ERP 367: Learning To Disarm Our Emotional Weapons — An Interview With Dr. Shawn Haywood

By Posted in - Podcast April 11th, 2023 0 Comments

Is your relationship constantly fraught with emotional arguments? When things get tough, do you resort to emotional weapons like anger, blame, or shutting down?

It’s time to take a step back and examine the role these emotional weapons play in your relationship.

In this episode, Dr. Shawn Haywood and Dr. Jessica Higgins discuss the ways in which people use emotional weapons to protect themselves, the negative impacts of using these weapons, and how to identify and disarm them. Dr. Haywood shares valuable insights and practical tips for gaining awareness of our emotional weapons, asking for what we need, and finding healthier ways to meet our needs in relationships.

Through deep devotion and commitment to her evolving spiritual path, author, speaker, and life and relationship coach for 24 years, Shawn Haywood, Ph.D., continues to transform toward increasing unconditional love and joy for the whole of her life, while teaching her clients and team to do the same so that their lives, marriages, health, and businesses can thrive in unimaginable ways.

If you’re interested in improving your relationships and creating deeper connections with your partner, this interview is a must-listen.

In this Episode

3:44 How to assess success or failure in a relationship and the different factors that contribute to it.

13:16 The importance of descriptive language and mutual connection in relationships.

17:26 The importance of different types of connections in a relationship.

23:40 Understanding your partner’s needs: Enhancing connection in relationships through emotional, sexual, and intellectual fulfillment

28:52 Analyzing the fight-or-flight response to improve connection in relationships.

31:07 Understanding attachment style and types of connections.

33:25 Defense mechanisms and their impact on an individual’s ability to connect with others

39:56 Understanding marianismo and the effects of shame on connection and wellbeing.

44:00 Dr. René Vázquez del Valle talks about his book and explains how the simple formula of assessing head, heart, and crotch connections can have profound effects on people’s lives.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Gain awareness of your emotional weapons by reflecting on past conflicts and identifying the patterns you tend to fall into.
  • Practice vulnerability by learning to ask for what you need and being open to receiving it.
  • Learn to regulate your own emotions by practicing mindfulness, meditation, or other self-care techniques.
  • Focus on building connection and empathy with your partner by active listening and validating their feelings.
  • Consider seeking help from a therapist or coach who can guide you through the process of disarming your emotional weapons and building healthier communication habits.

Mentioned

Living For Love: Set Yourself Free from the Daily Stress, Worry & Hurry that Wears You Down (Amazon affiliate link*) (book)

Reroute Your Relationship (free guide link)

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with Dr. Shawn Haywood

Websites: reimaginelove.com

Facebook: facebook.com/shawn.ashley.haywood

Instagram: instagram.com/drshawnhaywood

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drshawnhaywood

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Dr. Shawn Haywood, thank you for joining us today.

Hi, thank you so much for having me, Jessica. I’m super excited to be here.

Oh, I am grateful to have your voice on this topic. I do think that we’re not always conscientious of how we might utilize and weaponize some of our emotional protections or even reactivity, and how these emerge in relationship and the dynamics around it. So I’m super excited about what we’re going to talk about. I love your just passion and enthusiasm. I can feel it already. 

Oh, thank you!

So before we get started, is there anything you want to share with the Empowered Relationship audience about who you are and where you’re coming from? 

Oh gosh, yes. So what to share? So I have been doing this work for almost 23 years. I was a coach before people knew what a coach was, and they said, what sport are you in? So I’ve been around the block a few times. Yeah, so I’m super excited. I have a new book out called Living for Love. Gosh, I’m just really excited to be here, Jessica! Thank you so much.

Yeah, it’s wonderful. Well, I love that you have such a wealth of experience and you’ve been at this, and I think there’s a certain level of perspective that someone has when they’ve been, and cultivated the level of experience and education. So in this particular topic, how did you come into really supporting people in recognizing emotional weapons, if you’re willing to share?

Oh, of course. So over time, we just started to develop this methodology around emotional weapons, and identified the top seven emotional weapons that people tend to use. From there, we just literally started curating parts of our program around it. Because when you think about emotional weapons, one, we have to know what they are. Like, what are they, and which ones do I use? Then from there, when we learn how to lay them down, it literally becomes impossible to fight. So I will share on social media about fight-free marriages, and we have so much pushback that people just can’t believe that it’s possible. But really, it’s not that crazy. It’s just something that people don’t hear about. They hear about fighting fear and picking your battles and things like that. 

When Chris and I were really struggling, actually, I think a little more than 10 years ago now, we just couldn’t comprehend the idea of “This is the person I love so much, why do we want to fight fear with him or pick a battle?” Like, we’re not in the military. We’re love partners. We’re adventure partners. We just didn’t want to have any of that. There was like a little spark in us that didn’t really have any idea how we would get there. But we both had this idea that it was possible. 

Yeah, so we developed this emotional weapon piece. I mean, that’s one piece of our program, and as we started to understand and research and all this stuff, we just started to really believe that it was possible. We are now almost having our sobriety chip. We’re almost five years with no conflict, and our clients experience the same thing. 

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“When people learn how to lay down their emotional weapons, you totally don’t have to fight anymore. You just outgrow it, essentially.”

It sounds like Chris is not only your love partner, but also your business partner. Is that right?

He is, he’s a business partner. 

Well, there’s a level of work, not only in cultivating intimacy and the relationship, but also being business partners. So there’s a level of terrain that you put this into practice. So being a testament to this really works, and not only with your clients, but also in your own life. So I appreciate that. To be clear, we’re not saying, if I’m hearing you correctly, that one is not going to feel triggered, or have reactivity, or feel something emerge? It’s the choice around what we do with that. Am I understanding this correctly?

Yes. So I would say there’s two parts to that, Jessica. So one, I don’t think that unless you become an avatar of some kind, like a Christ or Buddha, I don’t think you ever stop getting triggered. Maybe they did as well, I don’t know. But yes, so we have a couple of surrender tools techniques that we teach people, to learn to eliminate negative emotions to a very, very high degree. So people will learn these skills, and a month later, they’ll be like, “Wow, I used to get really upset about that, and it barely bothered me.” So if you think about, like, let’s say there’s 500 things that somebody gets angry about.

Or gets triggered about.

Exactly, any of that. Anxious, depressed, whatever the triggers are, fearful. You practice these surrender tools for 30 days, 60 days. It’s an expanding skill set. If there’s 500 things that you got upset about or triggered by on month one, there’s going to be a number of those that don’t bother you at all; you literally don’t have any trigger. So it just diminishes over time over time over time. So as our clients do get triggered, it’s so small over time. People feel so capable of handling it, or talking about it, or recontextualizing it. Does that make sense?

Yeah. Now, is this for someone that is working with their activation across the board and individualizing, like, understanding what’s going on for them and helping them metabolize? Or is this specific to relationship in their relationship?

Such a good question. Really, both. We set up our client journey, whether it’s an individual or a couple coming to us, it’s 80% individual work. Does that make sense? So I come into my party with all of my history of stuff, and if I keep all of that, then it interferes with everything, from business to the bedroom. Yeah, we really have our methodology structured where it’s self-work first. 

Is there anything you want to say about that a little bit to help people understand? I mean, I’m getting a sense just based on my background of helping people become more aware of what gets activated and helping them excavate that. Is that more or less? Is there anything you want to say about how you support people in this cumulative process that helps them metabolize, or as you said, as this way of feeling more confident in dealing with the triggers, but also that the intensity decreases. Is there anything you want to give people a little nugget around?

Yeah, so many things. One, I love your terminology around activation. I actually haven’t heard it quite like that before, so it’s really beautiful. I love it, activation. Can I bounce a question back to you real quick? 

Sure, yeah.

Do you use that in the same way as you would trigger?

I do. I use it synonymously, and just that the nervous system is activated. 

Yes. Oh, I love it. Okay, great. Thank you. Let’s see, a little nugget. Would you like me to share something that’s like a practice for people, something tangible that they can practice? Or about the journey of letting go of emotions?

Let’s do a practice, and if you can give maybe a little bit of an example to support people around what that might look like. Then we can get into the weaponizing.

So let’s think about blame. Everybody knows how to blame. “He hurt my feelings. She did this.” So one of the spaces that we really dig into arson foremost within oneself, because it’s so easy to blame me as well and be like, “Oh, I’m such a loser today, or I ate too much.” We can find any reason to beat ourselves up, or our partner. So the first emotional weapon that we help people overcome, override, stop practicing and then practice something else, is blaming. So when people let go of blame, and certainly it’s systematic, Jessica. Like, nobody is getting rid of blame the first week.

Right, it’s not a light switch.

Exactly, it is a well-worn path for people. Even, like, “Ah, that person cut me off while driving, and now I’m so mad.” Like, there’s so many spaces where we put our feelings outside of us, and therefore we feel powerless. So the journey of laying down emotional weapons is so unbelievably empowering. Because it says, “Oh wait, I get to have the power over, do I even choose to get triggered here.” Again, yes, there’s some practice along the way. But it’s like, “Am I really going to let myself go there? Am I going to give my partner, or this driver, or my work mate, all the power over me that says, you made me feel this way, and now I’m just stuck feeling this way?” So it’s just the most empowering space to learn to lay down these emotional weapons. Because you just get to feel good, it’s a whole new story. Does that make sense? 

Yes. Okay, and you’re also giving us some insight in how these things are related. So when we talk about emotional trigger or activation, you’re helping us recognize there’s something that’s happening, and then we, in response to that, maybe habitually, will choose a weapon to deal with that activation or trigger. Then if we can recognize what’s on the other side of choosing differently, or pivoting towards surrender, if I’m using your word, then we can feel this liberation, like we’re not so victim to the trigger, and thus engaging in these emotional weapons. Is that right?

Oh, 100%, you’ve totally nailed it. One maybe a little tiny additional piece is that we look at everything, like, we come from the standpoint that practice makes permanent, and it also braids into our body. So I hear a couple say all the time, “I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to fight anymore.” Well, interestingly enough, when we become gotten into these habits, we’re actually wired to fight. It’s so fascinating because it’s like, let’s say, you and I are in a conflict, and we’re both angry. Our body is having this chemical rave party, like, the dopamine and the serotonin and the adrenaline and the cortisol. It’s a physiological thing. People think it’s just up here, it’s just our head, just our mind going, “Oh, I don’t want to do this.” It’s so much more than that. That’s why we take such a maybe unique approach from a lot of people who do this kind of work, in that we work with neurology, we work with the spirit, we work with the mind, the emotions. Because it’s all tied together. If we don’t know how to unbraid the entire dynamic, body, mind, spirit, then we’re just going to spin our wheels and continue to be in this place of, “I think I don’t want to fight. Like, I don’t want this particular piece, or trigger, or activation.” I love that word so much. “In my life anymore, but I don’t know how to untie myself from it.”

I’m sure you’ve gotten this. I know that I feel a tremendous amount of empathy, as we’re talking, that people really well-intended. They have looked at these things, they’ve been around the block, they kind of know what not to do. Then they get into the interaction, and they’re spun and triggered and activated. It’s almost a sense of like, I’ve heard clients say, “I see red, or I’m saying and doing things I don’t feel good about.” It’s this sense of like, I know better, but in these moments, it’s like I lose capacity. As you’re talking about the nervous system, the fight or flight or freeze, that’s so primal. We’re not going to override that with, you’re making the gesture of just the head and the intellect. So there’s this comprehensive system. 

Okay, great. Well, that’s so important to acknowledge. Is there anything you want to say about that? 

Oh gosh, I think you tidied it up really well. I mean, it’s fascinating. To your point around having empathy for people, it’s so true. I mean, people come to us, and they’ve been to therapists after therapists, they’ve read 50 books. There’s so much support available these days. But if you’re not getting the appropriate blueprint for all the spaces, then it just turns into trying. If we use, again, the example of getting triggered into a conflict, and then it’s like, well, now we’re spun out. It’s actually something that the body craves. So we talk about things like anger addiction or anxiety addiction. 

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“If people don’t know how to get that hormone chemical neurotransmitter rave party, from joy, and love, and connection, and depth, and contribution, we’re going to get it from somewhere. It’s like, we just have to learn how to shift that dynamic and lay down those pieces that are so detrimental, and pick up tools that allow us to get our chemical highs from love and joy and peace and contentment and connection.”

I remember in some early internships of my training, it might have been in my master’s program, that we can’t just ask people. Maybe it was in my PhD, I can’t remember. But it’s this idea of harm reduction, and that we don’t ask people in a kind of therapeutic way to just stop doing behaviors that are destructive. Because they have nothing to replace it with, they have nothing else to turn to. So you’re saying if we’re so in this habit or this pattern and sequence of, whether or not it’s blame or anger or anxiety, and whatever that state is, or even running late and that pressure, whatever it is that we put on repeat, you’re saying we want to replace that. We want to be able to build up other things that bring more of that high, that positive reward. It’s almost like the scale, we want to let one atrophy and build the other. Is that right?

100%. I mean, a super simple way to look at it is, if I am going to change my eating habits, and I decide I’m not going to eat burger and fries anymore, I’m not just not eating. I’m swapping it out for more kale or more fruit, or whatever it might be. So exactly, you are on it. 

Okay, and that’s very helpful to have guidance. Because some people, again, haven’t maybe looked at this super intentionally or consciously, and it’s just they’re doing what they’ve always done, and there’s reasons why. Like, we have good reasons why we do what we do, given our environment growing up. 

So I have a quick question before we dive into the seven emotional weapons. There’s a way in which you’re describing that I’m hearing the question around choice. Some people might feel convicted and really decided about, “I’m not going to do X, Y, and Z anymore.” So it’s this idea of like, “I’m going to just have more willpower, and I’m going to try harder.” Then the way I’m also hearing you present is, we do have some choice to lay down the weapons, to be in a little bit more of a surrender. So where does choice show up here? Because it’s almost like, if we go too far, we’ve lost the ability to maybe choose. I don’t know, that’s how I’m wondering. If we can catch it a little bit ahead of the activation, or set it up more for success, or like you’re saying, replace, then we might be a little bit more set up to have access to make choice? I don’t know.

Yeah, I totally get it. This is such a great question. Because overriding what feels, to most people, the most challenging piece, is literally getting out of that habit. So say, if we drink too much, if we eat too much, if we work too much, whatever the habit is that isn’t serving us any longer, one, it’s really important to understand that we form habits for really good reasons. So they’re all some form of a coping strategy that we learned when we were a little kid, that our mindset, “This is how we stay safe. This is how we’re protected.” Even emotional weapons, whether I’m blaming, yelling, angry, whatever it might be, even passive aggression. That’s like, I’m afraid to share my heart, my truth, my vulnerability. So this is how I try to get my needs met. 

Yeah. So when you’re working to make those different choices, at least how we set it up for people is, we have a number of things. So one is teaching people literally how to surrender. So we hear it all of our lives, “Let it go, surrender! Give it over to the universe, or whatever.” But people don’t know how to actually do that. It’s very easy to say that. But also, then it’s like all this energy is stuck in here, and people wind up feeling guilty because they couldn’t do it. We’re literally giving a how-to to make that happen, to allow that to unfold. So we’re setting up daily practices to soften the emotions, so that when the triggers come, they’re less potent. 

Then we have another little methodology that we call the four steps, to talk about anything anywhere, anytime without conflict. It’s literally, we have our clients print out 50 copies, and keep them in every room, in your lunch pail, in your car, in your office, wherever. As soon as a trigger comes up, that’s your first line of defense. You go here first, and then you see if there’s actually anything else to solve, which most of the time there’s not. So we’re helping them interrupt their patterns, in a way that’s really fruitful. Because once we get into it, the most efficient thing to do is we ask people to just walk away. Because if practice makes permanent, every time you engage in that way, you get better at it and better at it and better at it. So if they fall off, we call it falling off the cliff, just playfully. Like, “Oh, we fell off the cliff together.” Then it’s like, who can remember to walk away more quickly? But at the same time, we really have to honor that our egos love the payoff of a good righteous indignation, or a good fight, or a good blame, or rubbing our partner’s nose in something. Even though when we’re in our real self, our spirit self, we’re either in ego dominance.

The wise.

Yeah, exactly. Then we would look back and go, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I humiliated my partner like that.” But when we’re in it, we’re just like, “I’m hurt, and I want you to be hurt too, you big jerk!”

We’re looking for some sign of, like, they care, or whatever it is that is in service. But it is often this amped up competitive energy that you’re saying there’s a lot of addictive qualities to it. So it sounds like, to the question around choice, it’s not so much, again, that the nervous system doesn’t get activated, or we don’t feel the charge. It’s being able to have that choice to do something different with the pattern interrupt. So it’s not just like, we’re expecting ourselves to somehow do this super-avatar, evolved, enlightened move. It’s being able to just catch it and then have something to replace, and you give people a lot of clear guidance around how to do that. You essentially unpack it, maybe get into that a little bit more vulnerability, I’m imagining.

Yeah, absolutely. Because people think sort of that the choice is A or B. I’m either mad and yelling at my partner, or I’m not mad, which really usually translates to trying to stuff it and deny it, and you’re going to have that inner build up until the next time, and then it’s really big. So yes, to your point about choices, it’s like, now I have this whole toolkit of choices. I don’t have to just not be upset, or just not be shut down. I get to try something that’s more empowering. You said something actually really, really lovely. I love it. You said, trying to feel that others are cared for. It’s like, I used to be volatile, and Chris would shut down, and I really did perceive that as he just didn’t give a shit. I would poke that bear, poke that bear, poke that bear, and he’d shut down more and more and more. So his core weapon was shutting down, and my core weapon was amping up. So I love that you gave that example, because it’s so true. 

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“If we don’t understand our own value worth lovability, we will be anybody down to try to get that, to perceive that.”

It’s critical, and this is what the driver and what’s at play. It’s the most important thing. So I don’t want to lose you without talking about these seven emotional weapons. Is that okay if we turn towards that?

Oh, heck yeah! So if I share too much about them, we’ll be here till the end of time, Jessica. So I’ll just go through them, and then you can ask me any questions that you want. So the first one is blame, which we talked about a little bit, and that one is usually everybody’s go-to. So we always encourage people, when they go through this module in our online piece of our program, to get really clear about their top go-to’s, and blame is always at the top of the list. Then there’s anger, and then emotional shutdown; there’s passive aggression. I think that passive aggression is really important to make a little pause on this, because it’s such a tricky area. I’m not talking about necessarily clinical passive aggressive personality disorder, if that makes sense. It’s really about what we see most of the time, just because we have a really specific archetype of couples that we work with. So we call them tornado and the inchworm, which won’t mean much to you, but it’s super just fun and playful. 

So our feminine archetype is typically the tornado in the relationships that we work with, and then there’s the inchworm. Our inchworms are just this amazingly kind, loving man. They have been taught somewhere along their journey that showing emotion isn’t appropriate, and especially anger. My husband literally would tell me at the beginning of our relationship, I never get angry, I’ve never been angry. I was like, whoa, whoa, we got some hiding out going here. It was just so, so cute when he first started to get more in touch with his emotions and let them express. He was like, wow, I actually do feel angry. 

So with that often comes out as passive aggression, which can be anywhere from mild to abusive of course. What we see there so often is, the most damaging piece that I see is this cycle of conflict there, with this passive aggressive piece, is that she always ends up feeling like she’s crazy for bringing something up. Because they do a really good job of wrapping it around, and by the end, you’re like, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I did.” It’s just a really masterful way that they’ve learned to abdicate responsibility, because that responsibility feels too heavy for them to carry. Just to put a little pause on that one, it can be a tricky one to unravel. Because people just aren’t in a hurry to be like: Oh, I’m passive aggressive. But I definitely encourage people to really, really clear about that dynamic. It’s just a tougher one to get out of.

It’s not as visible or obvious, it can be a little bit more nuanced or hidden.

Exactly, 100%. So there’s anger, there’s blame, there’s emotional shutdown, there’s competition, there’s passive aggression, there’s shame. and then there’s jealousy. So those are sort of the top. Now as you might imagine, there’s nuances, resentment and things like that.

Is there any example? I’m sure we can all conjure up what these tendencies result to, as far as behaviors. So do you deem the behavior the weapon? Is it giving it too much power, like you were saying earlier? Because some of these feelings might be there, around like shame or jealousy or anger. But it’s how we deal with it or behaviors or tendencies. So can you help us with that? Because I mean, some blame, of course, or there’s certain things that are on face value, like pointing the finger at people typically isn’t a good strategy, it doesn’t result to a lot of constructive resolution. But do you see a point of which it becomes really like a weapon?

Yes. So shame is a really good one. So shame is our lowest emotional denominator, and we work really efficiently to move people out of shame if they live there a lot of the time. It’s more difficult to make progress, and people often can confuse shame and guilt. 

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“While guilt is really challenging, when we’re using shame as an emotional weapon, one, undoubtedly there is a great deal of inner shame that hasn’t been overcome yet, surrendered let go, released. Then we start shaming, using it as a way to make someone else feel small, or humiliated, or not good enough.”

So every word that comes out of our mouths, it’s all a projection. So if I’m trying to humiliate you, Jessica, because you left your stuff on the floor or by the bed one more time, then I have shame to dissolve myself, and this is a weapon I know how to use. Does that make sense?

Okay, that helps me. So it’s not just feeling shame, it’s how we’re shaming, or even just the flag that gets raised when we engage in shame that is indicating we have a lot of internal shame.

Exactly, how its utilized. It’s interesting, because with emotional shutdown, people really are like, how is that a weapon? But it serves as weaponry within a dynamic because it’s impossible to have vulnerability and care and conversation if you’re paralyzed. So it’s not only a weapon to myself, if I’m using it. It’s a weapon to somebody else, because they don’t get these soft, tender, beautiful parts of me. 

It’s really disengaging in the relationship. That’s one of the things that occurs to me with all of these, is that it’s such a great analogy or a word of weapon. It’s hard to really be in contact and have mutual care and regard if there’s weapons. It’s even like, “Everybody put their weapons down. Let’s actually try to calm this. Let’s actually try to have some dialogue and repair and understanding so we can get to some solution.” Like, when we’re in that threatened mode and we’re ready to fight, we’re in protection. The goal is very different. It’s not where the goal is to get to a positive outcome or to be in this intimacy. 

Oh my gosh, I love it. It’s sort of on the fringes of “all of the emotional weapons is some level of pridefulness.” Because if we’re using an emotional weapon in any way, this is the part that people don’t love to hear, but it is also empowering, is that we’re doing anything we can think of that we’ve learned along the way to get what we want. So I used to use anger. I’m kid you not. If I were doing dishes, and I thought Chris should be helping me, all I had to do was go, huh. By gosh, he would leap off the couch and run over and be like, “Hi, do you need some help?” By then, I was already off of my own emotional cliff. What was challenging and then beautiful is that, that was just pridefulness. Going, like, how dare you sit on that couch and I’m doing all this stuff? This big drama situation happening inside of me. 

Then part of the tool set that we teach to help people lay down emotional weapons is vulnerable asking. I had to believe that I was worthy of receiving to be able to ask him lovingly for help, instead of like, “Well, he should just know, and why would he think it’s appropriate to just sit on the couch while I’m doing dishes?” We have all this sassy dialogue. But at the end of the day, what it really ropes around to is learning how to feel worthy of receiving in a loving way. “Hey, babe, would you mind helping me do the dishes.” When we asked lovingly, how many times will they be like, “Oh my God, no, you suck! It’s like, “Yeah, I’d love to help. Okay, I’ll be right over.” 

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“Cultivating that vulnerable space is the antidote, so to speak, to the emotional weapons. But it’s not easy, being vulnerable.”

No, and I love that you’re really recognizing the worthiness. Because it’s almost caring for the part of us that feels resentful, insecure, all these things that are usually not very attractive, that it’s easy to want to push away, and with you mentioning the word pride, we don’t really want to make that welcome. So it’s easy to push it away. Then the other thing that I’m sensing, it’s almost as if, like, “I want you to reach to me, I want you to be showing care. But I’m going to be behind my protective weapons. But you go first, show me and then I’ll let my weapon down.” It’s this idea that we have these feelings, we don’t want to acknowledge them. But then we want our partner to respond to us. But we don’t want to be vulnerable, we want to be behind the weapon. So it’s really a mixed message signal when we send these emotional weapons over. 

Oh my gosh, girl, that is the best way to describe it! It’s so mixed message. As long as there’s emotional weapons being rolled around, we can’t have emotional safety, and without emotional safety, we can’t have uninterrupted connection. As a coupleship progresses over time, at first, it’s all love and sunshine and rainbows and so cute. Oh my gosh, we had our first cute little, and then it compounds. It gets bigger. We use an emotional weapon once a week, and then twice a week, and then 20 times a week. Pretty soon, now we’re fighting at dinner time every day, because I cooked last night and what are you going to do tonight. Every single time that comes up, every piece of conflict includes a weapon, and every time that happens, our connection breaks. 

It’s like, think of a giant Jenga board. Every time we’re pulling out a block, and we’re pulling out a block, because we don’t know how to put those blocks back in, because we don’t know how to lay down our weapons. At some point, it collapses. People think that divorce happens because somebody had an affair, or something really big happened. No way. Even affairs happen because that connection broke so many times that there is no connection. Couples get divorced because there’s a lack of connection, and that’s our heart’s deepest desire is feeling that sense of connection and belongingness. 

I hear people say, it’s like death by a thousand cuts. It’s such an appropriate space. Because then emotional weapons become more fertile, because we’re trying to get connected, which doesn’t make any sense. But it’s like, I’m going to beat my partner down to get connection because I’m craving it so much. Meanwhile, we’re putting more wedges between us.

Exactly, I love that just description around we lose connection when we use the emotional weapons. It’s just a real direct painting it red, that there is a vulnerable emotional risk in creating, and I love the interrupted connection. We want to continue to lengthen the time, get back into connection, know how to do that, and be able to sustain that longer and have that confidence. So when so many weapons are being used, it’s really hard to undo some of the damage of that, when you’re saying the death by a thousand cuts. It’s like, well, this cut and that cut, and everybody feels so injured. But it’s really difficult to do triage on all of that. 

This is so, so, so helpful. Is there anything you want to help us with before we transition here? I mean, we’ve talked a lot, but is there anything else you want to stay around how to lay these weapons down? Or how to not utilize them, and really prioritize some of this surrendering and connection? Or how to get rid of the emotional weapons, as you might say?

Heck yeah! So from a foundational perspective, obviously, this is what we do is escort people through how to do all this, But I would love to give at least a beginner nugget for people, we already talked about it a little bit. It’s like, the first thing that people need to do is identify. If we don’t have any awareness around like, what do I do? Oh, I want to blame her. Or shoot, I really tried to get my partner to comply by using anger. I was a bully, and I learned how to do that, and it is how I got my needs met, even though it was super bastardized, it didn’t feel great in the end. So we use this for really specific reasons. 

So for people listening, their first mode of operation could just be gaining some awareness, even in hindsight going, “Oh, wow. I’m going to think about the last three fights we had. Okay, what did I do? Oh, I used anger, I used shutdown. Okay, what was the need that I wanted to be met, and I didn’t know another way to get there?” So if we can just start to be a little bit more transparent with ourselves and look behind the curtain, it’s like the Wizard of Oz. Once we know the man was behind the curtain, then all the mystique was gone. So we need to sort of peek behind our own curtains and go, “Wow, I am using emotional weapons, and I really want to have my needs met in a more meaningful way, and I can learn better ways to do that.” 

We talked a little bit about asking. Asking is very vulnerable, especially when we don’t perceive that we’re worthy of receiving, which is every single one of our clients. 

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“That’s just human nature. We grow up in imperfect homes, and one of the biggest issues is that we don’t learn that we’re worthy of receiving.”

But we hear women say all the time, “Oh, I hate asking, I hate asking for help.” Well, if that’s your MO, then 100%, you don’t feel worthy of receiving.” That’s a big space of healing to shore up, which creates so much amazing stuff in your life and in your marriage. So there’s just a couple of little things that I encourage people to do right off the bat, to gain some awareness. Is that helpful?

It’s super helpful, and I think it ties a lot of what we’ve already discussed into the frame, so that people can start to really find some entry points here.

As you and your partner, Chris, have already developed, you have a lot of guidance you offer. So what would you like to encourage people to connect with, if they’re interested in learning more?

So one, we actually have an emotional weapons download, and I think you’re going to add that to your links. But that is ReimagineLove.com/emotionalweapons. So it’s very simple. Then we have a Reimagine Love Facebook group that is for women. Sorry, men, we have email lists for you. But our Facebook group is for women, and as you might imagine, most of the time, it’s the women that do the seeking and the hiring. So you can just look for Reimagine Love on Facebook and go there. Yeah, you can check out our website at ReimagineLove.com.

Nice. So I’ll make sure, again, to have the link to the free download for emotional weapons, and then also the link to the Facebook page. 

Wonderful. Well, thank you again for joining us here today on the Empowered Relationship Podcast. 

Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. This has been absolutely fantastic. I love it.

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching