Emotional Temperature–The Art of Emotional Awareness

Emotional Temperature: The Art of Emotional Awareness

Practice #4 of Improve your Marriage Without Therapy (in 5 Steps)

In my post How to Improve Your Marriage without Therapy, I outline 5 simple things you can do to improve your marriage from the comfort of your own home.

Today, I want to re-visit the 4th suggestion: Taking your Emotional Temperature. 

Learning how to be aware of our emotions, how to acknowledge them, feel them, be curious about them, and express them effectively are all crucial aspects of our overall sense of well-being.

Fully experiencing our emotions is part of being human and it allows us to be engaged with the energy of being alive. It allows us to access our authentic nature.

And yet many of us, have been taught, for many reasons, that emotions are not worthy of our time and attention. For some, we learned that emotions represent weakness or that they can lead to being out of control. For some, we learned that it is safer to just ignore or deny them so we won’t feel pain. Some of us learned that if we minimize our emotional experience we might be able to avoid suffering.

Men are often given messages that emotions are only for girls and “real” men do not get bogged down in them. Men receive overt and covert messages that they should conquer, hide, deny, or repress their emotions for fear of being seen as too feminine.

But more and more, men are showing up in my office struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, sadness, loneliness, sexual challenges and feelings of inadequacy despite being educated, accomplished, successful, and well-respected in their families, with peers, and in their communities.

Emotions are not sexist. They do not target one gender over another. They do not only show up in those who identify as female and are absent in those who identify as male.

The truth is, for all humans, emotions have an organic energy that cannot be denied or controlled. Emotions are an essential aspect of our lived experience as well as our relational experience.  To deny or control them means to turn away from our own authenticity.

Avoiding our emotions is just like trying to avoid our need to breathe. Breath is part of us; part of being alive; part of what keeps us healthy and able to function. If we stop breathing, our bodies suffer and we cannot function.

So too, emotions are a crucial part of being alive. Experiencing them, and integrating them into our existence keeps us healthy and able to function.

And in terms of our relational health, integrating our emotions into our experiences with our partner is a vital aspect of the relationship’s health, the potential to cultivate intimacy, and our capacity for growth.

But given how our emotional well-being has been so misunderstood and minimized, we often miss the importance of, tuning in to and being aware of, what we are feeling. We often do not take our emotional temperature.

And in today’s world, this seems to be getting worse. Life moves so fast, and we are so “connected” to our devices, and social media accounts, and unending work tasks, and a host of other distractions, that emotions are becoming more and more marginalized on our list of priorities.

As a result, we tumble unconsciously into our days, into our interactions with others, and into crucial conversations. We do so without first checking in with ourselves to determine if we are in an emotional state conducive to creating healthy, productive, effective interactions and conversations.

We do not cultivate daily practices of asking ourselves:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • How am I feeling about this decision?
  • How am I feeling about having to work when my child is sick or my partner is sick?
  • How do I feel in my body after having an argument with my partner?
  • How do I feel about myself when I …?

And we certainly to not cultivate daily practices in which we take the time to go even deeper after asking these surface question listed above, and reflect on the emotions that are underneath these surface ones.

Without practicing emotional awareness and taking our emotional temperature, these below-the-surface emotions are taking root deep within us and influencing our sense of self-worth, our sense of safety in our relationships and in the world, and our sense of overall well-being. All without us even knowing.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel talks about the importance of learning how to be aware of and responsive to our emotional life in her book, “It’s Not Always Depression”. 

This is an extremely worthwhile read for anyone who strives to understand their emotional life better and who desires to connect with their authentic self.

In order to create marriages and intimate relationships that thrive, it is essential that we learn how to take our emotional temperature. To tune in, take the time to listen, explore and be compassionate to our emotional life.

The more we practice this awareness, the more we engage fully with our true self and with our experiences. We learn that emotions are not signs of weakness, or only for girls, or unsafe. But rather, we learn that emotions help us to tap into that mystery of our own lived experience. We learn that instead of overwhelming us, they can be our greatest teachers. We learn that instead of leading us to be out of control, they lead us to deeper states of calm and clarity.

As we do this for ourselves, we strengthen our capacity to be authentically present to our partner. We strengthen our capacity to support and be compassionate to our partner’s emotional life as well. And in so doing, we create contexts for abiding intimacy.

And this is why taking our emotional temperature is a practice that can improve your marriage. I encourage you to try this today. Start with your breath, close your eyes and ask yourself, “What I am feeling?”

I promise you, whatever you uncover will lead to a discovery of your authentic self and also allow you to hold a safe space for your partner to do the same.

As always, peace in the journey,
Jane

P.S. Watch this video to learn more.

Practice #3 in series  |  Practice #5 in Series  

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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couples and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience. She specializes in all kinds of intimate relationships: monogamy, consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, pan, and kink. Jane also specializes in sexual challenges, sacred sexuality, and helping clients embrace their true erotic nature.