For the last three weeks, we’ve talked about why you need your heart as well as your head to love your spouse well, understanding why we sometimes meet barricades when trying to communicate, and we looked at an example of what it means to connect with someone at a heart level. Today, we’d like to give you a tool we have found very helpful in understanding why our spouse over-reacts at times—and why we do too.
Recently, we attended a John Regier – Caring for the Heart conference. The first night, we were given a homework assignment.
Step 1: Rate Your Emotional Pain
Go down the list of Emotional Pain Words and rate each one using a scale of 0-10. Zero means you have no pain in that area; 10 means you have the highest degree of pain. If you have 4s and 5s as your high numbers, you are probably not a very emotional person. Don’t worry about it. You can find and print the list here.
Step 2: Grouping Categories
On a new sheet of paper, make six large boxes. Take the words to which you have assigned the highest value and group them into categories. For example, if you feel accused, all my fault, and always wrong fit in the same category, put them together in the same box. If abandoned, discarded, and ignored feel the same to you, group them together.
Step 3: Title Each Category
For us, this exercise was very enlightening. As we began grouping our words, we could see that some of the boxes had many words with 8s, 9s, and 10s on them. These were our trigger areas. We had experienced a lot of pain from some source in that area and when someone—including our spouse—looked like they were going to contribute more of that type of pain, up went the barricade! No more pain here! I’ll hold you at bay with my anger. I’ll shut down and stop talking to you. I’ll eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I’ll do something to avoid feeling the pain—and whatever that something is, it will leave God out of the picture and it will be detrimental to relationship.
We hope you will set aside 30 minutes for this exercise. (Bob testifies it may take a little longer for those who like to hang out in their head.) It will give you great insight into yourself. Then, share your list with your spouse. Tell your spouse the back stories of the pain. Take your time. There’s no rush. Really listen to each other. Ask questions that will help you understand even more about them. Express compassion. Care.
Remember that Jesus said He wants to heal our pain. You can pray on your own, but you will connect greatly with a compassionate, caring spouse who is willing to work through the pain with you and prompt you as you pray for God’s healing:
“Lord, where were you when [name the painful situation]?” Stop and listen.
“Lord, do you care about this pain?” Stop and listen.
“Lord, what would you do if I gave you this pain?” Stop and listen.
“Lord, would you please take this pain away?” Keep knocking on God’s door until you hear His answer.