Face it men, more is being asked of us than ever before, especially in relationships. Not only do we feel pressure to succeed and find meaning in our professional endeavors while being dutiful to our families and friends, but we are also being asked to stretch ourselves and engage more deeply and emotionally with those closest to us.
The literal neurological gap between our achieving, executive functioning, which we rely on in the boardroom, and our emotional attuning capacity that is necessary for satisfying relationships and connection in the bedroom, is quite large. We are being asked by our world to bridge this gap and approach our lives with more integration. Some of us have been granted a greater propensity for this than others.
Particularly for men, this capacity was not typically nurtured. Efficiency over effectiveness was our ruling paradigm, and having to deal with the emotional world just hindered getting things done. However, the contrary is necessary in order to add “deep” to the “meaningful” way we and our partners desire our life to be. Integration is key, and having a greater capacity for logic and emotion expands our repertoire of being fully human.
Where and how do we start when our cells cringe at the thought of needing to emotionally process our relationship as soon as we come home from work?
Here are 3 ways to decrease this gap and increase your mastery of emotional intelligence.
1. Sensations over Story
Culturally we are too content-oriented. We listen to the words and take them at face value. We hear the thoughts in our mind and believe them.
I can’t believe her. She is so insensitive, can’t she see I am working my ass off. She is so ungrateful and never satisfied, how dare she question my love!
First step, when experiencing a noticeable emotion, focus inward (rather than toward the obvious other) and drop the story. Drop the ways your mind tries to create meaning of the situation and focus solely on the orb of sensations (or lack thereof) that is arising in your body. Trying to “figure out” what you are feeling, or blame others, runs you in circles. Just feel it, the raw sensations that arise when you are experiencing an emotion.
When starting to feel, consider these categories:
- Location: Where in your body does this emotion feel most conspicuous? Is it in your throat, chest, belly, neck, head? Pick one, focus there, and get curious.
- Size: Is the feeling small or large? Does it have a shape to it? Is it 3 three-dimensional or flat?
- Temperature: What is the temperature in this location? Is it hot, cold, warm, neutral, numb?
- Texture: Does this sensation have a texture? Bubbly? Rough? Smooth? Buzzing? Throbbing? Aching? Sharp? Soft? Hard?
- Intensity: Is the sensation loud or meek? Painful or pleasurable? Neutral, numb?
2. Increase Your Emotional Vocabulary
Communicating your emotions requires you to develop your emotional vernacular. This may sound elementary, as posters with emotional faces come to mind, though honestly, studying and expanding your vocabulary will help you more authentically describe your experience, thus expanding your emotional repertoire. A great free resource can be found here.
The broader your emotional vocabulary, the easier you will be able to identify what you are feeling and communicate it with nuance. Trust me, there is a lot more to experience than happy, sad, and angry.