This week in the multifamily group, I asked the families I work with to think about the importance of emotional communication. As human beings, we are wired for connection, yet intimate honest relationships seem difficult for us.
Adolescents in particular are craving this type of connection from their parents, I believe in the form of vulnerable, and meaningful interactions. My goal in family sessions is to help my clients achieve more moments like this.
As a family therapist, the importance of expressing and acknowledging feelings is at the foundation of the work I do -it's at the root of meaningful connection. So the activity today helped families to explore why they thought expressing emotions was important, and to explore why increasing our emotional literacy was useful. The group then worked together to see that the consequences of unrecognized feelings are far reaching and impact individuals and our relationships.
Wondering why we have difficulty in expressing our feelings is an important discussion to have as a family. Until we understand what holds us back from being vulnerable, we can't begin to make connection happen. We worked to explore ideas around shame, culture and our own issues that stem from our family of origin.
I asked family members to ask themselves four questions about how feelings are expressed in order to help understand the family dynamics <see diagram>.
With an understanding of why communication and vulnerability in our families is hard, we started to process and connect in new and beautiful ways. The moments of connection generated between the families I worked with today was incredibly moving.
I am curious what would happen if you asked your family these questions.
Would it be impossible to bring these up at the dinner table?
Would you be afraid an argument would start?
If asking these types of questions is hard, it might be an idea to start thinking about family therapy.
Oliver Drakeford is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Beverly Hills. His private practice is located near West Hollywood and he sees families and teenagers and helps understand family dynamics from a family systems perspective.