We are genetically predisposed to be social creatures, who live in relationship with others. While most of us acknowledge that having close connections is a goal, we often unconsciously resist the vulnerability it takes to feel close to others.
Our family rules, gender, culture, and society make it hard for us to embrace the idea that being vulnerable is acceptable. We receive messages that 'boys don't cry' and 'independence' is a preferred state of being. Vulnerability goes against all that we learn, because it is about the willingness to truly be ourselves to risk rejection and humiliation by exposing those feelings that run deep into who we are to a significant other.
Our feelings play a significant role in communication, and subsequently how connected and close we feel to others. Being emotionally aware or developing the ability to understand our feelings and those of others, helps us succeed in creating the connections we often long for, and have difficulty creating. In short, emotional communication is the glue which holds relationships together over time.
When it comes to communication, I often think about empathy, and how as an experience is conveyed not in a concreted and detailed description of an event, but by the feelings associated with it. Think about trying to tell someone you've just met about a rough day you had at work. This person may or may not know what you do for a living, you could spend time telling them about the intricate details of how your boss micromanaged a budget that was due, going into detail on who said what, and when. That would build a great picture up, but, it's much easier to convey feelings of frustration and resentment. Those feelings are more universal than your lived experience and it's in the sharing of feelings that we can relate to another person
What I find in family therapy is that the ability to communicate emotionally has not been developed. Families who are in constant conflict for example may have developed an on going strategy to avoid expressing any feelings other than anger and resentment. Other families can find anything other than feelings to talk about. Both examples create emotional distance within the family system which can often create disfunction in the forms of depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Oliver Drakeford provides family therapy and family counseling in Los Angeles. His private practice therapy office is near West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. He offers therapy for individuals, teens, families and has group therapy offerings. www.OliverDrakeford.com