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by Evan Buja
| Families, Relationships, Communication

Navigating Family Dynamics: Cultivating Emotional Health

Family beach vacation
Time with family over the summer can be great but it can also create challenges, especially with all the extra time spent around each other! Whether it is long lazy days at home or being on vacation together, spending extended periods of time around significant others can be fraught with relationship challenges.

Family Systems Theory points out that the closer our relationship to others is, or the more significant the person is to us, the more difficult it can be to manage and hold onto our emotional self, due to the higher level of emotional intensity inherent in those relationships. The challenges that occur with closer family relationships can be directly related to our emotions and our ability to navigate conflict. When emotions go unchecked, they can easily take us on a ride, causing us to lose self-control and lead to damaging interactions. To that point, I regularly share with clients that it can be helpful to recognize that we have a thinking brain and an emotional brain. When we operate out of our thinking brain, we are able to talk calmly about a subject even when another person may suggest a different idea. Staying in our thinking brain allows us to exhibit one of the hallmarks of emotional maturity: non-reactive communication.

Non-reactive communication involves exactly what it suggests - the ability to remain calm even when others become reactive or become emotionally charged. As a concept this may make sense but having the ability to remain calm becomes much more difficult in practice. Remaining calm is easy when it is easy, but once we attempt to communicate about a topic we or others feel strongly about, it can be very difficult to remain calm. We end up reacting instead of listening and responding.

In fact, one of the things we all are getting to learn is how to feel our feelings without being controlled by them when we act or communicate. In order to do this, we must grow our emotional selves by:

  1. Cultivating the ability to gain self-clarity through the process of recognizing what emotion or emotions we are feeling.
  2. Cultivating the ability to self-validate as to why the emotion is there.
  3. Allowing ourselves to become able to state the emotion without being in the emotion. This helps us to communicate what we want others to hear.

Again, these are abilities that we all need to commit to cultivating. No one can do this well without choosing to develop these skills. But the great thing about a skill is that they can be learned and developed once a person decides to improve them.

So, I’m guessing if you have read this far, you are an adult and/or parent - lol. But *HERE’S THE DEAL* If you love your children and want them to be and become emotionally healthy individuals: Choose to grow your own emotional self! By becoming more able to respond to either your own emotions or other’s emotions, you grow your own respond-ability. When we do this, we model and mold emotional maturity. This molding happens in us and the family system, enabling others to experience and see what it looks like to feel feelings about something significant but not allow those emotions to lead to reactivity which will only lead to chaos! Once we can see that our emotional self has always needed to grow and then take the personal responsibility to work to become that emotionally mature person, then we can have a MASSIVE impact on cultivating emotional health and sanity! You can do it and we are here to help!

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