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Episode 37 - That One Bad Emotion

Episode 37 Overview

This week we're talking about negative emotions in your marriage. It is so common for newlyweds to feel extremely vulnerable and surprised at the number of negative emotions they may be experiencing in their marriages. The trouble with anger, resentment, frustration, and any negative feeling isn't the feeling itself--its the way we react to it. In this episode, we review our understanding of how emotions work, how to have an authentic emotional life (and how it's not all about "feeling all the feels"), and how to allow negative emotions. Many times, we resist negative emotions either by pushing it away with distractions or by switching to a more comfortable emotion like anger or disappointment. I'll take you through this process and give you an exercise to apply this work to your own marriage.

(The thought work here is based on the Self-Coaching Model by Brooke Castillo.)

Check out more podcast episodes and sign up for my free online class at


00:01 Episode 37, That one bad emotion.

00:18 Welcome to the First Year Married Podcast where we get real about building the marriage of your dreams. I'm Marriage Coach, Kayla Levin and I take newly married and engaged women from anxious and insecure to confident and connected through practical tips, real life inspiration and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

00:39 Hey ladies, welcome back. So good to have you here. We are in our last week before school starts and, Oh my goodness, I will be so happy to be back to structure and routine. I'm really glad to have this time but I know that my whole family totally thrives on more structure and more routine. And while I don't love the idea of having to really get up from my alarm clock right away, it's time. It's time. So I hope you are all doing well. If you have kids that they're back in school, if the transition's gone well, they're on the way, hang in there. And if you don't have kids and school's not on the radar and this is just another season, you know what? You get to make of it whatever you want.

01:28 Hopefully you can find that still access, that energy that, I feel like that back to school energy sits with you after all those years of being at school. So if there's something that you want to focus on here in these last few months of the year, is there something that you want to start getting into place? I think it's a fun time of year. I really like it.

01:49 I wanted to talk to you a little bit more today about how our emotions work and specifically what happens when we're resisting our emotions. Because I think this is something that comes up a lot for newlyweds and it's also something that there's a lot of confusion about. And then once we know those two things, we're going to play with these ideas a little bit, apply them to our marriages and see how it can help us.

02:11 So going back to something I had spoken about in an earlier episode is that Aristotle spoke about this idea of emotional catharsis. What is that? That's when you're watching a play in his time or in our time a movie or reading a book and as the character is experiencing whatever horrible thing is going on in the play, you are now accessing emotions in a very real and deep way and it's this purging of all the pent up emotion that now you can have because it's safe to experience it projected onto somebody else.

02:47 So, I was very into this idea. I was really convinced for a long time that this was really the key. This was the point. The point was that if we had our emotions bottled up, we couldn't possibly be authentic. We had to really know what our feelings were. We had to really get in touch with our feelings. We had to own them, and that was the way to be honest and real and to really show up in the world and it was so important and that this is... This was the key. This is really what I felt was so, so important. Think about when you're reading a book. I was just reading a ridiculous fiction novel and over the course of this story, there's heartbreaking point where you're just completely feeling for the character. And at first I was like, wow, this is maybe this is like empathy, right?

03:39 You can really experience what even though it's a fictional character or what the character's going through and you can think it through. And I thought about it, I realize it's really a little bit more direct than that. What's really happening is that in a novel, you have access to the inner world and the thoughts of the characters. So as the characters are going through their scenario, you're not only seeing what's happening, but you have a clear picture of exactly how they're experiencing it. And this is the really interesting thing about empathy because in the real world we don't have that. And I'm sure you've experienced this. I feel like this happens to me constantly. But I'm sure you've experienced that something happens to you and then people are commiserating with you or empathizing with you, but they're totally off track about how you feel about it.

04:29 And it's the weirdest feeling and you feel very disconnected. They feel like you must feel terrible and you're like, no, actually I'm okay or, whatever it is. And I don't know. For me the feeling is always like, wait, stop putting your emotions in me and stop putting your thoughts on me. Like I'm going to think and feel how I want to feel. That's the issue with empathy between people because we don't have that inner dialogue written out on a page in front of us. So there's no way for us to know exactly what somebody else is feeling or thinking unless they tell us. And when we're reading a book, you do have that inner working. So what happens? So because you're identifying with the characters, you share their thoughts. And what do we know about thoughts? Thoughts trigger feelings, right?

05:16 If you have a certain thought, you're going to feel a certain way. In the same scenario, a different thought will make you feel a different way. And it's really just which thought happens, which one you attached to or which one you believe. And we don't have any of that. When we're reading a book, you just get the thoughts that the character has and then you just go straight into the emotion. So if people are a little bit more complicated in real life, thank goodness, we have this process and this is kind of the second level of my investigation into what authenticity and self-awareness was all about, was realizing that you can fool yourself with your emotions.

05:59 You can convince yourself that something is tragic. You can get completely lost in emotion. You can make some things so unjust and unfair that you're nonfunctional. You can dive and dig your heels into any emotion and you don't necessarily need to. And I think because I was coming from a place of feeling like strong emotions were somehow more authentic, that you really had to pay attention to strong emotions. And I had a tendency to do that. All of us tend to listen to the emotions that hit us in the gut more than the ones that don't affect us so viscerally. And it's so important for us to realize that when we have a strong emotion, it is just a response to a strong thought. And maybe some of us are just better at coming up with more dramatic thoughts. Maybe that's all it is.

06:53 The real self awareness and authenticity doesn't come from diving into our feelings and feeling our feelings. It comes from knowing where those feelings are coming from and then having the ability to step back and realize that those thoughts that are running through your head are not you. They're just something happening in your head and you are the one in the driver's seat looking at those thoughts passing by, deciding which ones are a bus you want to get on and which ones you're just going to let go. Deciding which ones you want to attach yourself to and which ones are not worth the time or the energy even if they do hit you in the gut, even if they are true to you and you do believe that they're true.

07:34 It's not a matter of deceiving ourselves. It's not a matter of positive mantras, which do seem to work for some people. It's a matter of saying there are so many thoughts that you think over the course of the day, make sure you're choosing the ones that are going to get you where you want to go. And that doesn't mean everything is rosy and everything is perfect and I can do whatever I want and the money's all coming. It's just going to flood in. To me, those are a little too like Juju out there for my personality. If they work for you, great.

08:11 But having that awareness of saying, wait, wait, wait. So all these like deep emotions, all these intense emotions that I'm having, Yeah, I need to investigate, but I'm not investigating from a place of what am I feeling? I'm more investigating from a place of what do I believe to be true? What do I believe to be important and who do I want to be? So emotions are coming from your thoughts. So we need to step back and look at the thoughts. And very often emotions, the thoughts that seem to be the most true to us are really beliefs, which is just a thought you've been having over and over and over for a very long time.

08:48 It's a thought that's so automatic that that neural pathway, it's just instant. The second you see the number on the scale, it means fat. There's no question about that number. Or the second that you are asked to speak in front of an audience, it's, I can't do that. I'm not good at that. Whatever the thing is where it's like, this isn't even a conscious thought, it's just, this is the reality. I don't know how to speak in front of people. People have this a lot with personality things, Oh, but I'm an introvert. Oh, I'm an extrovert. Oh, I have this love language, or, I'm whatever, what Enneagram. Whatever the thing is that you are. And it's like, Oh, well that's just who I am. That's just what I am.

09:24 Okay, those are thoughts you've had a lot of times. And so now they've become a belief. But everything that's coming from that is a little bit of a automatic chain. I'm not liking what's coming from the thought. Let's say for instance, I'm an introvert. That's not getting you where you want to go. Or I'm not good at public speaking. I've never been able to speak in public and that's not getting you the result that you want, then those beliefs can be a little bit harder to challenge because you've had them for so long. But know that a belief is really just a thought. It's just a little bit... It's like a thought in bold, maybe underlined.

10:04 The piece I really want to get into today is what happens when we have that emotion. Okay, so you have a thought or a belief and it's going to trigger a feeling. So what happens? So let's say my husband goes out without telling me and I was expecting us to be spending time together and now he's just not there. And I have this thought that he doesn't really care enough to want to spend time with me. So that's going to create a horrible feeling, right? That will be very crushing. That'd be very hurtful, painful, maybe feel rejected.

10:48 So what's going to happen when a person is feeling hurt and rejected? There's a couple of different things that they can do. One is they can try and get rid of the feeling. And this is what most of us do automatically. And it's a very understandable human response. Feeling hurt and rejected, nobody wants to feel hurt and rejected. What things make us feel less hurt and rejected? Okay, well maybe it's going on social media because then I feel connected to other people. Maybe it's eating something because then I feel like I'm treating myself. Maybe it's shopping. What is the thing that I do that gives me that rush that's going to cover up or push away that emotion that I don't want?

11:30 Another thing that will happen a lot is that we will jump to a new thought. So, well he doesn't want to spend time with me, that hurts too much, I'm going to go to what a jerk. I've always known this about him. He's not that considerate. Now I'm angry. For most of us angry is much more comfortable than hurt and rejected. So now we're in a place that we feel a little bit more powerful and a little bit more in control and we're going to stay there because angry feels a lot better. And then what are we going to do from angry? While we might go yell at him or we might bad mouth him to someone or we might just in a huff go to bed or go downstairs and stay up late and not spend time with him when he gets back. Whatever we're doing now we're doing it, that's more acting out the anger as opposed to avoiding the anger. Now I'm trying to get it out of my system by acting on it.

12:19 So the first one is that we try and avoid the emotion. The second one is we switch to a different thought because that thoughts too painful. I just want to point this one out because I see this one happening a lot. I see a lot of women, it's very hard to be a newlywed sometimes. And I think for a lot of us, the hardest part is the vulnerability that we feel. It's an extremely vulnerable relationship. And vulnerability is not something that we are naturally good at. And so when we're in a situation where we're given a feeling, when we have a thought that creates a feeling of vulnerability or rejection or hurt or insults, personal, there's something wrong with me, any of those things, we very quickly try and switch it to a different thought. Which is usually one that's more accusatory about him. So just notice that.

13:14 The last one we have, which is generally the most ideal, is you have a thought and then it creates a feeling. So let's say she's feeling hurt and rejected. So what if she just decided that she's going to be hurt and rejected right now? I know this sounds crazy. But what if she just decided that whatever he did and she had this thought and maybe she even has the awareness right now to think, okay, I know it's just because I'm thinking that, that that's what that means and whatever. But I really do feel that way and it really did hurt my feelings.

13:50 So now where can she go from a place of being hurt and rejected? Not trying to get rid of it, right? Not rushing for the refrigerator or the freezer. Not rushing for a distraction, but just feeling it and just noticing, Oh my gosh, this is what hurt feels like. I feel it like in my chest and it's almost, I feel like I lose my breath a little bit and I want to cry and I want to go to sleep and this is how I feel. Okay. So what I want to offer to you are two things. One is that this is a more authentic place to be than rushing to anger. In this situation, anger is really just a coverup. Anger is, I would say to myself, but not to you a cop out.

14:42 It's trying to avoid something that's too uncomfortable to deal with. But if we're willing to say, okay, when I'm hurt, I'm going to be hurt and here are a couple of things that can happen. One, which I would highly recommend, and this would really only go for a relatively healthy relationship as always, is from a place of feeling authentically hurt and rejected she can say to him, wow, that really hurt. In most cases, if he's not feeling manipulated, if this isn't something that's a sore subject between them, he'll be receptive to that. He'll be surprised maybe or want to fix it or want to explain or understand it better. From a place of feeling hurt and rejected, she can ask herself, do I believe that if we spend time with our friends, in exactly whatever scenario happened tonight, do I believe that that is a reflection of how we feel about each other?

15:54 Now, she might not be able to do that immediately. But I think that when we step back from, here's how I'm feeling about my relationship to what just happened, and then is this really a rule that I believe in for our relationship that if we go out with our friends and that's what that means? Or, it's how I'm taking it right now, but I don't really believe that to be true. That's a way to step back into that driver's seat and say, okay, here's a thought that just caused this total train wreck emotionally, but do I really believe that thought even if I'm still experiencing that emotion? Because when I'm not running away from it, then I can actually be there and I can come back to a conscious experience of what's happening.

16:38 I want you to consider that for most of us, there's one major negative emotion that we experience in each relationship, specifically in our marriages. It might be anger, resentment, frustration. A lot of what that emotion is is going to be the way that you generally interpret things. So when things happen not according to plan, some people are more likely to jump to hurt and some people are more likely to jump to annoyance. And that's really going to be based on what's the most common reaction for you. So I want you to try to identify, and don't worry too much about getting this perfect, but just off the top of your head, what do you think is probably the most common negative emotion that you experience in your marriage?

17:33 So the first question I want you to ask yourself about that is, is it an emotion that you're jumping to because of an emotion you don't want to be dealing with? Meaning, if it's anger or annoyance, is it actually hurt or is it really just anger and annoyance? It might be either one. So is it a cover up emotion or is it really that is the emotion you're experiencing? And then taking that emotion and articulating what it is. I want you to question what if you signed up for it and you could say for the rest of your marriage, you could say for a year, you could say for the next six weeks. I don't care. So let's say it's resentment. What if you signed up for resentment?

18:21 What if you said, I don't know if I can do resentment forever but I could for sure do resentment for the next three months. If I have resentment in my marriage, I'm going to learn about it. I'm going to learn how it feels for me. I'm going to learn what thoughts create it. I'm going to learn what I want to do when I'm feeling resentful and I'm just going to notice this feeling. I'm all in for resentment. So instead of fighting it away or denying it, I shouldn't have to feel resentful. I shouldn't be dealing with this. He shouldn't be doing that and living in this place of denial, which is just totally nonproductive for anyone that I've spoken to. I'm going to be sad. Okay, things are going to happen and I'm going to have thoughts and I'm going to feel resentful and what if I just allow it? I'm going to allow it. I'm not going to react to it. It's just going to be there and then I'm going to go on with my day and I will just bring resentment along with me as long as it wants to stay.

19:31 After doing that for a period of time, you'll start to notice that you can see what thoughts are creating that resentment. You might get to a place where you can start to question those thoughts. But what I want you to start with is to know that most of us have in most of our relationships some negative emotion and it's usually the same one over and over. Now, granted, there's other ones too. I'm not trying to say it's only going to be one and if there's more than one, there's something wrong. There's going to be other ones too. But if you were to just grab that one major one and say, what if I'm just okay with that? I'm not going to panic if this relationship causes frustration or annoyance for me. I'm going to say like, yeah, I know. Let's say that even as he proposed to you, you were told just so that you know, probably about 40% of the time you're going to be annoyed. I wish we got that. Wouldn't that be great if we got that?

20:30 But the thing is that about half the time we're going to be experiencing negative emotion and we tend to just go to the one that's the most comfortable for us. We're just going to keep going to that one until we do the work on it. And you might find that whatever that negative emotion is, you might also have it with your mother or your sister or your boss or your sister in law. Because it's like our Teddy bear negative emotion. Like it's the one most comfortable to go to. The thoughts of the most, you know, whether it's blaming the person or being annoyed with the person or being hurt and feeling like a victim. Whatever it is, it's the most comfortable place for us to go when things are not going according to plan.

21:11 So I want to encourage you to research this emotion for yourself. I want to encourage you not to fight it, not to react against it, and not to replace the thought immediately. I want to encourage you to do an investigation of allowing it. Study it as if you had to write an essay on what resentment feels like or whatever your emotion is. This is what it feels like. This is how I would describe it. This is where it is in my body. If you had to do that, what would that sound like? What would that look like? What happens for you when you are allowing that emotion? How are you showing up when instead of fighting it, you're just allowing it and then you're going about your life as planned? And eventually we can talk about how you examine those thoughts and you question those thoughts and you try new thoughts on.

22:01 I want to have you guys start here. Let me know how it goes. A little bit of an experimental one. I don't know how you guys are going to take it up. You're like, wait, you're supposed to take away all my bad emotions. I hope you don't think that because I'm going to only disappoint you. We want to be more mindful about our negative emotions, but they're not going to disappear. That's part of the work that we're here to do. And thank goodness our marriages give us an opportunity to do so much self work and so much self-growth and the truth is, wherever you go, there you are.

22:34 Whatever your knee jerk reaction, negative emotion is, it's going to be showing up in your marriage most likely, but it's also going to show up in other places. Which means that when you have those fleeting thoughts of this was the wrong marriage or I shouldn't have married him or, we should just end it now because it's so difficult, I just want you to know that if it's because of an emotion, don't expect that changing the circumstance of your marriage is going to change the emotional experience that you're having. Because you will take the same emotion and the same thought patterns and you will just take them with you to whatever you do next. That's not to say that no one should ever end their marriages but this would not be the reason why.

23:19 All right ladies, I will see you back here next week. It has been wonderful hearing from you all. I hope you continue to connect with me. For those of you who haven't had a chance yet to check out the free class on my website, I just want to invite you to do that. It is probably, I think it's less than 30 minutes. I think it's a 25 minute video. It goes through how to build a model for yourself, how to use the model, it's sort of a very basic structure of how to do it. But specifically for women who are newly married or even if you're further on but specifically applying it to your marriage. And I would love to have you over there. You will also get added to the Monday Minute, which is my weekly email, which is just a short update on what the week's podcast is about and a little bit of inspiration to take into your week. And I would love to have you join us.

24:09 We have an amazing community of women who are focused on using their marriages to develop themselves, to push themselves, to become the best version that they can be. It's an amazing, amazing place to be and so honored to be working with you all, and I hope you have a wonderful week. Bye.

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