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FOSTERING EMPATHY, COMPASSION AND TRUST
Provided by Margaret Stoll,
Daniel B. Wile, Ph.D., a prominent Couples Psychotherapist
in Oakland, California, believes that helping couples express their
immediate authentic emotions to each other is the most useful way
of improving not only their communication but their relationship in
He explains that when feeling some form of emotional discomfort with
their partner, people often react either by attacking or avoiding.
When attacking the person finds fault with or criticizes their partner
rather than saying what it is they are feeling such as hurt, sad,
insecure, angry, etc. In contrast, when avoiding, the spouse says
nothing about their uncomfortable feelings. This avoidance often results
in a distance between the two or even an angry attacking outburst
later when their suppressed feelings get triggered.
Both of these approaches foster reactive attacking and avoiding which
can result in cycles of this destructive interaction between the two
Wile describes how expressing one’s true emotional distress
without attacking or avoiding fosters empathy, connection and trust.
Examples of authentic communications are, “I feel left out when
you go on long walks with your girlfriends but not with me,”
or “Your working such long hours makes me feel like I’m
not important enough to you to make more time together.”. Trying
to communicate one’s distress to his or her partner in these
ways is a challenging but worthwhile way to overcome immediate conflicts
and to create long term intimacy and cooperation.
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