Conflict # 52 – Respect for Emotions

The names in the following story are fictitious; the situation, however, is factual.

Joe and Mary, married with two young children, came for help due to major conflict with his father. Joe’s parents, Dan and Carol, had never respected him as a man. Dan, a successful businessman and esteemed member of the community, was also a know-it-all, and throughout their lives, he routinely pointed out Joe’s errors in a demeaning manner. Carol was passive, and allowed Dan to dominate. After years of seeing her husband suffer, Mary had it up her neck with Dan’s bossy attitude; ultimately, the young couple barred his parents from their home until they could work things out. At the time we were doing therapy, Dan and Carol had not seen their grandchildren in over a year.

After a few sessions with Joe and Mary only, the in-laws joined them for a family therapy session. When Joe expressed anger at his dad, Dan said, “You have no right to feel that way. I haven’t done anything to make you mad. It’s wrong to feel that way. ” Then he turned to me for support. “Am I right or wrong?” I simply said that it’s out of bounds to criticize or correct someone’s emotions.

The act of denying what another person is feeling is not just disrespectful. It’s downright hostile. Furthermore, it’s useless, because disrespecting another’s emotions won’t get them to change what they’re feeling. We don’t “choose” to feel this way or that; feelings just happen, spontaneously.

And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to suffer, due to a poor understanding of emotions.

If this kind of thing is bothering you or someone close to you, I’d be more than happy to provide a free consultation. Just call 219-309-3928. I’ve been coaching conflict resolution since 2004, and would be honored to be of assistance.

For more on the question of respect for emotions click here. Responsibility and Boundaries.

Thanks for reading!