Embracing Emotion Helps Our Relationships

We are not taught how to deal with our emotions at school, so most of us are left to figure it out alone. When we get hurt, the tendency is to do one of three things: move away, move closer or push against the thing that feels painful.

Relationship expert John Gottman recommends learning to turn towards your partner when you feel hurt. This is a vulnerable thing to do but ends up being more effective relationally.

Brene Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher, talks a lot about ‘leaning in’ when we feel uncomfortable emotions and getting curious about the emotion and the cause, again, not turning away.

Is this easy? Hell no, as Brene would say. It goes against our wiring, especially if we have a trauma history; the impulse to get away can be overpowering. The power is in the pause. When we can pause and ask, “What is going on here?” Then we take ourselves out of the intensity of the conflict and rise above it to get more perspective and allow ourselves to get curious.

This allows the temperature to drop, and it will enable both people to check in with what is really going on for them. It might sound like.

“I know I sound furious right now, and part of me is, but a bigger part of me is feeling sad and unloved. What I need right now is a hug”.

To do this, we need to contact our emotions and the layers of emotion that exist. If feelings can feel a bit hard for you, it can be easier to focus on four raw emotions and check-in with yourself about which one you are feeling at any moment; glad, sad, mad or scared.

It is interesting to reflect on your default emotions and what might be sitting under that default. For me, my default is mad. When I am expressing anger, I feel more powerful and put boundaries in place, and it helps me feel safe. What is usually under it is sad. But for me, sad is a powerless and unsafe place, so it often takes me time to touch it. I block it with mad.

The work for me is in the moment to feel my anger, the power of it in my body and my mind. To pause, and be with the rage to acknowledge it, then be curious about what is under the anger. When the sadness comes, I name it internally and externally, naming what I feel sad about and what I might need at that moment and going forward. Sometimes when you are flooded, you can think of what you need in the moment, and that is okay. Come back later to that discussion once you have been able to turn your frontal cortex back on and let the other person know for next time what you needed in the moment and what you need going forward.

Much love on your healing journey


Embracing Emotion Helps Our Relationships
Get comfortable with the four basic emotions of mad, sad, glad and scared and build your repertoire from there.
The power is in the pause
Turn towards one another in conflict rather than away
Being vulnerable takes courage – courageous people are vulnerable
Discovering what is under the default emotions


Lusignan, K. (2019). John Gottman and Brene Brown on Running Headlong into Heartbreak. https://www.gottman.com/blog/john-gottman-and-brene-brown-on-running-headlong-into-heartbreak/