May 18, 2020

Here’s Why Those Marriage Fights Really Hurt

Recognizing the Raw Spots That Drive Your Reactivity

Think of a time you have been in a conversation with someone where they say something that makes you feel angry or insecure . . . so much so that you can’t continue the conversation normally.  You are probably experiencing what Dr. Sue Johnson, the creator of Emotional Focused Therapy, calls a “raw spot.”

“Raw spots” surface when a present-day conversation subconsciously reminds us of a past experience where an essential psychological need has been ignored or deprived.

Here are four ways to get REAL with those painful “raw spots.”

Recognize Your Emotions

Your emotions don’t lie, so pay attention to them. Four of the most common raw spots are mad, sad, afraid, and shamed. You know you’ve hit a raw spot if your emotional reaction is out of proportion to the event that has occurred or if your emotions shifted suddenly and radically in response to the event. Use emotion as a sign that it’s time to pay attention to your needs that aren’t being met.

Explore the Story Behind the Emotion

Try to figure out the deeper need that is not being met by recognizing what has triggered your emotions. Some common triggers include being excluded, being rejected, not being believed, and feeling “conditionally accepted.” Ask yourself, “What times in the past did I feel similar?”

Attend to the Starved Past

All interactions have a past, present, and future. Focus on the whole pain, not just the present pain. Sometimes it can take the pressure off a marriage to see that your current sadness is not caused by your partner but by another force. Ask yourself, “What times in the past were my psychological needs not met?” Answering this honestly will help you to connect with your pain in an honest way.

Lift the Interaction by Feeding the Deeper Need

Create some space in the conversation. Find a way to communicate about the underlying emotional need. Talk like the adult you are, not an offended child. It’s important to not blame your partner, but the psychological pattern in your life. Admit that you have an emotional past and share it openly. Don’t hide shame.

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Dr. Matt Townsend's Web Site