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Couples

Do You Have Emotional Integrity?

Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of Integrity: The quality of being honest and fair; the state of being complete or whole; incorruptibility; soundness.

What, then, is Emotional Integrity? It's knowing what you feel and why, and being able and willing to share it with others, even when it’s painful for you.

So general integrity involves being honest with others. Emotional Integrity involves being honest with yourself: facing uncomfortable or painful truths inside yourself so that they don't harm the people you love. It’s more about your internal choices than your external ones. It’s the opposite of what we think of as denial. It’s the opposite of avoidance.

It is entirely possible to be a person of good integrity while also lacking Emotional Integrity. We human beings have a natural tendency to avoid difficult things, like painful feelings, conflict, problems, or our own weaknesses. It’s somewhat built into us to take the easier route. It’s not always clear to us that the easier route carries its own threat; a threat to our Emotional Integrity.


Couples

What Everyone Should Know About Emotional Affairs


As a couple’s therapist, I’ve worked with many people whose marriages are threatened by an affair. When it comes to affairs, there are two types: sexual and emotional. In my experience, these two types of affairs are different, and happen in different kinds of relationships.

While sexual affairs are often born of anger, emotional affairs are frequently a result of loneliness.

Before we go on to talk about emotional affairs, one large caveat: none of the reasons I’ll talk about in this article are meant to excuse or justify affairs in any way.

Always, without exception, the healthiest way to deal with marriage problems of any kind is directly with one’s spouse, not going outside the relationship. If the problems are not fixable, it is vital to work it through and to end the marriage before getting involved with another person, either physically or emotionally.

That said, here are the Five Reasons People Have Emotional Affairs:



Alexithymia

How to Tell Emotional Neglect From Emotional Abuse in a Relationship

Let’s face it, relationships are complicated. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me, “Is this normal?” about their relationship.

One of the most confusing gray areas is the difference between emotional abuse and Emotional Neglect. Since neither is physical, both are difficult to perceive at all. Even more difficult is telling them apart. Even mental health professionals sometimes struggle to define the difference. And sometimes Emotional Neglect can be so severe that it crosses over the line, and becomes abuse.

How good are you at differentiating between them? Read about this interaction between Marcy and Jeremy below. Identify each option as emotional abuse, Emotional Neglect, or neither. Then read on to see if you got them right.


Alexithymia

Are You an Invisible Hero?



The world is full of Invisible Heroes. People who are changing the world. People who do not realize how courageous they are. Quiet, unsung Emotional Warriors, who avoid the spotlight, even though they should have it.

How do I know this? I meet them every day.

The truth is you may be one yourself.

Maybe you’ve never saved anyone from a burning building, and maybe you never will. But still, you may be one of the most courageous among us.

How? By breaking through the bonds that were placed upon you in childhood, and looking your own weaknesses straight in the face. By seeing and owning and believing and working. By having the courage to sit with your pain.


Emotional Awareness

Are You Living Life on the Outside?

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): A parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs.

People who grew up with CEN end up feeling on the outside. It’s a sense of being alone, unable to join, separate, different. This feeling is compounded by the fact that the cause of it all, Childhood Emotional Neglect, doesn’t get talked about.

But in the last month I’ve noticed several news stories and articles that touch upon CEN, addressing it indirectly. They are all important and teach us something new. Here they are:

The Story: In the Boston Globe, a headline says, “For Neglected Children, Path to Recovery is Difficult.” The article is about a house in Massachusetts in which two children, one 3 years old and the other 5 months, had been hidden away from the world by their mother. No one, not even the children’s father, knew that they even existed. They had been traumatically physically neglected.



Alexithymia

7 Steps to Conquer a Painful Emotion

Having intense feelings is simply a part of being alive. No one gets a free pass.

But some feelings just keep coming back again and again, like an old nemesis who refuses to leave us alone. They can drive us to do unhealthy things or make poor choices. And they can make us supremely uncomfortable.

Last week’s article, Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion, was about how to sit with, and tolerate, an intense, painful feeling. This week, we’ll talk about how to resolve the feeling so that it actually goes away. Next week, I’ll walk you through an example of a real person as he goes through the steps and resolves a painful, repetitive feeling which has dogged him throughout his life.

Did you know that being able to tolerate a feeling and resolving it in the long-term are closely related? Here’s why:

In order to make an intense feeling go away, you have to be able to sit with it and tolerate it.

So here are the Steps for Resolving an Intense Emotion:


Alexithymia

Eight Step Method to Manage Intense Emotion

Recently I received this request from a reader:

What I have found lacking is books or articles on the process of revealing my feelings, the associated pain and some kind of plan to work through the feelings that would help DURING the healing process. Knowing the common steps of healing would be very encouraging and provide both patience and hope.

When you push your feelings down as a child in order to cope with an environment which cannot tolerate them (Childhood Emotional Neglect), you grow up lacking access to your emotions. A large part of the process of healing involves breaking down the wall between yourself and your feelings, and welcoming them.

But what if many of those old feelings are painful? What if the process is so painful that it’s too hard to let the wall down? What if you lack the skills needed to cope with the pain because no one ever taught you?

Managing painful feelings happens on Two Levels:

In the Moment: Coping
The Long-Term: Resolving



Alexithymia

Five Steps to Break Down Your Wall

From Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect
What does Empty feel like? What causes some people to feel it? In last week’s article, Not Sad Not Hurt Not Angry: Empty, we talked about how the Empty feeling is a result of having a wall inside of you which essentially blocks your emotions away.

Having a wall like this is functional in some ways. It can get you through your childhood by allowing you to cope with a family who is emotionally unavailable, ignoring, rejecting, devoid of love, or even abusive. But when you grow up and are living as an adult, you need to have access to your emotions.

When your emotions are walled off, you pay a heavy price.  You pay the price of deep, meaningful, supportive relationships, a feeling of purpose and direction in your life, and a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.


Alexithymia

Not Sad Not Hurt Not Angry: Empty

It’s like I have no emotions. I’m numb a lot of the time.

Something is missing in me.

I have no idea how I feel about anything.

Sometimes my chest feels hollow.

I feel empty inside.

What might seem like five unrelated statements is actually five different people describing the same feeling. Everyone says it differently because there is no standard word for it. But for these five people, and thousands more, it is the same feeling, caused by the same problem.

The one word that sums it up best:

Empty

Of all the different emotions that a person can have, Empty is one of the most uncomfortable. To feel Empty is to feel incomplete. It’s a feeling of something absent or missing inside of you, of being different, set apart, alone, lacking, numb.


Childhood Adversity

Childhood Emotional Neglect: Real People, Real Stories


Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotions as they raise you. This can leave you feeling misunderstood, empty and alone as you grow up, and through your adulthood.

Some of the most powerful words are those of real people sharing their stories. Here is a sampling of the real words of people who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

The CEN Childhood

The first 16 years of my life that my family lived together, I can't remember a single meaningful or real communication that occurred between any of us in that time.

My feelings and emotions were the last things on my parents’ minds. The best they could do was provide a home with basic amenities.

I honestly don't remember my parents much at all, though both are still alive and married today.

I never heard the phrase "I love you."  There was no one to talk to, no one who cared. I brought myself up in every sense of the word.

I remember the intense indescribable pain that I felt as a young child when my mother wouldn't acknowledge the simple child affection I wanted to give.