Tom on the other hand feels like an idiot because he spent so much money and didn't keep track of his expenditures. He relied on Sue's ability to oversee his own spending and took no responsibility for his part. As a part of his sulking, all Tom wants to do is have a beer and watch a ball game figuring this will cool him off. Much to his dismay, he starts to feel sick and tired of Sue emasculating him. Tom grows angrier and feels justified in his aggression towards Sue as the night continues. The few beers he has had embolden him to make a few final insults to Sue. This time they take a personal note, because he knows her family history, he reasons he will put her in her place once and for all, leaving Sue in a heap of tears. She ultimately retreats to her bed in a depressed mess while he feels like the same bully he used to be called at the school yard. Tom ends up that night alone, in silence listening to Sue sob, helpless to say anything to repair what has just ensued because it seems to have gone too far.
These fights happen so often between some couples. They can take many forms and are based on justifications, rationale, manipulation and sometimes bits and pieces of reality. It is like the perfect storm. It is a conglomeration of old emotions combined with bits of truth that result in a blow up that takes on a life if its own. We can be completely taken off guard. The only way we can know how to prevent this is to be more mindful of when we get to this place emotionally. Often times, when we start feeling angry and frustrated, we begin trying to keep it under a lid by being intellectual and justifying our position. This is particularly true of highly intelligent people. We get stuck in our own mindset instead of taking the time to tune into how we are feeling. Sometimes we don't listen to one another because we are busy formulating our next comeback.
One effective way to deal with these feelings is to identify where they are really coming from. Instead of blaming Sue for not anticipating his spending, Tom can now move away from his previous position using emotional reasonability. Tom can be more mindful and acknowledge he should not have blamed Sue for something he was himself responsible for. He can then go on to say that he knows when he feels attacked, rightly or wrongly so, he goes back to his old schoolboy habits of becoming a bully. When Tom does this, he is further activating the ugly part of himself. Tom becomes mean wanting to show that he is the one in charge of the relationship. ( this is because he feels so small that the only way he can reinvent himself is by leveling his opponent, his wife Sue.) Unfortunately, this perpetuates his own feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
Sue sits quietly for a minute before she responds thinking about how to respond to Tom, feeling stirred with emotion. She tries something different. Sue empathizes with Tom about how overwhelming it is to be surreptitiously brought back to those old childhood experiences.
Sue follows that by saying she too went back to her old feeling of being an "imposter" and that being verbally attacked by Tom reminds her of how worthless she would feel when that would happen as a child along with the ensuing depression that follows.
Now this conversation has taken on a new note- no dramatic apologies ( though a few well placed apologies in this case wouldn't hurt) are necessary, this couple can now focus on the important stuff- they are thinking about their old patterns, feeling the old hurts that they come to the table with in every situation. Tom and Sue now have a place to discuss how their lives have been effected and how it plays outs when things become tense in their daily dealings with one another. This newfound insight and sensitivity towards each other, along with increased empathy for the other, and the new mindfulness that allows them to pause and actually get in touch with their inner world gives this couple the opportunity to work on things together, more patiently, more calmly. When they speak from a strong emotional stance, e.g. Tom- "Gees I didn't realize until it was too late we didn't check the bank balance- maybe we can make a late deposit so we don't bounce a check in the am, I will give them a call."
Sue can reply," you know I should have looked earlier as well, I've got to incorporate that into my day, checking the bank each morning. It might be helpful if you gave me an approximate amount of what you are going to spend so I can make sure the money is there when you need it. Each of them adopting a position of empathy with each other and moving away from blaming each other is effectively taking responsibility. It is very different way to approach their problematic interactions.
Now Tom and Sue can have the opportunity to have the inner peace with themselves and each other that characterized the earlier times in their relationship. They can now go on to laugh with their children that night at dinner, and enjoy playful banter making it a great night for everyone.
Tom and Sue get into bed that night feeling close and snuggling one another, feeling happy, close and content, a totally different experience than the night before.
By considering our early emotional world, we get honest at what belies these intellectualizations, rationalization and justifications. We have a more realistic ability to stop being defensive. We actually use our emotional intelligence by accepting these parts of ourselves and we begin a most important lesson. We begin to understand these early emotions go with us everywhere in varying degrees. Only empowered by the knowledge of our own internal world can we respond appropriately, balancing our passion, past and our resulting emotions, walking the tightrope of negotiation within ourselves and others in a truly emotionally reasonable way. When we consider all of this, we can finally demonstrate an ability to be mentally flexible, we can begin to effect CHANGE!
Ever find yourself in an argument with a loved one debating the details of your point only to find your level of frustration growing? Do you believe you are making a perfectly cohesive argument only to find that you feel unheard, agitated and helpless ? If you find yourself in relationships that are in a constant state of upheaval, you might want to consider arguing your point from another perspective, the stance of "emotional reasonability". Emotional reasoning is in many ways impossible to argue. Finding the balance between our emotions and our ability to reason in the face of issues we feel passionate about is a key factor in successful relationships.
People who make their case based on logic, often shut them selves off from their emotions creating the very state of chaos they hoped to avoid. Sometimes we feel if we completely distance ourselves from our emotions and explain ourselves dispassionately we will be able to make emotional inroads with others. This is especially true after a heated argument. Many couples, parents and family members believe after the "blow up", that engaging in an "intelligent" discourse will heal the hurt feelings and allow relationships to move forward. In truth, without fully exploring our own emotions and where they come from, without feeling heard or validated by another, and without expressing our own true emotions, we unwittingly hold on to our hurt feelings, compartmentalizing them. This "compartmentalization " or " repression," of our feelings does not mean we get rid of them. These feelings lurking beneath the surface veneer of our ability to rationalize or intellectualize threaten our ability to cope making future interactions with our loved ones a breeding ground for hostility and disappointments, often horrible pain.
How can we effectively argue our point of view while being emotionally honest? First we must realize that controlling the outcome of an emotional issue can't be dealt with by debate. If we justify our wishes by engaging in a challenging battle of wits, you may exhaust your counterpart into submission, but at what price?
Dr Marion Rose Dyess
In life, the only person we can control in life is ourselves. Steven Covey once said “Between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose.”
I personally think that our freedom lies in being honest with ourselves and our emotions, then expressing ourselves by being emotionally reasonable. and open. It is much easier to emotionally unload (act-out) than it is to conduct the symphony between our raw emotion and our intellect but it is possible. But, how does one do that? First, we must recognize when we are intellectualizing, rationalizing and in particular, justifying. At the moment we recognize that we are in a debate or power struggle with another or, we feel ourselves getting frustrated or losing control, we need to take a step back and take a look at where this upset is coming from. Ask yourself, why you are so locked in your position? Part of recognizing how stuck we are is looking at our history of these patterns of interaction with others and understanding that they don't work for us; they cause suffering for all involved, yet they happen again and again when things don't unfold as we envision them. This ability to move away from your position is referred to in the field of psychology as "mental flexibility". Mental flexibility would then be the ability to move away from our particular position and be "ok" with a compromise while at the same time expressing and staying true to our core selves. In the case of Tom and Sue, they are locked in the blaming model and they are each using part truths to emotionally "dump" on one another. What is the core issue here? It would seem relatively safe to answer that it is a communication issue but we would only be touching the tip of the iceberg.
Tom and Sue always struggle with arguments such as this one. First it's the activating event such as the business struggles, then it gets ratcheted up a notch and they begin the shaming and humiliating each other. This situation escalates leaving no other alternative than to levy the final blows and to become personally insulting.
There is no intelligent reason to behave this way, no justification for such unkind harsh words other than to get our partner to feel as we already do and to fulfill our own desire to have it exactly as we wanted.
If Tom and Sue were to be emotionally reasonable with one another Sue would be able to tell Tom that she is really not the best organizer and doesn't always find out until it is too late that the bank accounts aren't always in order. She also avoids dealing with this very issue to avoid the feelings of shame associated with her poorly formed deep internal self image.
It's the end of a long day at the office, Tom and Sue are at it again, battling over the finances of their business. Sue blames Tom for his impulsive spending and Tom blames Sue for not apprising him of of their bank account balances soon enough to modify his expenses. This goes on for a while and then disintegrates to a point, counterpoint debate about how to raise their children and each begin hurling accusations at each other, feeling justified in their allocation of the blame for the disappointments of their children. As if this isn't enough, Tom and Sue start insulting each other, resulting in a deep chasm of unrelenting pain between them and ultimately ending up in a night of silence- feeling frustrated, angry and worse.........alone.