings to help you decide whether to
invest more or less of yourself in the
- After several
relationships, if you see a pattern in
experiencing the same feelings with
different people, then it may be an
indication that you have some work to do
on managing your own unmet emotional
|Suggestions for Resolving
The quickest way I have found to
stop arguments is to ask the other person how
they are feeling, then just accept it. Here are
some specific suggestions.
- Ask the other person
how they are feeling. Focus on feelings,
not "facts" like who did what,
who said what etc.
- Ask how strong the
feeling is from 0-10.
- Accept and validate their feelings. Try to show
understanding. And try to really
understand. If you don't understand, ask
them to help you understand. Most people
want to feel understood.
- If they are having
difficulty expressing their feelings with
feeling words, try to figure out what
they are feeling and help identify it.
- Ask them how they want
- Ask what would help
them feel better
- Think about how you
want them to feel and how to help them
get to that feeling.
- Ask them how they want
you to feel.
If you are feeling
frustrated, you might suggest taking a break.
During this break you might think about
- Your feelings and what
you could do to feel better that doesn't
depend on the other person changing.
- How you want to feel
and how to get there.
- How the other person
wants you to feel and why.
Also, In arguments, avoid
exaggerating, bringing up the past, using
someone's own words against them, trying to get
them to agree with you. Instead just state
feelings and wait. If they are ready to hear the
explanations, they will ask why you feel that
way. If they don't ask, they are in need and
can't focus on your feelings. If they don't
voluntarily ask why you feel the way you do,
trying to force your explanation on them at that
moment is probably counter-productive. Maybe flip
a coin to see who goes first.
When your partner is upset,
don't interrupt. Only speak to clarify and
paraphrase. Or perhaps just make eye contact, and
show that you are listening. Try to de-code what
they are saying and identify their feelings. Try
to focus on their unmet emotional needs at that
moment and try to put your needs aside for the
When you can't listen, it
is best to admit it. Offer to listen at a later
time. Take a short break until you stop feeling
defensive or drained, for example.
Note that the person who is
most aware of the feelings involved from each
person has the most ability to help resolve the
1. You can't solve
an emotional problem with logic
2. Feelings are
Misc. Relationship Notes
Mutual respect is the key to healthy
Show respect by respecting another's feelings.
Show respect by asking someone "How would
you feel if..." before making a decision
which affects them (HWYF)
Helping Your Partner
- Help them
identify their primary feelings
- Learn to
validate, empathize w/o getting
responsible for cause of problem or
solution & getting drained.
- Avoid saying
"You need to, you have to, you
better, why didn't you, you should, you
shouldn't, you should have, you shouldn't
Anger is a
secondary emotion - identify the primary ones
Responsibility Releases Resentment (AR3)
analyzing others is self-avoidance.
The thin line is
between need and hate, not between love and hate.
|Notes on loneliness
Somewhere in the book
"Intimate Connections," David Burns
you need a partner before you can be happy is
one of the major causes of loneliness.[I
would say this is probably the major
Ken Keyes says:
relationship with yourself before getting
deeply involved with anyone else.
Normally when we
feel lonely we think that we have an unmet need
to be with someone or to be more connected with
people. But it might be helping you feel more
depressed to think of it this way, so here are
some other ways of looking at loneliness.
You could, for
example, look at it as an indication that you
have an unmet need to feel content by yourself.
Or as an indication
you don't have a good relationship with yourself
yet. You could have a few chats with your
amygdala, as I have done on many occasions, and
develop a better relationship with
"her." (I call mine Amy.) This has
helped me because I look at the relationship
between Amy and I as the most important
relationship I will have, and the only one which
will stay with me till I die.
You could also look
at your feelings of loneliness as a call to
action to work on your self-acceptance,
Or as a sign that
you are not involved enough with pursuing your
own goals. Or maybe the goals you are pursuing
aren't fulfilling enough -- maybe you know on
some level that they are not important enough in
For me, when I am
busy working on my own goals, I rarely feel
lonely, even though I am almost always alone.
When you are lonely
before you meet someone you run a high risk of
becoming too dependent on them to fill your unmet
emotional needs. Scott Peck reminds us:
When you require
another individual for your survival, you are
a parasite on that individual.
Less Traveled, p 98
|Here are some notes
from my own life
For me, one value of
identifying my feelings earlier and being more
aware of them is it helps me get out of unhealthy
situations faster. Once, before I was aware of my
feelings, someone threatened me with pouring a
glass of water on me if I didn't obey them. I did
obey at the time and didn't really think about
it. I didn't realize I felt threatened. It took
me about another year to realize how dangerous
this person was. And it cost me tens of thousands
of dollars to get out of the relationship. One
reason I have this web page, in fact, is in my
hope that my writing helps someone listen to
their feelings and avoid such costly experiences.
Your expectations can quickly
kill a relationship, I learned recently. My
partner was from another culture. She was raised
in a strongly Catholic country (Peru) where it is
nearly impossible to escape from the prevailing
beliefs. And, of course, she was raised in a
All of these
differences created conflicts in our
expectations. I had few expectations when
starting the relationship, or perhaps they
weren't well defined. She, though, had her own
set of very rigid expectations about how a man
"should" treat a woman, how a couple
"should" act, what it meant to respect
someone, how to respond to conflicts, etc. These
expectations, I believe, took priority over her
amygdala's natural, instinctive attraction to me,
which was very strong. Instead of seeing me for
who I was, she quickly labeled me as her
"Prince Charming." Then she compared me
to this unrealistic standard. Of course, I failed
to meet this impossible test.
Since then I have
thought about my own expectations. For example, I
expect someone to show me respect as I have
defined it in my writing. I expect someone to
validate me and not invalidate me. I expect them
to be interested in my feelings, to ask me how I
feel, and to want to understand why I feel the
way I do. I expect them to support my goals and
help me reach them. I expect them to encourage me
and help me feel better about myself. I used to
expect someone to make me happy. I now realize
this is impossible. I realize I must be happy
before I enter the relationship. I expect them to
be emotionally and financially responsible. And I
expect them to value honesty, personal growth,
reality, education, independence and freedom.
"expectations" may not be the right
word. Preferences might be better. If we expect
someone to have these qualities, chances are we
will be disappointed and frustrated when we
realize they don't . We might then try to change
them- a frustrating, if not infuriating endeavor.
Also, when we think
of desirable qualities as preferences, we won't
disqualify someone because they fall short in one
area, or because they fail to live up to our
expectations in relatively minor ways or on
relatively few occasions.
It seems healthier
to consider the whole person, over a certain
period of time, realizing that some will come
closer to meeting your preferences, and that no
one will fill all of our preferences all of the
though, are largely a result of a cognitive
process. This may interfere with the natural
selection of partners by your amygdala. Or you
may become infatuated with someone and
temporarily forget all your preferences, which
may or may not be healthy. Thus there is the
ongoing issue of balance between the cognitive
and the emotional centers of the brain. I haven't
mastered this balance, I will be the first to
|Finding vs. Attracting
I wrote in one of my journals:
I need to just keep
being myself and seeing who I attract. It is not
so much a matter of who I am attracted to, but
who I attract.
We talk about finding the right partner, but I
think it would be better to talk about attracting
the right partner.
self: moved Sue starfish story to roman2 file)
Helps Keep Love in Relationships, by Darrell
Sifford, The Blade, Toledo Ohio Sept 16, 1979 --
Here are my notes from the
article - one of the little scraps of paper that
I have held onto for a long time! My comments are
italicized in brackets.
Sifford says people
don't fight about real issues but about symptoms
of their inability to work things out.
In fact, in the
least productive and most damaging arguments
there generally is no issue. The precipitating
thing is not really the issue. [I suggest
this is because the "issue" is the
underlying negative feelings]
Therefore he says
people need a "grievance procedure," [or
what I would call a conflict resolution model.]
Also, in an
ineffective relationship things never get worked
out because, as he says,"people are too
defensive, too sensitive to criticism, too prone
too see everything as a personal attack." [Or
as I would say the parties feel too defensive,
insecure, hostile and hurtful. I would not say
they are "too sensitive to criticism."
This might imply they are too sensitive in
general. I believe it is healthy to be sensitive.
What is unhealthy is to feel insecure and to be
insecure. The secure, sensitive person can feel
something and express their feelings without fear
of rejection and abandonment. The more sensitive
one is, the sooner one can feel it and express
it. This has the potential of averting major
conflicts down the road.]
He says most things
are simple to resolve if you are flexible and
don't see things as a somebody's attempt to
control you. [In effect he is saying he wants
people not to feel rigid, attacked, controlled.
But changing their feelings is harder than he
makes it sound. He almost sounds invalidating, as
if we all "should" be able to do this
He says most
relationships fail because of unrealistic
expectations. He says then people feel trapped
and disillusioned. "A man's castle becomes
his prison." [I know this is true from
personal experience-- you really know something
when you have felt it. You can "know"
facts, such as 2+2=4 but how can you
"know" feelings, such as what
"trapped" is, unless you have felt it?]
He gives some good
suggestions for finding a mate. (He directs these
towards women, since he knows women are most
likely to be his readers):
"Do kids like
him? Kids have an incredibly good sense about
Does he express
himself? Or does he bottle his feelings?
He says those who
can't express feelings often let irritations
build silently and then one day there is a
violent explosion like an atomic bomb which so
damages the relationship it can't be repaired.
(or a series of explosions)
Here is my
adaptation of his advice on healthy arguments:
- Stick to the
issue. Don't fight old battles or draw in
- Don't react
passively. Everybody needs feedback. [But
I would say try to limit your feedback to
your feelings and a brief explanation of
them, and I would add: Don't label the
other person or their behavior. Remember
to be aware of and interested in the
other person's changing, moment by
moment, feelings during the process; ask
how they are feeling from and help them
express their feelings]
- Once begun,
don't leave the room, except to calm down
or take a needed break until you have
reached some agreements and you both feel
better.[I would say: Try to listen to
the other person for as long as it takes
till they feel fully expressed, but be
aware of your own feelings and take a
break if you need it, while giving
assurance you will return. Also, don't
pressure the other person into continuing
the discussion when they have made it
clear they need a break. Respect each
other's feelings and boundaries during
the process. Try to reach compromises,
without feeling sacrificial.]
- Try to keep a
sense of humor, for comic relief, but
don't joke around if the other person
isn't smiling. [Remember though it is
easy to invalidate with humor, even when
completely unintentional- especially if
other person is feeling hurt, insecure,
inadequate, defensive, needy, etc.]
- Don't tease,
mock, or ridicule the other person (ie
I would add:
identify the feelings. Find things to agree on,
even if you can only agree that you disagree.
Don't hold the other person responsible for your
feelings. Be aware of your own feelings.
|Concerned about their
is some of the conversation I had with a woman
who was concerned about her relationship. It
covers a lot of topics critical to healthy
relationships such as respect, acceptance,
defensiveness, and direct talk about feelings.
A woman who I will
call "Concerned" is going to see her
new partner this weekend. She has been feeling
concerned about their relationship. In this
dialogue we are discussing how best to present
her concerns. There are several things Concerned
would like to change in the relationship. Her
partner is already feeling a bit defensive. A key
issue for Concerned is that she doesn't feel very
important to him and she would like to feel more
important. Concerned has started to feel afraid
that he is not putting as much into the
relationship as she is. She wants him to change
his behavior. One of the things she wants him to
change is she wants him to stop smoking. She said
he smokes because he has stress and problems and
because he doesn't feel good about himself.
I asked her to think
for a moment not about how he wants him to behave
and act, but how she wants him to feel.
She said she wants him to feel safe, loved,
respected and understood. These all are good
feeling goals. We both agreed that if he felt
better about himself he was more likely to stop
smoking and more likely to give her what she
wanted from the relationship. My task, then, was
to help her discover ways to help him feel such
Here is some of our
discussion on respect.
|How much do
you feel respected by him right now, from
|And how do
you think he would feel if you told him
possibly feel defensive, or curious as to
why or sad.
you say to make him feel more defensive?
I could say, "I only feel
respected 6 out of 10." or I could
"You know, the way you treat me, I
only feel respected 6 out of 10."
what could you say to make him feel more
could say it like this, "You know my
friend and I were talking and
he asked me how much I felt respected by
you from 0-10."
would be a way.
Ok. What about sad?
might say something like, "How much
do you feel respected by me,
from 0-10?" Then we could talk about
his feelings first, like what I could do
so he would feel more respected. Then he
would probably ask me later
how much I felt respected by him, and
when I told him the truth he would
probably feel sad.
both agreed this last idea was a very good one.
Here is some of our
|What do you
think he would say if you said, "I
don't feel very important."
probably say, "But you are
|How do you
think he would be feeling if he said
would you feel?
feel a bit sad because there is no reason
for him to feel attacked,
since it wasn't an attack. I would tell
him there is no reason for him to
take it so personally and that he doesn't
have to feel attacked.
we have so far is both of them invalidating each
other. He invalidates her by saying, "But
you are important." Then she
invalidates him by saying there is no reason for
him to feel how he feels and that he shouldn't
take things so personally. This escalates the
conflict and could lead to a situation where they
start debating about each other's feelings.
Concerned might say, "Well you say that I am
important, but I don't feel
important!"She feels a need to repeat
herself because he didn't hear her and get the
emotional message the first time. This is a good
time to remember the general principle that
feelings are not debateable
I asked her if she
had ever discussed feelings using such simple and
direct words as "attacked" and
"defensive." She said that up to this
point, no, they had not. I asked if she thought
he would be able to have this kind of a
discussion. She said she didn't know. She said
not many people talk like this. She said until
she learned to do it she always had these kinds
of feelings, but she was never able to talk about
them. She said this was partly because no one
else ever talks about them like this and also
because people are seen to be weak if they talk
about their feelings.
I then told her how
important it would be if her partner were able to
acknowledge his feelings. I gave her the example
of a person who I could see was getting
defensive. I pointed this out to her. She shot
back, "Defensive?!" To me, if someone
can't acknowledge their actual feelings it makes
it nearly impossible to work on the relationship,
or even to have one. If someone is willing to
learn to be aware of and acknowledge their
feelings it is a good start.
Since we had talked
earlier about the importance of him feeling
accepted and understood we continued our talk as
|So when you
say there is no reason for him to take it
how accepting would you be of his answer,
from 0-10? And how
understanding would you feel?
5. Understanding 5.
much would you like him to feel accepted
|10 and 10.
|Who has the
most power to get the numbers from 5 to
of us, but mostly him. If he wouldn't
take things personally then
he wouldn't feel attacked. He is very
insecure, that is why he takes things
so personally. I would tell him that we
need to work on his insecurity, and
that I would help him.
think he has a problem and needs to
change, and that you can
also want him to feel accepted 10?
Okay, I see what you mean.
The other day I was
doing some journal writing about a girl I would
like to have a romantic relationship with. I had
been feeling resentful but then I realized that
wasn't helping achieve my goal! So I realized
that it would be more helpful if she felt
appreciated rather than resented. So I came up
with this summary:
Appreciation Attracts -
|High IQ, Low EQ
When one is intelligent, one
is able to skillfully defend oneself. And one is
able to quickly note and make a very persuasive
argument for the faults of the other. When one
has low EQ, one lacks self-awareness and is not
open to constructive feedback. One lacks
sensitivity to the feelings of others. One is
concerned only with one's own unmet emotional
needs. One uses the other person in an futile
attempt to fill these needs. The other typically
feels judged, attacked, resentful, unappreciated,
used, and bitter. Compounding the problem, the
one with high IQ and low EQ often feels superior
and makes assumptions and thinks they understand
things when in fact they don't understand.
Because they don't truly understand, they lack
compassion and empathy. Because they are
intelligent, it is important to them to be
"right." Thus they are defensive which
further reduces their ability to empathize. This
is a toxic combination which typically leads to
the destruction of the relationship. (My
conclusions come from both direct personal and
|Part of letter to some
friends about love and emotional honesty (2003)
There is one thing that I
want to offer you as a "gift" here... I
want to encourage you both to always be
emotionally honest with each other. This is a bit
different than being factually honest. It means
telling each other how you really feel. If you
are uncomfortable with something, or concerned or
afraid, try to say it honestly. One of the best
pieces of advice I can offer is to really think
about what you are afraid of when something
bothers you. Then instead of saying "you
shouldn't do so and so" or "I don't
want you to do so and so" say, "I am
afraid if you do so and so... that so and so will
Remember that you
love each other and care about each other. Your
fears are usually going to be based on the fact
that you care and the fact that you need each
other and are afraid of being alone again or of
losing each other.
Try to remember to
think about your specific fears and then be very
honest. In love, real intimacy comes from
emotional intimacy, and that means sharing all
feelings, even the ones you are afraid to share
because they might make you look weak or
vulnerable or stupid.
We all feel insecure
and afraid of losing our partners sometimes. It
is okay to talk about these insecurities and
fears. It just makes your partner realize how
much you care and how much they mean to you. You
are both great people. Neither one of you would
want to use something against the other one to
hurt them, so try to overcome your fears of being
totally emotionally honest and just share
everything you feel when you feel it or as soon
as you can put it into words.
1. From Ken Keyes, The Power
of Unconditional Love