Hey guys, welcome back! Ok so clearly you’ve seen the title of this podcast and you were intrigued. I find this topic very intriguing too. Not only is it intriguing, it is the secret to making real progress in your emotional life and in your marriage.
So really think about the title. I didn’t call it “Your thoughts and feelings,” I called it “your thoughts and feelings about your thoughts and feelings.” Because that, my friends, is what constitutes your relationship with yourself. Which then reflects your relationship with your partner. So it is all encompassing. Let’s break it down.
There are two kinds of emotions – which by the way is the same as feelings. I use those terms interchangeably. There are two kinds of emotions – clean emotions and dirty emotions. By clean I mean cleansing. They cleanse you, you move through them and you feel better on the other side. They are emotions that can be processed. They are necessary and good, even if they don’t feel good. Examples of clean emotions would be sadness, disappointment, hurt and fear.
Then there are dirty emotions. These are the emotions that we layer on top of the clean emotions. The reason they are problematic is because they keep us from processing the cleansing pain that will move us through the problem and into solution. They keep us stuck. They distract us from being in touch with our deeper, clean pain. Examples of dirty pain are shame, self-judgment, judgment of others, blame, victimhood, and denial.
So, for example, lets say you and your partner get into a fight and you’re feeling really hurt and sad about it. But it wasn’t a huge fight so you tell yourself you SHOULDN’T be feeling that way. Ok always look for the should and shouldn’ts – that’s your sign that you are in dirty pain. You find yourself thinking things like, “I should be stronger than this” or “I shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it.” Then you take it one step further and wonder what’s wrong with you that you can’t let things go the way your partner can. OR the way your best friend can with her husband.
Now, you are stuck in dirty pain. You are judging yourself, feeling some shame, and stifling your clean pain. What you really need is to work through the hurt and sadness you are feeling so that you can process it and move on. But you get distracted with the dirty pain and never make it to the clean pain.
Now one little incident like this is no big deal but incidents like these over time add up and equal a woman who is not in touch with her emotions, definitely not talking about her emotions, and feeling disconnected from her partner.
People pleasers especially deal with this. They want to please the other person and are willing to do that at their own emotional expense. They push down their truth. Their thoughts, feelings, desires, and needs.. just to keep the peace. And don’t worry people pleasers, next week I have a fabulous guest coming on who is an expert in people pleasing within relationships… so stay tuned for that!
I’ll give you a very vulnerable and extreme example from my own marriage. Before I found out about the big affair my husband was having, I found out about similar behavior on a smaller scale. He was having… shall we say… spicy conversations online with women. When I found this on his phone, our baby was 6 weeks old and I couldn’t handle the idea of us falling apart at that point.
So, I ignored my clean pain of hurt, fear, and betrayal and traded them in for all the shoulds. I should be forgiving, I should be spiritual, I should do everything in my power to make sure my son has an intact home. Should should should. Looking back, I have a visceral reaction to how much I ignored what was true for me. The denial was THICK.
So, what’s the answer? Radical Acceptance. Radical acceptance of exactly how you are feeling. There is never anything wrong with how you’re feeling. The reason this episode is called Your Thoughts and Feelings about Your Thoughts and Feelings is because your actual thoughts and feelings are never the problem. It is your resistance to them that creates problems. Resistance can be ignoring them like I did but it can also be acting them out instead of talking them out.
Many people resist their emotions by eating, drinking, drugging, sexing, shopping, exercising, the list goes on and on. None of these activities are necessarily bad depending on your lifestyle, but when they are your tool of denial, the thing you turn to when what you really need is to process your emotions, to accept yourself in your current experience, to honor your truth.
And that is exactly what Radical Acceptance is. You radically accept exactly what you are thinking and feeling. It doesn’t matter if you consider it to be an appropriate reaction or not. If its true for you, then it needs to be honored. Let me say that again. Whatever you are feeling is ok. If its what’s true for you then that’s how you know its ok.
Because the alternative to radical acceptance is self-abandonment. That’s the theme of what I did in my marriage. I abandoned myself by not allowing my actual emotions to surface. I pushed them down with the shoulds. I used my spirituality against myself and told myself I should forgive when deep down I was not feeling forgiving at all. And as a result, some time later when I couldn’t stifle anything anymore, I went into rage and verbally abused him. Not very spiritual.
Always give yourself the gift of feeling your emotions in real time. So how the hell do we do that? I mean if you’ve been spending ten years eating chocolate every time a difficult emotions comes up then you are probably disconnected from your partner and battling a sugar addiction. So how do we make that switch.
What I do with my clients is I have them make incremental changes? The first step is to become aware when you are trying to distract from or stifle an emotion. Just notice it. Eat the chocolate but say out loud “I am eating this chocolate because I don’t want to fully feel the stress I am currently experiencing.”
After some time sitting in awareness, the next step is to intercept the action. So if you’re feeling really hurt or sad and you find yourself running to that chocolate or that wine or that vape pen or that whatever… take a minute before you do, sit down and write how you’re feeling. Then go eat or smoke or do whatever you wanted to do. But first intercept and write down what’s happening for you.
I won’t go into the rest of the process here because I like to keep these episodes short but you’ve got the first couple of steps. Shoot me an email if you want the rest of it.
Ok so to sum up, your opinion about how you’re thinking and feeling is the ticket to your emotional health. If you are judging yourself for how you feel, chances are you won’t share it with your partner. If you are stuck in the shame/blame cycle and not looking at your sadness, you will act out on the wrong emotion and get nowhere in your marriage.
I cannot stress to you how important this concept is. Radical acceptance. Accept every single part of you. That doesn’t mean you can’t work on changing it, you absolutely can. But humans do not make positive changes from negative emotions, they make positive changes from positive emotions. Your shame will never lead to positive change, at least not permanently. Your judgment of yourself or of your partner will never lead you to more connection.
It is when you are raw and open with what’s really going on with you, while giving yourself lots of love and compassion for how you feel, that you will be able to access the emotions you need to make changes. Motivation, determination, curiosity, vulnerability – these are the emotions that move the needle. The dirty pain keeps you stuck.