Happiness starts with the little things.

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I ran across this picture on my Facebook feed. A family friend had posted it and people reacted to it thinking that it is funny.  Here’s why it’s not:

Bottling up emotions is one of the worst things you can do to yourself, your life, and those around you. When you bottle up emotions, you are feeding and building up brain fog, which is why, like the quote says, you blow up over something so little as not finding matching socks. It intoxicates your bloodstream with irritation and anger. It prevents you from seeing matters objectively and making logical decisions. It blocks your ability to constructively communicate.  And it prevents you from being able to foster healthy relationships with those around you.

One of the most important qualities to have when in a relationship – in any kind of relationship: personal, marital, or professional – is the ability disagree amicably.  By this, I mean the ability for you and your partner to see value in the opposing perspective and positively communicate the difference.  When you adapt a habit of bottling up emotions, you are in essence running away from your troubles.  It is the easy way out.  And as with all shortcuts, it does not always yield the best results.  You may not see its effects for hours, days, weeks or even months at a time, but when it does explode, its debris scatter everywhere.  What can I do to prevent bottling up of emotions? 

 

3 Steps to Better Problem Solving: (1) Assess , (2) Empathize, and (3) Resolve.

Let’s use the scenario in the quote as an example.  So you blow up because you cannot find socks that match.  You’re upset with yourself, your partner, the universe, for not making socks that magically just stick together.  You’ve probably  thrown the eight single socks against the wall, you’ve got tears rolling down the side of your face, you don’t even care if you’re going to be late to your dinner, and the whole day, week, and year is ruined.

First, ask yourself what the problem is. What about this issue is bothering you?  What would you like the resolution to be?  Is the problem a person, an incident, a combination of the two?  How do you envision solving it?  Who and what role will they play in the journey to resolution? Will you be happy with this envisioned resolution?  How many resolutions can there be?  Are these resolutions realistic?

Another common problem that we all face is the frequency of an issue: Has this problem occurred before? If so, how often and how long ago?  I find that, typically, I am more irritated if problem is a recurring one.  This is important to realize because rather than addressing the problem at hand, I would be upset over repeating myself, not feeling heard, feeling neglected, and being disrespected.

Don’t try to settle an argument unless you are calm, collected, and capable of handling your emotions.

Once you’ve assessed your feelings, take a deep breath.

The next step can be hard to do when you’re already fueled up.  It will take some practice but once you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll see its benefits and it’ll be easier every time after that.

Empathy.  Not to be mistaken with sympathy, because unmatched socks should be punished (just kidding), empathizing with your partner seeks to give you insight into what your partner is feeling, but also seeing and hearing, during these arguments. If you are always complaining about unmatched socks, your partner may think that the issue can be solved by buying only white socks or throwing away the unmatched singles.  Your partner may even have purchased un-unmatchable (white) socks to add to your sock collection.  Your partner may have thought this issue resolved!

Sometimes, amidst all the anger and yelling, we forget to mention the actual problem.  So, before you jump to conclusion, ask yourself as you empathize, have I mentioned what the actual problem is?

Name-calling, swearing, saying things just to say things, bringing up the past, are all unhealthy ways of arguing.  It is possible to have a healthy, happy relationship with arguments, if both parties involved are arguing amicably, respectfully, and calmly.

The last step involves your partner.  I recommend waiting until you are both calm to address any problems.  If you both walk into the argument angry and fueled up, you won’t hear the other side of the story.  Allow both sides to voice their opinions, feelings, and perspectives.  Foster healthy arguments by respecting what is being said.

It may also help to write down a list of items you’d like to talk about, along with resolutions you’d like to accomplish.  This will keep you focused on the goal of the argument.

The best way to prevent bottling up of emotions is to address the issue when it happens and learning to communicate (argue) constructively.

p.s. Don’t be afraid or shy to say, “I’m sorry.” – You are not in a battle against your partner. Saying sorry is not admitting defeat – it is merely saying, “I am calm enough to talk to you. I love you.”