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Relationship repair - don't let this phrase get in the way

Updated: 2 days ago


couple holding hands
“I can’t make you feel anything. That’s your issue”.

I cringe a bit now as I type those words, remembering how unknowingly naive I was early in my personal growth. And I completely blew connection with my husband a number of times by saying this. Oooft.


Yet today, this attitude still runs rampant as mindset practitioners continue confuse emotional detachment with mental objectivity, and are encouraged to develop their intellect at the expense of their emotions (which is a coping strategy, not a long-term solution). I’m not sure they understand that once our emotional state is actually refined, differentiated and developed, detaching from it or ‘coping’ through intellectual escapism isn't even be necessary. But unfortunately, cognitive bypassing, reframing and escaping into our intellect is becoming a popular coping strategy that’s unknowingly killing our relationships.


That may have read like a punch in the gut for some people. The language around human emotional attachment, mental or cognitive detachment and the quest to more equally develop both sides our brain….remains confusing and mistakenly intertwined.


As example, it’s interesting to me to see how some people who market mindset programs will embrace the concept of being able to influence another human’s emotions, but then are quick to dismiss it when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Many sales approaches intentionally employ emotional strategies that foster customer relationships with the intent of influencing a future purchase. Yet, some of these same folks reflexively jump on the "I can’t make someone else feel something” bandwagon, whenever they find themselves in an interpersonal pinch.


learning from my past


I was actually guilty of occasionally using this phrase when I was first learning how my brain works and how our individual mental associations can amplify or dampen our emotional response.


But although it reflected my new intellectual knowledge, I was still early in my emotional development. So saying that phrase aloud to someone I deeply cared for, was an (unrecognized at the time) dismissive attempt to protect myself from shame or embarassment — feelings that were too intense in my body at the time, for me to sit through.


We only try to escape our emotions when they are under-developed, overly intense and highly uncomfortable.

Someone may argue that the quote at the top of this post is actually neuro-technically factual. Sure, our own learned associations do contribute immensely to how our emotions activate. And I do agree that we can’t be 100% responsible for what someone else is feels. But we are also humans that are designed to mirror each other and to use emotion to connect with each other. In other words, we’re neuro-physiologically designed to emotionally commune. Denying it doesn’t make it go away.


Yet when our my own emotional system was still over-active, the discomfort of the sensation that went along with experiences like ‘shame’ or ‘embarassment’ (say, if I unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings) was intense. So one of my coping strategies at the time was to reframe it and offload that discomfort through some casual, dismissive statement like the one above.

In other words, I "escaped" into my intellect.


Later, as I learned more and self-applied more, and my emotional state began to sustainably down-shift and differentiate…I found that I didn’t need to ‘cope’ as much in these relationally ineffective ways. The discomfort of shame or embarrassment about simply making a human mistake became so much more bearable.


And these days, the inter-personal connection that results from acknowledging my part in a hurtful interaction…. far outweighs any momentary emotional discomfort that goes with it.


Expanding beyond cognitive detachment


I sometimes wonder if this is an area that some ‘mindset’ practitioners could expand in — some practitioners stop learning about human relationships once they learn a brain fact they can use to relieve their own emotional conflict.


Yet intellectual rationalization doesn’t develop the nervous system in a way that benefits interpersonal relationships.

We’re not designed to be uncaring, fact-only, emotionless ‘robots ’ protected by an attitude of ‘I’m only responsible for myself’. And I understand that many of us tend to 'swing wide' as we heal from unhealthy relationships, going from co-dependence to hyper-independence in an attempt to break free of our past. But neither extreme is helpful long-term. Yes, we are responsible for ourselves AND… we can also be sensitive and accept that our actions or words do have an emotional impact on others.


What I’m saying is it’s not an “either-or” thing. Like many other things in life, it’s a mix of both.



A phrase that ruins relationships

Learning to use our brain as a whole


We each play a part in how intensely our own emotions activate and …. we also impact each other’s emotions as well. That emotional influence is what connects us, bonds us and why we inspire each other.


And it doesn’t hurt as badly to make a relational mistake once you get your head free of unhelpful thoughts and your system running in more moderate and relevant ways.

Sure, it takes work to do it. But it’s far better than shirking complete responsibility for our emotional impact on each other. And it’s worth it for the benefits we gain in the relational connection that results.


Developing our emotional state and learning those interpersonal relationship skills that we didn’t learn as kids… yah, it’s hard. And it is sometimes complex. But it’s not always as complicated as we think it is.


You can totally do this.


I’m in your corner.

Jen


 

The Human Infusion Project is a grassroots, not-for-profit personal development platform that draws from the combined fields of modern brain science, applied psychology and spiritual philosophy. Our mission aims to augment and supplement the work of professional practitioners in simplified, practical ways, and to give clients an affordable home program they can use in between sessions. 100% of all online class profit funds the Wellness Assistance Grant. If financial constraints limit your participation, please contact me and we'll work something out.











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