Turning emotions inside out

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How are you feeling right now, and what emotions have you experienced today?

If you’ve just seen the film ‘Inside Out’, as I have, ydreamstime_xs_26034387ou’ll have a fantastical new view of the different emotions which can drive each of us. The film has a technicolour representation of these inner emotions – a cartoon version but still fascinating – and the ways in which we’re constantly reacting emotionally to whatever is going on, whether we show it fully or not.

Like the characters in the film, we don’t always handle things as well as we’d like to. We aren’t all as emotionally literate as each other – and here I especially mean men, like me, often not being on the same level as our wives or partners. The film has a lovely scene representing just that, funny and arresting, giving me a disconcerting feeling of self-recognition.

I’m much more aware of what’s going on inside me than I used to be, but there are still times when my partner asks me what’s up – before I’m even aware that something is. She’s nearly always right, that there’s something brewing which needs to come out. I find it both annoying and helpful – so two more emotions surface, of irritation and gratitude, to add to my rich mix of feelings!

dreamstime_s_46144216Of course, I’m positively smug if I pinpoint something she’s feeling before she becomes conscious of it. But then I can be reticent in voicing it, telling myself I need to find the right time, the right words. The contrast with the confident way that she raises things is quite stark.
What I’ve discovered is that emotional awareness is a skill which can be grown, even if you’re a bit of a ‘late starter’ in mid-life, as I was. It helps relationships when we’re more highly tuned-in to our partner’s feelings. I find that I’m now better at stopping what I’m doing and making time to simply listen to her sharing what’s going on – and to remember that she doesn’t need me to fix it, just to hear her.
I’ve found in our relationship that an even bigger gift than my sensitivity to her is my skill in being more tuned-in to what I’m feeling myself. A key part of this is when I can recognise the emotions that are running through me without getting lost in them. Then the emotions can flow through and be let go – as all emotions can when we let them, being ‘e-motions’ which is energy in motion.
There’s a beautiful moment in the film when the role of sadness, which is just allowed to be real and present and not pushed away, opens the hearts of everyone. And mine too – with tears of joyful sadness!

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