Do Feelings Hijack Your Relationships?

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Ever  notice how much easier  it is to share feelings in a safe setting?

Compare that to  reluctance you feel if expected to “show inner thoughts,”  when you’re misunderstood or feel criticized…

~ Background check on choices and feelings

The brain packs personal opinions into places where your intrapersonal IQ dominates. Moods, reactions and sensibilities reside in your amygdala, where emotional responses to situations lie in wait for similar encounters that elicit stored responses.

Each time you share or act on feelings you alter neuron pathways that shape your amygdala’s  fight or flight reactions. What some may term knee-jerk is really a learned, shaped and stored reaction.

Through brain discoveries  we now know that what we do shapes what we feel. Choose panic or  stress and these get stored in your amygdala so they’ll increase each time used in a response.

Choose calm or cheer and you’ll fill your mental storehouse with the same.  Each time you  respond with these stored feelings and reactions they strengthen as your default.

More importantly, brains respond remarkably well to triggers that build safe settings fit for shared feelings.

For instance …

~ Lead with mutual benefits

One manager led frustrated co-workers into a new project with the bone-chiller, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but we have to finish this project by Friday.”

Imagine if he’d opened with this statement instead, “What if we build a plan we can all live with so that we complete this project ahead of schedule on Friday?”

Because he led with a dictated downer – his remark stirred  moans of discontent and he met with hidden feelings of frustration.

Lead instead with a what if or shared possibility – and people tend to leap forward and build together to achieve ideas all can live with.

~ Exchange past assumptions for new questions

 Recently a few of us met Holly and Pete for lunch and they bantered back and forth how Pete never shared his feelings. Then something surprising happened. Holly left for the washroom, and Pete told the rest of us that he doesn’t withhold his ideas deliberately. “It takes me time to think about things and to figure out how I feel before I share it with others,” Pete said.

In this case,  flawed assumptions stumped Pete’s ability to risk sharing deeper parts of his emotions and false assumptions sullied the setting, further stumping his feelings.

~ Feelings thrive in safe settings

You could say that feelings depend on serotonin, (the mental molecule of well-being) for creating a safe setting. People do better when they see possibilities and growth opportunities rather than feel threatened by any one person’s rigid plans.

~ Death to feelings when we demand conformity

In contrast, we can generate cortisol  (a dangerous hormone) that hampers another’s ability to share and explore genuine feelings. How so?

Take on a “Do it because I said it attitude,” and others bottle up a desire to tell you that rigid approach cannot lead them to learn problem solving skills of their own.  People who lack flexibility with youth or to younger peers, are not only bottling others’ feelings. They are rewiring brains to act just because another person in charge called the shots. It’s problematic at every emotional level. What happens, for instance, when actions demanded of a person lack ethics, or cause harm? Far better to collaborate pathways so that all learn skills to build better steps forward.

~ Luckily brains come with plasticity for change

Even adult daughters and their mothers, or sons and fathers can grow their capacity to share inner emotions in safe settings. That’s the good news that comes with a brain’s plasticity (or ability to change itself).

Not surprisingly though, change starts with each of us – rather than with a person we’d like to change emotionally in any exchange.

What safe settings do you create so that people welcome emotional discussions and share their own deeper feelings?

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset