I once had a couple’s therapy session that left me sweating through every layer of clothing that I had on. It dealt with the two things that I struggle with the most: emotions and the expressing of them.
See, there’s a reason why that guy I married called me “Foxy Spocksy.” We both believe that I’m part Vulcan.
Vulcans, for my non-Star Trek geek readers, are (from Wikipedia) “an extraterrestrial humanoid species in the Star Trek universe who evolved on the planet Vulcan, and are noted for their attempt to live by reason and logic with no interference from emotion.”
Yup, that’s me — I see emotions as something to be squelched, something to be avoided, nothing but trouble. And logic, ah, logic is my happy place. It’s safe and it’s easy to understand.
I have been known to end friendships because of too many emotional outbursts. And I avoid family members who don’t display enough logical thinking. Though there’s something positive to be said about that: I credit that behavior with the fact that I have ended up surrounding myself with some of the greatest, well-adjusted people on Earth.
In fact, rejecting most of my emotions as useless crazy-making bullshit has generally helped me out in life with almost every relationship, but the one I had with my husband…
Turns out, perhaps unless you’re married to another Vulcan, this whole rejection-of-emotions thing can really make your partner crazy, and often hurt their feelings. It also means that I don’t generally understand my own husband’s emotions.
When you run from your emotions all the time, it lessens your frame of reference for such things as feelings — making empathy hard to come by. It also means that the person who is married to a part-Vulcan often finds themselves needing to state such obvious things as, “when I’m crying, you need to hug me.”
Interestingly enough, I think my Vulcan side is one of the reasons I had ended up with a partner who’s really in tune with his emotions… I must have seen something in that that intrigued me, or at least (I hope) I must have seen the potential for him to teach me what I was missing. Or MAYBE I thought (unconsciously) “Oh, he’ll do all the emotion-ing for the both of us. So I’m set.”
I wonder if this is common with us part-Vulcans — the marrying of more emotional beings. Because, for the most part, he DID do all the emotion-ing. We often tag teamed things like upset friends. Aaron leveled with them on the feelings part, and I came in as the distraction — made them laugh, or think of anything else but their sads. And it worked… but not when it’s JUST the two of us involved.
Learning how to get “in touch with my emotions” has now become one of the things I’m trying to work on in my life. Wish me luck? Because, if that therapy session was any indication, this shit ain’t gonna be easy for me.
Though I did learn something to help me in my efforts. Our therapist told me, after I confessed that feelings give me the wiggins, “feelings can’t hurt you… it’s what you DO with them that can.”
In related news: Foxy Spocksy is totally my roller derby name. Even though I’m never playing Roller Derby — I have a low pain threshold, it just wouldn’t be logical.
So, who has tips on how to not run away from my scary scary feelings?
Comments on Why part-Vulcans make bad partners
I completely get it. I hope your transition into being less Vulcan gets easier. Mine did, but it took a bit.
My husband loves me because of my “Vulcan” tendencies. And we, too, ended up in some marriage therapy, shortly after we got married.
One of the things I had to learn was to say things like “I feel abc.” “I recognize/respect that you’re feeling xyz.” “It’s okay that we’re having The Feels, but we can’t treat eachother like shit because of it.”
We realized the depths of my Vulcan side, when we tried that communication style… and I could NOT even name the feeling I was having. “When you do X, it makes me feel… feel… um… I don’t know what this feeling is.” The therapist literally gave me a sheet of paper with words for feelings. “Megan, these are what feeeeelings are.” 😉
Side note: as a parent, giving my son words for his feelings is one my top priorities. It’s hard work to raise emotionally articulate children — especially boys, who don’t as much societal encouragement to identify or express their emotions.
Wow, this is really interesting! I’m married to a Vulcan who often can’t identify emotions beyond angry or sad, maybe going over some shared terminology could help us communicate our feels better and help me understand what’s going on in his pretty head.
In related news, this post is just more proof that Megan is secretly my husband.
YES! “Angry” and “sad’ were pretty much the only negative emotions I could identify.
Also, you’re my favorite wife. 😉
Can I be a sister-wife in here somewhere? Megan, are Tuesdays and Fridays open in your harem schedule?
Wow, thanks for sharing this!
Not naming feelings: I don’t have trouble feeling and expressing positive feelings, but when it’s anger, hurt, or frustration, it takes me awhile to actually process it / articulate it. My husband, on the other hand, processes feelings pretty much instantly. So arguments would generally end in my total silence for about a half hour. Then :
Me: I’m sorry I sounded angry. I’m feeling frustrated because…
G: Why didn’t you just SAY that?
Me: BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW YET!
I chalk it up to being raised in rural Minnesota. Not really so acceptable to say anything mean. But then it gets said passive aggressively. Anyway – it can get better!
For me, I had years of individual therapy, before couples therapy, that really helped me to know what feelings even were. Before any therapy I had: fine & not crying, fine & crying, or not fine & crying.
With COUPLES therapy though, I was encouraged to read romance novels. I credit those for a HUGE part of my emotional learning while in therapy. Reading other characters going through the things I felt, the authors gave words to those feelings, that I could then use in my real life relationships!
My husband and I posted a list of feelings in the bathroom. The idea was to take a moment to scan through the list every time you went in the bathroom and think about what you were feeling at the time. Over time it really helped to build an emotional vocabulary without putting any impact or value on the emotions we were feeling. And it also illustrated that we all feel various emotions all day long, Vulcan or not, we just react more to certain ones.
I’m marrying a guy who can only identify one feeling: happy. When I ask him how he feels about a difficult subject, he just looks at me blankly and says “I don’t know.” And he’s totally serious! I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t want to feel, but like Ariel said, he was never provided a proper vocabulary for his feelings. This causes quite a bit of anxiety in our household because it takes him FOREVER to figure out what emotion he is feeling and I am not a patient person. And while I am highly introspective and can understand my own feelings and intuitions, I never act on emotion and rarely understand the emotions of others. Not that I don’t validate their right to have emotions I don’t understand, but this lack of understanding also creates conflict. Crying, elation or physical touching as expressions of emotion all make me deeply uncomfortable and so I can come off as cold and unfeeling. Add to that the fact that I am logical to a fault (I complained about the inefficiency of having someone else paint pinecones for me because I can do it faster… to me that is not helping, but wasting time…), and communication is a slow and sometimes very difficult process for me.
Ha! This just happened to me at therapy last week. My therapist got out a pictorial chart (think smiley face, frowny face) and in the nicest way possible said “this is what I use with kids to help them describe their feelings. Would you like to borrow it so you can reference it?” I was torn between feeling annoyed that I needed something so elementary and excited that I had found the key to unlocking the magic!
I did take it home, by the way… and it’s been helpful. Fortunately my husband is also super in tune with his emotions and has no problem expressing himself in that regard. It’s been a long journey even realizing how disconnected I am from that side of life and now that I’m exploring it I feel out of control so often, but then I realize that part of the growth process.
Right!? Isn’t it SUPER helpful!?
It is… I’ll say “interesting”… that we have to use something so elementary. But, if you’re like me (which I can assume you are), when you weren’t taught these things at a young age, you sometimes have to learn them like a child but as an adult.
I too had a therapist give me a list of emotions and asked me to define them. I started to reel off dictionary definitions and she said, “You aren’t getting off the hook that easy, you need to tell me how these emotions physically manifest in your body.” Seriously helped so much! Well, after a LOT of time. At first I could only recognize anger. Good luck!
I just started couples therapy. Our first session was today and it was terribly relieving. We’re trying out this discussions style called Imago Therapy. Check out the book my therapist recommended to me, called “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix. The beginning is a bit contradictory (and it is problematic in other ways, like having a very binary view of relationship dynamics), but the actual language structure is very helpful in just *understanding* each other.
Here’s some hope from the other side. Of the two of us, my boyfriend is the more vulcan-like. Sometimes it seems like nothing will elicit an emotional response from him, so he was pretty unprepared when I wanted to lean on him for support when dealing with my family’s frequent drama. After he got tired of hearing about it so much and had no idea what to say, I explained to him that it was really important that he be there for me and gave him a script to follow for the next time. Since then he’s done beautifully, and I realized that his strength is also in helping me distance myself when I’m getting too emotionally invested and it’s interfering with my own happiness.
So while the “when I’m crying, you need to hug me” might seem silly, if the part-Vulcan takes the time to actually remember that part and follow through, it means just as much as if they had actually come up with hugging on their own. And then they can use their awesome Vulcan powers to help their partner in ways unique to them. Good luck!
THIS! “So while the “when I’m crying, you need to hug me” might seem silly, if the part-Vulcan takes the time to actually remember that part and follow through, it means just as much as if they had actually come up with hugging on their own.”
At times Aaron seriously breaks from his emoting to praise me — like a dog! — when I do emotionally vulnerable things. And you know what, I freaking love it. It reminds me that I can do this, and makes me less scared to do it voluntarily next time. But ya gotta’ at least give me a script at first.
I will have to keep this script thing in mind. My dude has minimal frame of reference for what reactions I might need in various situations. He immediately wants to jump to making me laugh and cheering me up without feeling comfortable or understanding that I may just need a hug. We’re working on the hugging, but maybe giving him a script would help a bit.
Scripts are awesome for non-Vulcans who just speak different love languages too. When I’m sad, my husband wants to give me a long hug and sit next to me and stare into my eyes, and it drives me craaaaaazy. When I was able to tell him, “When I’m sad, I want you to bring me tea and chocolate and then go away until I’m ready to talk” and he was able to believe that I really did want that even though it’s not what he wants when he’s sad, everything got a lot better.
Yes, this. I’m not really emotional, but I’m not a vulcan either. Being given some instruction on how someone wants to be loved is incredibly helpful.
My husband wants love expressed in baffling ways sometimes. I’m fine by myself, and enjoy solitude. He does not. If I go to a different room he stops in to check on me, which just throws off my train of thought. For the longest time, when he would go off into a different room, I just assumed he needed alone time, if he didn’t he’d come back and say hi or something. He’d come back after a couple hours and ask if I was mad, if we were drifting apart, etc, leaving me incredibly confused (and then upset because I thought he was just trying to start drama). As it turns out, he just wants me to take a break from what I’m doing to check on him and say a quick hi. Things have been smoother sailing since.
Also, he wants me to hug him when he’s angry (yeah, he wants hugs when he’s looking the most unapproachable, but ok lol). When I’m angry I don’t like any form of touch until I’m calmed down. That caused a few arguments, he would hug me when I was mad to make me feel better and I would get more upset. After we’ve communicated this to each other, we’re both better at dealing with each other when we have bad days.
So, yes. What you said. Scripts help non-vulcans too. 🙂
Taking time to praise eachother for a good argument/discussion/emotional response is something my husband and I find really helpful.
We’ve never been married before, and don’t have a lot of healthy marriage role models in our life. We can’t just know how to be married. So by telling your partner “this is good behavior” it helps both of you learn to be better partners.
(Part of my trouble is being assertive and articulating when things are going well, or not going so well. So saying “I appreciate your reaction” is really tough due to Vulcan-ness.)
Scripts are super helpful to my my marriage: in this corner, we have my wife, who we’ve decided is part Vulcan, part Klingon, with the brusque communication style of Seven of Nine. And in this corner: me. When I go to therapy my therapist theirs around terms like “unusual emotional intensity” and tells me that some people just feel more than others. My terms for my emotions are as wide and varied and finely nuanced as the Behr paint catalog’s names for the color white. Practicing naming emotions is helpful for both of us: her because figuring out how to say it makes her have to figure out how it feels inside, and me because her precision of thought benefits from my precision of language. Then we also have to us our scripts to negotiate, because when we are upset we have very different ways of dealing with it. For example, she just wants to reach out and touch me when I’m angry, because it makes her feel connected and grounded when facing her own big scary emotions. For me, sometimes my anger or hurt or stress is too intense for touching. I’m not ready for that intimacy because my emotions are like a raw nerve. We slowly and carefully try to do better this time than last time, remembering how the other prefers we do this. I’m positive we were attracted to one another because I’m in tune with my emotions and she can be logical in the face of everything but hunger (hypoglycemia is one off her Klingon triggers). We complement each other extremely well and are more functional together than apart.
There is a really helpful practice called the daily examen which might help you grow in the ability to notice and articulate feelings. It comes out a Christian spiritual practice (from the Ignatian tradition) of noticing the places of consolation and desolation (high point and low point) of our day. The practice should be easily adapted for those who might be uncomfortable using “God” language.
Essentially, you ask yourself a pair of questions related to these key ideas:
For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
The more you practice the easier it will be to notice and name the feelings associated with those moments. At the beginning you might not have the verbiage to articulate exactly what you were feeling in the moment, but you might be able to name the moment for which you are least grateful.
There are also other pairs of questions along these lines that help this practice deepen over time. e.g. When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me?
There is a great handout with more sets of questions here:
Also, this is my favorite book to explain the practice:
Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life
This family makes it a daily practice to share their reflections with each other. I’ve only done this as a private daily devotion, but my husband and I do this type of reflective discussion around our anniversary. (Our high point and low point of the past year, etc.). I’ve noticed in the two years we have been married that his vocabulary around feelings has grown a lot. I think growing up in a military family with three boys there wasn’t a whole lot of “discussion around feelings” so it wasn’t something he was great at articulation. He felt the emotions very deeply, but couldn’t quite name them easily. It does get easier with practice. I’m really impressed now with how much easier it is for him.
I wanted to thank you for this post. I’m a complete atheist, but struggle with things introspective and meditative … I have always been looking for a good way to work through these struggles and increase my self-awareness, my daily gratitude for life and my relationship to the world around me. I have a difficult time with meditation and I have a type-A personality that really is drawn to lists and focused tasks, so I really like this approach and think it can resonate for the spiritual and secular/non-spiritual among us.
I started a private blog/electronic journal where I plan on using many of the contrasting high/low, good/bad, etc. questions put forth in the book and handout and am hopeful they will help me live my daily life more mindfully. If nothing else, it gives me a way to reflect, on the good and the bad, at the end of my day. Thank you.
You’re welcome! So glad it resonated with you 🙂
Thanks for this. I’m pagan but I love the concepts presented here. I just recently started journaling again and these will be really helpful prompts.
We recently had a few sessions of solution-focussed couples therapy and it’s been such an enormous help. My mother crushed my self-esteem when I was young (and still does to some extent), so to hear from the therapist “You don’t need to fix yourself, it’s okay to need verbal affirmations more than others, and it’s okay to ask for them”, made such a massive difference for me. Now, when I’m feeling shite, I feel okay to ask my partner “Tell me all the things you love about me”, and he does it. He also knows now to do this voluntarily, and to make it specific. He doesn’t say “You’re awesome” now, because he knows I don’t hear it. With the help of me being able to articulate it better, and the therapists’ explanations, he can say “I love when you think about others, you’re so generous”. Hurrah for therapy!!! Good luck on your own journey, Megan, the Tribe are here with you!
Ooh, this is such a good note for being nice to people in general. Recently a friend of mind gave people the gift of compliments instead of actual gifts. Each video compliment was customized to the individual, and the three things she said about me were SO Megan-specific that they really made me feel (for lack of a better emotional descriptor) awesome.
“Awesome” is a really good emotional descriptor, Megan! 🙂
Oh my god this is the best idea EVER. (I would love to receive this.) doing this for my best friend TODAY. And my husband.
Loved this article as I am the Megan in my relationship. Thank you so much.
I am not a gushy overly emotional person and I married an Aspie, so we work pretty well together. We started our relationship with a no drama policy and it has remained that way, and we are 8 years in. Neither one of us actively avoids emotions but we are not super emotional. That said it does not mean that we are not affectionate, for an Aspie, my husband is very affectionate with me, he can get weirded out if other people try to be touchy or huggy with him. Every relationship is different, but what I love about being with an Aspie is that there are never any games or guessing how the other person feels about something, you have to say how you feel or what you want in a very direct way because Aspies don’t get subtlety, his Spockiness works well for me.
I wish I could. My Aspie shuts down and seethes instead of finding a healthy outlet for stress, so his frustration finally boiling over causes us a lot of squabbles. Meanwhile I take the attitude he gets more to heart than I probably should because I was groomed to be an enabler and Hero in our alcoholic family, so I was always the person who made it better by taking care of everyone else and making everything be “right”. There’s no making some stuff “right” but when he can’t get a handle on himself, I feel like I have to go fix it, which I can’t, and I can’t get him to talk about it because he doesn’t process the emotions etc. the same. I really feel like I’m at my wit’s end some days. 🙁 But, hearing that it can work for other couples gives me hope, so thanks for this comment. 🙂
My husband can retreat some what when he is stressed, he usually just needs some time to himself surfing the web to unwind from what ever is bothering him. He has his own office in home so he can retreat, I know that because he is an Aspie that downtime away from people, including me, is really important to him. I usually wait until he is ready to talk about what ever is stressing him and then he has pace while he talks about what ever is stressing him out. I swear his feet are connected directly to his mouth, if he is talking about his day or venting, or even just explaining some thing he is excited about he is pacing. I hope you and your Aspie can find a way to communicate when things are stressful.
I’m Katherine’s husband and I thought I should interject some pointers here. I hope they are useful. If I write something offensive please understand that I am not trying to be judgemental, I am trying to be factual, and also that i very likely did not know I was being offensive.
Not talking about something that’s stressful in the moment is very likely not because he does not process emotions the same, it is very likely because he needs time alone (very likely researching something or doing a hobby) in order to calm down. Being interrupted by someone asking what’s wrong is part of what’s wrong. What started it could be feelings about your relationship or it could be as simple as having to walk through a crowded mall with a too-relective floor.
One thing that works well in our relationship is having physical affection as part of our daily routine. Because it is part of the routine it is ok with me even if I am already a bit agitated and it helps calm both of us.
If you want to understand a bit about what is actually going on for him, try researching the “intense world theory”, which is a new-ish autism theory which is based on actual interviews with autistic people, not just the freudian presumptions previous theories seem to be. Also get him for christmas the book “How to Romance the Woman You Love – The Way She Wants You To”. It is about how to demonstrate affection without words.
My mother’s family is pretty spectrum-y. We just expect to hear everything in a very straight-forward and plain way. When aspies feel comfortable enough to say what they’re thinking to a person, that’s how they show love, trust, and comfort.
While I don’t have autism, growing up in a family full of it made me learn some really weird behaviors growing up. Sometimes my husband doesn’t always appreciate it that when I’m being blunt with him, it means I trust him.
So I hate to be *that* person and start diagnosing people over the internet. I doubly hate that I’m about to use *that* word which is the second most self-diagnosed claim on the internet, but have you considered getting yourself evaluated for Asperger’s?
I’m very slightly on the spectrum, but I found that being able to point to something and say “okay, that’s the thing I’m dealing with, now what strategies are other people using?” is very helpful to me. The “scripting” thing is very familiar to me. I have problems when I don’t know the script or the script changes (part of the reason my first bout at college was so hard.)
Your mileage may vary, of course.
HA! I was just gonna comment on Katherine’s comment above that I could totally see myself dating someone with Aspergers. My god-brother has it, and I’m one of the only people he has a close relationship with. I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but I definitely have some tendencies. 😉
If you are aware that you have Aspie tendencies and your husband is too, then maybe that is enough. If he knows he has to say exactly what is going on in his head and he will probably have to tell you exactly what he needs from you, it is really very simple. I think people can expect too much mind reading in relationships and that is when things get messy, plus people can afraid of asking for what they need, there is a big difference between asking for what you need and being needy. Expecting someone to read your mind is being needy, asking for what you need is being a grown-up.
” I think people can expect too much mind reading in relationships and that is when things get messy, plus people can afraid of asking for what they need, there is a big difference between asking for what you need and being needy. Expecting someone to read your mind is being needy, asking for what you need is being a grown-up. ”
This should be printed in some kind of manual.
I saw a quote in an article the other day that I think hit the nail on the head.
It was something along the line of-
“more relationships have ended due to the inability to mind-read than any other crime of the heart.”
Which is SO true! A successful relationship is ultimately about successful communication. Its not always easy to say what you need, but it is so important to find the tools that help you to do so.
Haha, I apologized to my husband a couple weeks ago for expecting him to read my mind. It was over something completely trivial, so in the scheme of things it’s not important, but that wasn’t a habit I wanted to start!
We’re pretty good at communicating in general (thanks long distance!) so sometimes a breakdown in communication seems like a huge deal, but as long as we acknowledge and fix it it’s just a bump in the road.
Not to derail the comments completely, but this is what I thought as well. And then I remembered a book I had recently read about a husband who is diagnosed with Asperger’s and his “best practices” for responding more emotionally to his wife. It’s called The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch.
I think it helps to identify in what ways you’re part-Vulcan. Do you have trouble identifying/having emotions or do you just work really hard not to acknowledge them? When you chose not to acknowledge emotions do you do so by applying logic? Is the logic always logic or is it a way of devaluing the stimulus in an attempt to protect yourself? Does being part-Vulcan only seem obvious in certain scenarios? For example, when others are emotional, when you need to make an emotional decision, or in times of stress?
Use that same logical approach to analyze yourself and construct better behaviors!
Personally speaking: I relate to the newer Spock- intense feelings are cooped up, but I work hard to remain composed. Even the more joyous emotions. When they do surface it’s an overwhelming and disorienting process. Other people expressing emotions just trigger that personal discomfort. So for me, the logical step was to reduce the power of the feeling-maker. I think that’s where the detached logical analysis cut both ways. It’s too easy for me to completely diminish the personal value in an attempt to understand/control the situation. And I wanted to pick the most reasonable, not desirable, outcome to avoid further emotions.
Now I give my emotions a sanctioned outlet (hobbies, friends, places, events). I’ve even asked people in advance how they prefer I react in certain scenarios. I’ve reduced my chances of being caught off-guard while engaging in rituals that are important to other people (even if I seem underwhelmed). Communicating through text and emails helps, too. I can use the font and punctuation to convey an intensity that might not be there physically.
Whoa! I’ll have to re-read that and soak it all up. But I just wanted to say AMEN to the texting thing.
A blogging friend of mine was objecting to some sort of gendered statement about “men say sex is for intimacy but women say talking is for intimacy”. (I am not positive I’ve remembered that right.) and her response was, “Fuck that, TEXT is for intimacy.”
That really stuck with me. Yes, of course. Text, the medium I use for intimacy all the time (not sarcastic).
Wow, this comment runs deep. I’m not sure how to break the pattern, but I’m more emotive, outgoing, goofy, etc. when I’m around my friends and boyfriend as opposed to my family. In high school I tended to be pretty closed and logical, and was surprised to get to know a different side of myself when I moved away. Now I sometimes find myself reverting back to some of the same behaviors when I visit family, and your insights on your own behaviors have given me a lot to think about. Thank you!
This is me, to a T. In order to control my own reactions when I get overwhelmed, I diminish the importance of the impetus in my own mind. I think in my striving to eliminate irrational anger and sadness, I crippled my ability to be irrationally joyous. It’s a constant struggle.
On top of asking people (only my closest friends so far) what kind of response they want, I have started telling people how I want them to listen to me, too. “I’m gonna tell you something, and I’m just looking for commiseration, not solutions.” or “I’m gonna share something with you because I really want someone to be raucously happy with me.” It has helped me reconnect with my ability to emote approproiately.
Next step is realizing there’s no inappropriate way to emote…
It hits close to home to hear that emotions really overwhelm other people too.
For me, when I’m feeling emotional, any emotion, I get super anxious, and feel that fight or flight response really intensely. This is a horrible reaction in a marriage! It is really bad to want to run away from or fight your spouse when you feel any significant emotion. This leads to screaming matches and sleeping on the couch.
Like I’ve mentioned above, I’ve been through couples therapy with my husband. Part of that was learning that I can turn toward my husband for comfort and soothing of anxiety instead of just running away or fighting him about it.
I’m in couples therapy too, specifically EFT, the bible for which is the book “Hold Me Tight”. We got into it primarily because my depression and anxiety were driving a wedge into our relationship. I found what was really helpful was learning the difference between primary emotions and secondary emotions. Primary emotions are the primitive ones and often people who aren’t good at dealing with feelings almost immediately (usually unconsciously) shift into secondary emotional reactions. So often, if someone feels sad or scared or vulnerable, they’ll feel afraid, ashamed or guilty about those feelings. My secondary reactions were wreaking havoc on our marriage, and with time I’m learning to stop – identify what I felt first and why, and deal with that (e.g., this morning he made a remark that reminded me of something lousy I did to him a few months ago and I felt guilty and vulnerable and snapped at him for making me feel that way when it was actually me who made me feel that way). It’s much easier than the secondary reactions and their fallout.
I like the book “Anxious and Depressed” by Thomas Marra because there’s a really long chapter with worksheets about how to identify and manage your feelings and learn not to be afraid of them. Other books on Dialectical Behavioural Therapy might be helpful to you, given that we’re not talking about depression or anxiety in your case, specifically.
I second the dialectical behavioral therapy, which is a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy. To see if a book or DBT-oriented therapy sessions would be helpful for you, you can check out Wikipedia – they have a pretty in-depth analysis of the modules. For you, it might be like working backwards, because it’s sort of geared toward people who are overly emotional and need to inject some logic to help them deal with their emotions. The “naming of emotions” module is pretty helpful for figuring out *what* you’re feeling, versus feeling a rage of unadulterated emotion that you have no idea how to contain or deal with – it helps to know what you’re feeling so you can cope with it.
So basically you’re the female version of Sheldon Cooper? 🙂
YES! I was reminded of another non-marital relationship exchange that went like this:
Her: “You haven’t said anything about my hair yet.”
Me: “You went darker red.”
Her: “Yes! But you didn’t say anything.”
Me: “I figured you knew already!”
Me: “Well it’s such a subtle change, I didn’t think it needed to commented upon!”
Her: “When a girl gets her hair done, they always want you to say something nice, even if it’s a subtle change.”
I was thinking of using that as an example in this article and then thought, “Naw, that’s more Sheldon-Megan than Spock-Megan.”
UGH, I feel like I could write the counterpart to this post, “Why part-Betazoid partners are no walk in the park either…” I feel ALL the things, including other people’s feelings. At best, I’m an empathic, caring friend. At most, I’m a stressed out headcase…AND I don’t get the awesome hair.
But, I’m married to someone also part-Vulcan, so hearing this side is REALLY helpful. Especially because it’s a female perspective, so I can shove this post down the throat of the next person who tells me that my husband is just being “a guy.” (RAGE.)
I was once told that people who are less emotional aren’t always lacking in emotion, rather they feel emotions SO DEEPLY, that they’ve learned to turn them off. To examine or even identify an emotion is to continue to feel it and that’s overwhelming to they go “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE” and shove that bad boy in a drawer somewhere, never to be seen again. So maybe you’re just super deep, Megan? You don’t want to go through some crazy emotional pon farr, so it’s good you’re in therapy… 🙂
Oh that less-overtly-emotional = man thing gets right up me, and not in a good way. I get my sensitivity from my Dad, and he’s a 6′ manual worker with a beard, a hairy chest and an obsession with politics and economics. He’s just all that and quick to cry if he witnesses someone/something else’s suffering, that’s all. Not that those things I listed make someone a man either, obviously, but you know what I mean.
I recall Aaron and I trying to read a therapy book on marriage that was SO gender-biased. All that “men are less good with emotions, women are all about ’em” kinda crap. We realized that if you switched ALL the gender pro-nouns, you had our relationship in a nutshell. 😉
That can apply to more then relationship books about emotional expression, roles in relationships- it is in much of the literature about sexual relationships as well. My husband and I read some books along those lines and it was all “women can keep going and have multiple orgasms/need lots of cuddles kissing- men can just get in and get done” Once we switched the pro nouns we were like “ohhhhhhhhhhh” The gender = this response to any situation is not universal, and pretty frustrating.
THIS THIS THIS. I think I may have written your comment. “At best, I’m an empathic, caring friend. At most, I’m a stressed out headcase” is me to. a. T.
And my partner is part-Vulcan. This post was so needed!
The hair was a wig for most seasons, so don’t stress too much about that. 🙂
Maybe that feeling-emotions-so-deeply is why I feel like a half-Betazoid half-Vulcan. Sometimes feeling all the feels to the point of non-functionality, and other times acting so much on logic that I forget to consider how decisions affect others and their feels.
Other comment: I think everyone should be go to therapy at some point during their life if at all possible. It’s astoundingly helpful to have an objective third party help you identify and understand why you function the way that you do.
RIGHT?!?! Oscillating levels of emotions are so confusing. (Not just lady-hormones- induced emotions, either, but life in general.) I don’t like being a robot all the time, but I also don’t like it when emotions sneak up on me!
I second going to therapy, or if you are like me and actually hate talking to a human person, learn how therapy works a little bit so you can attempt to identify your own thought and emotion patterns, etc.
Commiseration high-five for being Betazoid. God, it’s a pain.
Half Betazoid-Half Vulcan. That … is my perfect description. I feel really intense, really volatile emotions that are often completely disproportional to the stimuli prompting them (most problematically anger, but also others). As a result I have developed very strong logical checks. “Is this truly a good idea? I know you feel amazing, but what is the probability for disaster?” “Is this worth being angry about? Is this worth being THIS angry about?” “I’m sorry, for snapping, I am not actually upset with YOU. However, I am going to continue to yell, so if you cannot handle that you should walk away from the conversation now.” “Your belief that life is meaningless is completely unsubstantiated. Get out of bed and fulfill your commitments or you will regret it when you remember that all of these things DO matter to you.”
But I also believe that feeling, once committed to, should be done at 110%. Sometimes you look at a situation, feel it’s call, analyze all the ways it could hurt you and go “Yup, totally worth it.” Worth it, not only for the chance of success, but also even if it is *guaranteed* to hurt. Because sometimes feeling alive and feeling in pain are the same thing (<— emotional and physical masochist)
Bah, I meant to go to bed two hours ago, and all that rambling really shows. Just wanted to say I really appreciated this post. While it isn't quite me, it is a topic that is very important to me that I spend a lot of time dwelling on.
I just saw this video today and well, here: http://brenebrown.com/2013/12/10/rsabear/
What I find interesting about this is the idea that logic and emotions are somehow opposed. Most emotions are actually very, very logical, as can be demonstrated if they are analysed enough, and even the ones that arise organically for no reason often have an explanation involving a specific hormone or other physiological process. If they appear illogical it just means that their origin has not been found yet, not that they genuinely are irrational.
It’s a bit like the concept of the supernatural not making much sense: just because science doesn’t fully understand something yet, that doesn’t mean it’s outwith science’s remit, it just means it’s not understood yet.
Momentary digession: I wonder where the idea of emotion being illogical comes from; my gender-bigotry spidey-senses are tingling and urging me to glare in the direction of Sigmund Freud and his “irrational” clients who, as it turns out, were probably reacting totally logically to the abuse they’d endured. I expect that tied in neatly with European colonial ideas about emotion being weakness. As a progressive British person I’m always ready to pick apart how my culture and its history sucks though; any excuse!
Anyway, I love the communication tips above, especially Claire’s thing of asking people how they’d prefer she’d react. My oldest friend has mild autism and despite being about as far from autistic as it’s possible to be, I much prefer the style I have to adopt with her to some ways of communicating that I’ve encountered elsewhere which can be kind of passive(-aggressive) and irritatingly indirect. The capacity for direct communication (even if one chooses not to use it) is just emotional literacy, I think, and I believe it should be taught in all schools.
I agree with the immediate dismissal of emotions as illogical, but I don’t think that they are ALWAYS logical. This might just be how I work, but I think other people with various anxieties might feel the same way. A lot of times your emotional response is out of proportion to the logic of the scenario. For example, when I’m freaking out about something, I often don’t have to be. A certain amount of nervousness about an experiment or a social situation is completely normal, but the extreme response that I can have to it sometimes isn’t logical. And my lovely husband points this out “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” in these situations.
Granted, this would not work while flying on an airplane. And this approach only works for some people, particularly those who find comfort in logic.
Isn’t that something that has a physiological basis though? Say someone with an anxiety problem is faced with the prospect of going into a situation that triggers them. When they start to worry that might change their mental state to one in which that task becomes disproportionately important, and that’s backed up and exacerbated by increased levels of stress hormones, which can alter thought patterns. Many apologies if I’m getting this wrong, organic problems aren’t my strong point (my psychology degree was woefully inadequate on them considering how much neurology it contained – it was also some years ago!).
That was the thinking behind what I said originally anyway, and whether I’ve misunderstood how anxiety works or not I think you’re totally right about the variability in efficacy of reminding oneself of how reasonable it is to be worried. My problem most akin to this one is anger due to PTSD, which I think is awkward in the same way that anxiety can be, in that it’s reasonable and justified but not helpful! Also, to go back to the biological angle, while knowing that it’s “just a hormonal surge” is helpful in some ways it doesn’t make it go away.
It probably does depend on how it helps to look at it. On the occasions when I’ve used CBT techniques, which are kind of logic-based, I’ve never seen that logic as fighting my emotions, just as helping them, but that might be because my psyche demands to be worked with, whereas other people might find that laying down the law to themselves works better, in which case I can see an oppositional view making more sense.
Sorry if that was a bit stream-of-consciousness, I’m still turning this over in my head, but it’s fascinating to me so thanks for giving me more to think about.
I am also turning your reply over in my head, but this is what I’ve got so far:
Maybe it’s the difference between a normal (valid, logical) emotion and a extreme, bordering on the pathological emotion? Sometimes the feeling comes before you can figure out why, but the feeling is rational based on what caused it, to loosely paraphrase what you said above.
I think that when the feelings are exaggerated out of proportion to the scenario is when your physiology isn’t quite matched to reality, and that’s the beginning of a condition. That’s why pharmaceuticals can help us out a lot by reigning in the extreme physiology so get us in a place where we CAN sort out those emotions and figure out if they are logical or not. And for milder cases, you don’t even need drugs, you can get some benefits with exercise to get your physiology closer to normal so you can deal with your emotions. And I think that drugs plus CBT plus exercise are more effective than either alone, but I can’t remember where I saw that. (Disclaimer: Don’t try to self-medicate with exercise or anything else, see a doctor and a therapist! I am an exercise pusher if you are physically able for mental health reasons, not for weight loss, etc.)
But isn’t that intersection between biology and behavior fascinating? I am far from understanding what is known, and there is soooo much we don’t know yet! Thanks for a thoughtful comment and giving me something to ponder. 🙂
I think CBT is especially logic-based actually.
A large part of it is language-use, think of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The words you choose to use affects your thinking, or vice versa, your thinking is extremely evident in your word choice.
Another part is saying “This is the action. This is my behavior about that action. This is my emotional consequence of my behavior.” ABC charts are just about the most logical & organized way to think about emotions. I’m a lawyer, and we use a similar charting method when preparing our cases, and the law is based wholly in the logical consequences of words (laws).
Having been married to a part-Vulcan for the last 3 1/2 years (together for 9), I can relate to this post. Though, there is no “getting in touch with emotions” since we learned over the summer he is on the higher functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. He scoffed at the diagnosis–calling it a “label” and “everyone has to have something wrong with them.” Me, I sort of rejoiced–9 years of baffling behavior explained! The diagnosis saved my marriage. I’m learning to be more direct with what I need, even when I’m a pile of sniffles.
But, it’s not all perfect. Sometimes, it is just plain difficult to be married to such a person, though it may be no fault of their own. Last week, I had an incredibly stressful week at work, and was trying to tell Mr. Vulcan about it. Instead of saying something like “that sucks” like I needed (with a pat on the shoulder), he proceeded to tell me how inefficient the thing I was doing was. That I needed to write our corporate offices to tell them how to fix it and what way it needed to be fixed. It was completely beyond him that I had no such power or choice in the matter, and that writing a letter would only put a target on my back. I guess he was trying to ease my anxiety, but he only added to it.
But, there are bonuses, too. I have a logical, level headed partner who can fix things and research the best product. Just don’t fuck up dinner.
LOL My brother has Asperger’s, and the “Just don’t fuck up dinner.” comment is So. True!
I think you’ve already gotten a lot of good help here. I just wanted to add this seems like something practicing mindfulness could help. You learn to view your thoughts/emotions and observe them objectively. You still have them but you decide what to do with them. You can do it with other people’s emotions as they are being thrown at you and observe objectively.
Yes! I do this now and it helps. If I can identify what I’m feeling, it makes it less overwhelming and freaky for me. It’s a trick I learned for coping with my anxiety too. It’s super-useful.
Megan you’re Richard Impossible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtmndVpJrW8
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Holy shit.
I think the single most impactful thing my therapist has said to me was, “you know, they’re just feelings. They’re not that important.”
She didn’t mean that I should ignore them, but that they just _are_. I can feel feelings and sometimes they pass and sometimes they don’t, but just because I’m having them doesn’t mean that I have to fix them. It’s kind of like the mindfulness thing. As a feelingsy person, it was so liberating to just be able to have feelings and not have to do anything about them.
Oh man, I love this. I am also a feelingsy person, and sometimes I catch myself doing things that are slightly crazy and totally unproductive because I have FEELINGS and I need to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and my part-Vulcan partner is NOT HELPING. It’s nice to know that there are other people out there who have FEELINGS sometimes and I’m not just needy and broken. I also love the idea that feelings can just be what they are without trying to fix them. Usually, whatever I’m upset about is not a big deal in the scheme of things, the feelings do pass, and it would be better to just let it go rather than getting even more worked up. Thank you for sharing this!
I cannot stress the script thing enough. I have Aspberger’s and OCD, and sometimes that means I’m the Vulcan and sometimes I’m the Vulcan who just performed a bad mind meld and can’t deal. My husband is super empathetic, and has a difficult time expressing his wants past “love” and “support”. I often can’t see what that means, so I have to remember to ask him what in specific he wants. Thankfully, after figuring out the ASD thing, he’s gotten used to saying, “I need a hug” or “I need some space” and steering away from the “what I want should be obvious if you really love me” stuff. Remember to ask what he needs and to try to be patient with the answer, and ask him to remind you specifically that “x will help me y”, which for me puts a logical spin on the otherwise unfathomable soup of emotions. Cause —> effect. Hug —–> husband feels supported. Space —-> lets him gather thoughts so he can start speaking Vulcan if he needs to.
As to confronting how you feel on something, even if you can’t identify what exactly it is at all times (I have SOOO much difficulty with this, as the product of a manic depressive scientist father who thought that repressing and enforcing logic was the only way to deal with his own emotional mess), find a few things that you feel comfortable saying. For me, it’s “I’m upset (and sometimes, if I know why, I add “because x”)”, since sometimes anger and sadness and anxiety read the same way. Usually as I discuss the circumstances, it’ll become clearer what emotions are actually at the bottom of it. Important: discuss this with husband beforehand, as I didn’t, and he got frustrated with me for saying the same stuff every disagreement/argument/time of stress. My roommate, also on the autism spectrum, is fond of “I’m feeling something right now, and I think it might be x. Can we talk about it?”
It helped us to talk this over during periods in which we were both calmer. It led to us realizing that stuff we consider “obvious” is not at all apparent to the other (and sometimes myself) right away, and that’s okay. We have a few key phrases that we agreed on to let the other know what’s going on. It’s definitely not easy, but it is getting better.
Feel free to delete this if it’s inappropriate, but Vulcans and people married to Vulcans, do you ever find that the Vulcan gets a very, erm, sexual reaction to intense emotions from their partner? Most of the Vulcans I know get a “partner is crying” stiffie and it can sometimes wig this emotional person out… Whooee, what up with that?
The hubbs is very emotional, and I’m not so much – more like Bones than Spock. My experience is the opposite of this… He gets hella turned on when I cry or get giddy or emotionally overreact, in any capacity. It made me laugh when Megan mentioned getting praise, like a dog, when she acts emotionally literate – I get a treat!
Now when I was much younger, I used to watch soaps, and whenever there were intense emotions, I always wanted to yell at the screen, “JUST FUCK ALREADY!” Any two people fighting, crying, being awkward with each other, dying of hypothermia, coming back from he dead, being locked in an underground prison in Paris… just get it on. So maybe that’s somhow related…
If it wasn’t for Kirk/Enterprise and Kirk/Kirk, Bones/Spock would be my TOS OTP. It’s a great ship you’re living.
NO! Nope nope nope. The moment he gets emotional EVERYTHING IN ME screams “run away and don’t look back!” It’s the opposite of Boner Town.
I’m wondering if the people you know are more Doms than Vulcans? I’ve noticed a lot of Doms prize “being in control” as an attribute in themselves, but their goal with their subs is often to make them lose control.
Also, for people who view emotional expression as the ultimate vulnerability (and thus almost never do it) seeing someone being that vulnerable with them is an obvious turn on [for people who equate sex with intimacy]
Good luck! My DH is the vulcan in our relationship and I know my constant lava bubbling of emotion can be taxing. There is something about opposites that attract.
We recently attended a couples retreat called Retrouvaille. This really opened my eyes to how differently we experience emotions, and we understand each other much better now. They taught us a formula for communicating our emotions to each other. Basically, you answer a chosen question and describe your feeling fully in every way, until you feel understood. It seems remedial, but it works. It is also a great exercise for writers! Anyways, I highly recommend it. Just gloss over the religious undertones. http://www.retrouvaille.org/
And we’ve been together for 14 years. I think it shows maturity that you guys took this step earlier.
Megan and husband: Thank you for being so open and public about your journey. I think the conversation that you are spawning here will be so helpful to so many. It’s like your holiday gift to the world! <3
D’aw! Thanks for that. 🙂
My husband actually loves that I’m fairly unemotional when it comes to some things. Doesn’t mean that I (nor he) are emotionally void, but 90% of the issues in my life can be dealt with using logic and reason. I can definitely identity with trying to avoid others due to their emotional outbursts, because I am super guilty of hiding from friends of mine who are famous for crying at the drop of a hat. What I normally try to remember during the few times that I let the sad hormones wash over me is “this will pass. It’s just crying/getting upset. The world is not over, life will go on. ‘You’re a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be afraid of?'” I think that last quote is from an anonymous person on the internet, but I LOVE how accepting it is.
Growing up, I had some friends who just naturally “got” me and I naturally “got” them. I am so lucky to have them, but I had (and have) a lot to learn about how people work outside of my tight little circle.
When I got to college, I made friends quickly, but I struggled with how to react to them when it wasn’t immediately intuitive. I’m was not the friend who sits with you and holds your hand while you cry or could deal with swift changes in emotion and needs. I would avoid certain friends, too! It’s good to hear other people admit it too! I ended up literally having to ask other people in the social circle “What’s up with this person?” I made it clear it wasn’t a gossipy question, but that I needed to understand why they were acting in a certain way that I personally couldn’t relate to. And, then, what to do about it.
Years later, after college, I still struggle with how to relate to my one friend. She’s had some serious shit happen in her life. Each time we would hang out, I would have serious anxiety about how I was supposed to act. I was also afraid of my own emotions bubbling over because, very rarely, I can be overly empathetic (the death of a parent usually brings up this because it’s a big fear of mine.) So my coping mechanism and strategy for being a better friend is just to ASK. I would ask her if she needed- a chill night, a night out for distractions, etc. And she now knows that my strong suit as a friend is helping people through something with logic, and I now know that logic isn’t always what people need.
Also, I love the ghost driving a meat- covered skeleton comment 🙂