Strong Feelings: The Raw and the Processed
Sometimes we have strong feelings that trouble us, and we know we need to work through them. It would be a natural tendency to talk to people close to us about that. However, this might not be the best approach.
Our go-to person
In a relationship, we are used to thinking of our partner as being the person that we are most open with. We want to tell them everything and to have them understand and help us. After all, closeness and honesty are some of the hallmarks of good relationships. For other people, we go to a best friend or a family member when we want to talk things through. However, in some circumstances, the people closest to us may not be the best people for us to talk to about our feelings. This can be for a variety of reasons.
For instance, the other person might be experiencing strong feelings incompatible with yours. For instance, you might be experiencing complicated feelings of attraction towards another person at work. You might be really happy in your relationship, but find yourself still being drawn to the other in a way that surprises, confuses but also enlivens you. In these situations it's reasonable he would go to someone close to try and sort these feelings out. However, it's unlikely that your partner (or someone very close your partner) is going to be open enough to help you with these feelings.
Processing our strong feelings
In these instances, it's best to work with somebody who is neutral to the situation; someone who won't take sides or be hurt or angry at the things that you're feeling. This is one of the reasons that people come to therapy. In therapy, people take their raw strong feelings and process them. It can take quite a while for us to work through all of the different aspects of a situation and then take these processed feelings to the people close to us. Sometimes, we can go through waves of emotion. A given situation might make is angry on one day, sad on another and guilty on a third day. To work through our feelings, we need to experience these. This is what we mean by processing our feelings.
To come back to our example again, rather than blurting out to your partner “I have these feelings of attraction for a person at work and I'm confused – I need your help!” it's much better to be able to say “For a while I was having these feelings of attraction for a person at work and I was confused, but I have sorted out”. No longer does your partner have to struggle to deal with their own distress and your request for support; they are much more likely to be able to have a more straightforward conversation with you.
Let me know if you found this interesting.