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Curious About Emotion

I am so fascinated by why emotions have such a low value in our culture. People are simply not aware of the power their emotions exert over their behavior. They do not investigate them. They are not curious about emotion. And Brené Brown’s research has shown that people who do investigate their emotions have learned to do so in one of three ways. How I wish they were as curious as this little boy staring at his fish!

curious

Three Ways They Got Curious

  1. They have parents or other important people in their lives that have acknowledged and taught them the importance of getting curious about their feelings.
  2. Parents or other important people in their lives have modeled curiosity about emotion.
  3. They worked with a counselor, therapist or other helping professional that taught them about the value of getting curious, of asking themselves why their feelings were occurring.

The Upshot

So how does it play out when we don’t get curious about our feelings? One huge outcome is the loss of the opportunity to deepen our most important relationships. I heard a story recently about a long-married couple where the husband expressed anger over a flirty comment made by his wife at a friend’s home. The male in the couple they were visiting with was described as a bit of a curmudgeon who did not express his emotions well, nor was he very huggie or touchy-feely. So the wife threw out a sort of flirty, teasing comment to him in her initial greeting, which her husband received as a form of betrayal, albeit low in the scheme of things. She had merely intended to draw out their friend with good humor.

Here’s the thing. She did not know about her husband’s hurt until he revealed his anger two days later. Meanwhile his hurt festered. He stewed and ruminated, and then blurted it out in anger. Of course his anger was just the mask for his hurt. But why didn’t he mention it to her earlier, say on the drive home from their evening out?

Why?

So the answer to this involves questioning our feelings and emotions. If this husband had gotten curious earlier, he might have understood that he was feeling a bit jealous, and a little insecure. But that would have required him to be vulnerable, and being vulnerable requires courage. Because we might get laughed at, or belittled, or made to feel less than. Men in particular are taught by our society that discussing emotions is frivolous and a waste of time. Or worse, that it just invites trouble. And maybe it does in the short term, but the payoff is big if you allow it. When you refuse to go through the hurt, instead of ignoring it, or you push it to the back of the closet, you will end up with a big pile of doody. It will be hard to avoid, or your avoidance will become so big you will begin to live parallel  lives—the death knell of a relationship.

If you cannot figure out the path forward due to a too-big pile, shoot me an email or go to my contact page. I am here and in your neighborhood, ready to help.

Resource: Rising Strong by Brené Brown, 2015, Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability