Being emotionally open in a relationship is both rewarding and challenging. While it is deeply rewarding to experience positive emotions with loved ones, relationships inevitably involve negative feelings, such as anger, loss and sadness. But great comfort, personal growth and healing can be found in sharing difficult experiences. Being open to express both positive and negative emotions is central to a healthy relationship.
Mindfully Observe Yourself
The first step in being open emotionally is to know yourself. Take the time to observe your inner emotional landscape. The practice of self-observation is the heart of "mindfulness" meditation. According to the University of California Center for Mindfulness, one can become more present emotionally by "paying attention on purpose, deeply, and without judgment to whatever arises in the present moment." The more present and at peace you are with your feelings, the more you can comfortably share your inner world with loved ones.
Decide To Open Up
As you deepen your understanding of your emotional landscape, you can make peace with the reality that life involves ever-changing negative and positive emotions. From this place of balance, you are no longer afraid of fear. You are no longer resisting vulnerability or anger. From this place of growing inner acceptance, you open to the changing nature of emotions and gain the courage needed to open your heart in a relationship.
Create A Safe Space
Before you express difficult emotion, work with your partner to create -- and agree to -- basic ground rules. Helpful guidelines create a safe space to express both the heart's wounds and wisdom. For example, it is important to agree that you will talk about difficult emotions when well rested and able to focus without distraction. It is also important to speak calmly and slowly, according to Robert Leahy, director of the American Institute of Cognitive Therapy. Consciously create a calm space conducive for emotional expression.
You make yourself vulnerable as you share your feelings. You also exemplify courage. It takes a brave and open heart to express honest emotions. As you build upon your practice of mindfulness and respect the important ground rules for safe expression, you will find that this combination of courageous vulnerability brings an incredible vitality to your relationships. Of course, feelings change and emotions transform. Yet through the expression of these changing and powerful states of experience, you open yourself to be known on a deep level. This can only enrich your experience of love.
- Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions; James Pennebaker
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