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Sorting Out Multiple Messages [Part 2 Have you become an Emotional Warehouse?]

Much of the conflicts in relationships happen because of the messages layered into ordinary words. We can’t make sense so we “absorb” the confusion, becoming an Emotional Warehouse for other people’s “stuff.”

It would be so much easier if everything that happened could be taken at face value.   You say “Hi” to someone and they don’t respond – and you shrug it off.

Or they say “Hi” but won’t make eye contract.

Or they turn away as they say it…

Or they have an angry tone in their voice.

That simple “Hi” then takes on multiple layers. 

Unless we are deeply secure, we get caught up in the unspoken communications.  We might find ourselves thinking, “What’s going on?”

Our bodies pick up the underlying, unspoken message.  

We ask, “Is something wrong?”  and the other person says, “Nothing is wrong.  Why would you think that?”  That’s the simple response.

There are those that might respond with a put down or a criticism.

These multiple messages, especially when unspoken or implied makes it hard to make sense of what’s going on.

How do you deal with the dissonance between what you “know” or feel, or sense, or pick up, and what the other person is saying? 

If you’re like many people you might get confused.  Or go blank.  Or get angry without being consciously aware of why.

At those times so you believe what you’re picking up?  Or do you believe what the person is saying?

Or do you have another version?

Trying to manage these “conflicting” messages creates what we call dissonance.

Psychologically we erect barriers filters to protect against this confusion.  We take in the spoken, overt words/messages and  at the same time we receive the subtexts loaded into tone of voice, body posture, emotional overlays.

Most of this communication happens unconsciously.

Dis-entangling ourselves from these sub-conversations is what happens when we’re ruminating, have revenge fantasies, feel anxiety, numb out, or deaden ourselves.

Exercise:  How much of it is yours?

  1. Think of a situation where you were ruminating or feeling charged about someone or something.  See if you can imagine that charge as a color or shape and put it outside of yourself.
  2. When you have a bit of space feel what happens in your body now.
  3. How much of the charge is yours?
  4. How much is it the other person’s?  10%?  35%? 70%

We think that ruminating or worrying protects us but the opposite is true.

This emotional telepathy, especially when unconscious creates stress and overloads your nervous system which only makes us more permeable to receiving more broadcasts.

What we try to do is shut things down, suppress emotions.

Trying not to be infected by the overwhelm roiling inside us.

The solution

Is not to be more protected and fortified like castles in medieval times but rather to be able to stay inside your own skin, aware of your experience and who you are so you don’t get caught as much in the crossfire of other people’s experience.

Instead of becoming hard-hearted you actually become more aware, more compassionate and more able to tolerate the spectrum of life. 

It’s imperative to learn the skills of attuning to your own body/mind/heart rhythm and use that as your tuning fork, your guide through the often confusing networks of people/places/life situations.

Instead of shutting your heart or narrowing your emotional world it’s possible to learn to be grounded and centered in yourself, open to all parts of yourself.

Exercise  Practice coming into balance

  1. Hand on heart
  2. Breathe into heart.
  3. Imagine your heart like a flower opening in slow motion as you breathe in.
  4. As your breath moves in bring it into your heart and then through your heart to your back between your shoulder blades. Let your breath swirl around there.
  5. Breath out, grounding your energy in your feet and further into the earth
  6. Once you have the rhythm of that, find one thing you appreciate or feel grateful for – maybe the capacity of your ears to hear this, the technology that delivers this message to you, your ability to focus, be curious, your imagination that can bring images, thoughts, together, some place and time when you felt good
  7. Hold that feeling as you breath into your heart all the way into your ack and ground through your feet.
Sorting Out Multiple Messages [Part 2 Have you become an Emotional Warehouse?]


Deirdre Fay, LICSW, has decades of experience exploring the intersection of trauma, attachment, yoga and meditation, teaches “a radically positive approach to healing trauma.”  An international speaker and workshop leader, Deirdre has written Becoming Safely Embodied (Morgan James, in press), Attachment-Based Yoga & Meditation for Trauma Recovery (W.W. Norton, 2017),  co-author of Attachment Disturbances for Adults (W.W. Norton, 2016) as well as the co-author of chapters in Neurobiological Treatments of Traumatic Dissociation.  A former supervisor at The Trauma Center, trainer for Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute from 2000–2008, she’s also certified in Internal Family Therapy, qualified trainer in Mindful Self-Compassion, former Board member of the New England Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation which add depth and understanding to these practices. Deirdre is a respected international teacher and mentor integrating trauma, attachment, yoga, and working safely with the body. Visit her website to get a FREE Safe Guide to Healing Trauma.

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APA Reference
, . (2020). Sorting Out Multiple Messages [Part 2 Have you become an Emotional Warehouse?]. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jun 2020
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