BY: Troy Murphy | January 2012 (edited August 2018)
Relationships, when healthy, provide a connection. We share emotions with respect and support. This vulnerability is the putty from which trust is shaped, formed and hardened.
We can’t go at this alone. Even though, we are afraid of the crippling emotions tangled and knotted to our past relationships, we must find connections. We may need help if past explorations into intimacy have left us bruised and damaged; but the answer is not protected loneliness. We must navigate the hidden trails of love, learn to share emotions, and discover the healing blessings of trust.
Life is complex, many factors combine to influence (and sometimes dictate), the unfolding of the end. When pain overwhelms, we dutifully search for a cause; we know with a cause, we can find a solution. But where do we look? When hurt, we immediately attend to the obvious, plucking the thorn that is puncturing tender flesh. Emotional pains, like a thorn, demand attention, but typically the cause is significantly more complex. We can blame, thinking we have identified a cause, attacking the most salient feature surrounding the emotions. But with complexity, what appears obvious is drawn from biased observation; we must examine a little more, digging a little deeper.
Outside forces impact emotions. Our biological system has evolved to dynamically interact with experience. Our systems experience, feel and then respond. Our emotional systems are not isolated from others; but connected, adapting, responding and growing. Neurons through synaptic connections. While our brains are not physically tethered to the brains, expressions, words and movements communicate, starting a cascade of material reactions.
We are emotionally tied to others; the more intimate the connection, the more significant the other sways the emotions. Relationships, necessary for stability, intensify biological responses; we carefully monitor interactions, calculating deeper meanings, scrutinizing possible betrayals. We skeptically examine actions for sneaky hidden agendas, thinking if we discover the plot, we can avoid the pain. But discoveries are often fictions built on scraps of evidence, proving nothing. But the fictions are powerful; our emotions alert to the lie as strongly as they do to the facts.
Regions of our brains dedicated to reading non-verbal communication, write the unspoken story and signal for a response. Harmonious relationships amazingly detect each other’s emotions, reading expressions, knowing triggers, and cautiously protecting each other from overwhelming emotions. The relationship strengthens through shared felt experience of sadness, anger, joy, desire, and even disappointment.
"Harmonious relationships amazingly detect each other’s emotions, reading expressions, knowing triggers, and cautiously protecting each other from overwhelming emotions."
Willingness to share emotions—both positive and negative—creates vulnerability; we no longer live on a narcissistic island of self. Emotions, in these relationships, expand beyond the borders of our person; we feel excitement, joys, sorrows and hurt stemming from another person’s experience.
We enjoy a productive and joyful day at work; but when at home must absorb and comfort a partner’s emotions ignited by a troublesome and hurtful day. Our fleeting joy must pause to share the pain bleeding from our partner. If past relationships (parents, lovers and friends) was unwelcoming to our emotions, then the vulnerability of shared emotions is threatening. Sometimes those responsible to lift and support, miserably fail. Their errors (hand-me-downs from their history) stitch faulty threads into our souls, leaving holes where consistency should live. Betrayed trust weakens willingness to share with another. When vulnerability is not honored, but bruised by disloyalty or manipulated for gain, we become protective, careful to expose weakness, and scrutinizing over possible attacks.
We adapt; we recover because we are strong. But with recovery, we also protect, closing openness in exchange for security. A protective wall is a natural consequence of disloyalty and cruel exploitation of vulnerability. Deep wounds stand as a reminder, demanding protection for the tender healings in the heart. This is a fool’s game. The more guarded; the lonelier and more isolated we become. We need others. We can carefully step onto the slippery pavement without falling. We must be wise; but also, willing to explore and be explored.
A declaration of independence—no longer vulnerable—doesn’t disentangle emotions from relationships. We still feel because we are biologically programmed this way. Our minds—masters of deception—may block conscious recognition of anxieties and fears (chemicals still flow). Our conceptual processing of feelings may have cleverly adjusted to protect. Our closed, protective reactions default to unfeeling logical or any other deflecting response that denies the emotional needs of connection.
We may masterfully explain emotion, understanding their purpose, but underneath the fancy words and the well-written prose, the liveliness of relationships still overwhelms and the professional struggles and protects. Their emotions are the hand inside the puppet, directing behavior while hiding behind a charade of rationality. When we fail to recognize the dulling of feeling, we fail to achieve the sought freedom. Blindness to the underlying guides of emotion create a dangerous ignorance. The unrecognized emotions continue to impose their will on behaviors—angry retaliations, frustrations, and cleaver passive-aggressive slights; but without protections from self-disciplined corrections.
In our scrutinizing examination of cause, we must sift through feelings rumbling through our bodies, pushing for action. Emotions—biological in construction, social in programming—must be mindfully pulled to the surface, accepted and then evaluated for constructiveness. Allowing emotions to safely exist but balancing the protective learned anxieties with the necessity of vulnerabilities in the present. This is a difficult path to blaze, entering frightening territory of openness and shared emotions, but our courage is rewarded with new opportunities for trust. The strengthening connections build the foundation essential for healing, stopping the flow of destruction from the gashing wounds from neglect and abuse.