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Sat, June 1, 2013
Our Emotional Ties: Breaking Through Imbalances
This article is about the emotional ties involved in the issues that cause stress/detachment, hereditary issues, chemical balances and imbalances.
 
Our Emotional Bonds
 
What is meant by emotional tie? An emotional tie is the bond formed between people who have a connection with one another. Family members, friends, lovers, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. all form some type of emotional bond that acts like an elastic band as it stretches and relaxes due to our emotional thoughts and behaviors toward one another.
 
Family members are bound by the way genetics, personality, and attachments have formed based upon the time spent together or apart. A child whose parent has left him/her at a young age for a prolonged period of time may feel abandoned or that the emotional tie has been broken. Friends form emotional ties through the discovery of common interests and activities. Colleagues bond as they work together to complete work or school assignments.
 
Relationships are formed as emotional ties are balanced as people work through daily problems, spend time together, and how life events are experienced. The bond’s elasticity is determined by the amount of tension placed upon the bond through the acts of a stressor.
 
Often these emotional ties or bonds maintain comfortable levels of tension and the partners move through their days and relationships in emotional comfort. However others find these ties riddled with tension pulling so tightly that they develop resentful, angry, frustrating, and uncomfortable feelings, reducing the satisfaction and functionality of personal relationships.
 
Stressors, any real or perceived stimulus that causes discomfort or strain on the emotional tie, are an occupational hazard that comes with the act of living. Physical illness or disability, mental illness or disability, social differences, cultural differences, genetic propensities, and perceived differences can raise the stress level in all relationships stretching these bonds in varying degrees. In this article I will discuss three areas that are commonly faced in mental health therapy.
 
  1. Stress/Detachment:  Trust, acceptance, love, intimacy, common interests, cultural affinity, and desire are a few of the powerful words that can be used to describe healthy emotional ties. Most relationships form when two people are attracted to one another with strong feelings.
Inevitably though, a perceived stressor occurs to pull upon one end of the bond to tighten its elasticity. For example, couples in the beginning of their relationship are able to deflect tension in their emotional tie because they are still in a very accepting stage. Each partner is able to overlook irritating nuances, as the bond is very soft and pliable.
However over time as the couple becomes more accustomed to one another tension in the bond begins to form as they face more complex problems relating to daily life. Time constraints from career needs, family needs and/or individual personalities stretch the emotional tie and the partners may move farther apart to decrease that tension.
The regulation of emotions becomes a very important tool to use in keeping the bonds at a safe tension level. Weak tension might mean the relationship has not progressed beyond the superficial stage. Too tight could signify unhealthy coping. Partners isolate from one another, become more irritable, seek others for support, and stifle individual needs for emotional and physical comfort leading to a stage of growing apart, separation and divorce.
Most of us know of or have heard of how even the birth of a child can weaken a couple’s emotional bond. Add to that the strain of having a child with a medical or mental illness and the bonds stretch to infinite levels. Statistics show that 80% of these marriages end in divorce due to the tension created in the emotional bonds. On the flip side 20% of the emotional bonds in such marriages remain intact or become stronger.
  1. Hereditary Issues:  The strength and elasticity of emotional bonds may also depend upon the emotionally genetic and personality characteristics of the individuals. Research shows that some couples may face the effects of different physical and mental disorders transmitted through families. Coping skills and behavioral reactions to stress may recycle through relationships as each individual reacts to problematic issues and developments.
For example child abuse tends to recur in generations because people repeat the parenting techniques used by the previous generation. Just as traditions are passed from one generation to another so are methods of reacting to others in social and family situations.
If one partner’s family responded to one another with loud voices and blunt answers then they are likely to react the same way in the new family. If these responses differ within the relationship partners the emotional ties may stretch as each partner tries to find a balance in their way of being.
To illustrate this I will use Shirley and Jim as an example. Shirley’s family interacted with one another in a soft, gentle manner, working through problems systematically with little emotional acting out or displays of affection. Jim’s family, however, reacted in a heated, loud, demonstrative way to daily problems.
When Jim and Shirley encounter a problem of their own, each one will utilize the technique they are familiar with which may create some type of emotional discord stretching their emotional bond tightly. Conversely if the two had families who approached problem solving in similar manners then they may find their emotional tie to be less tense as they find solutions.
  1. Chemical Balances and Imbalances:  Another way that emotional ties work in relationships is to provide people with self-confidence, self-belief and the security to manage any problems that arise with stress balances or imbalances.
Hormonal fluctuations due to various life stages can lead to increasing tension in emotional bonds between people. Parents and teens seem to argue more as they try to manage the needs of each individual. Women become more susceptible to emotional fluctuations during menopause while men face change of life issues as they age. These chemical balances can cause the elastic emotional ties to become brittle and dry forcing people to either break them completely or find ways to relieve the tension.
Manners of coping to these stressors will differ. As the relationship tries to cope with these stressors some people might turn to alternate methods such as alcohol or drug usage to numb the tension in the emotional bonds. Others may mitigate the stress with behavioral acting out or fall into the throes of depression.
Therapeutic Treatments
 
OK. Stressors can make or break the emotional ties that people have to one another. What do you do when your emotional ties are stretched toward the breaking point or you want to safeguard your emotional bonds with others?
 
One answer is to turn to a mental health specialist who has experience and interest in your specific concern. Psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and counselors use different therapeutic strategies when helping people strengthen, repair or rebuild emotional ties. Collaboration between the client and specialist is important to determine the best outcome.
 
What should you look for in a therapeutic treatment? What therapy works with what issue?
 
The answer is as varied as the problem. The first step is acknowledging the problem and having a desire to find an effective solution and being willing to discover a way to help yourself and those you care about to form stronger healthier emotional ties. 
 
The next steps are much easier. Look for a mental health specialist and ask some questions about your particular situation. Be prepared for the need for individual and couple/family therapy as a relationship involves all of the parties involved who have singular as well as plural etiologies. For example emotional ties are formed between people. Each person brings to the table a combination of concerns and issues that will need to be explored. The MHS (Mental Health Specialist) may want to help decipher which concerns stem from individual or relational situations first. Below are examples of therapeutic strategies that many have found to bring success and hope.
 
Talk Therapy - Individual or Group
  1. Emotion Focused Therapy – Clients work in a brief therapy of 8-20 sessions to learn how to make changes to how they adapt to and manage their emotions. This allows the clients to balance their emotional ties.
  2. Bowen Family Therapy - This strategy views the relationship as a system with each individual having an impact on the whole relationship. Thus when one changes the way they use emotional reactions in the relationship the others adjust in ways that reconfigure the bonds.
  3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy uses a reframing of negative thought processes to influence emotions and behavior. Those people who are struggling with anxiety and depression work well with this therapy. As their ability to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones improves the quality of the emotional ties improves and finds a healthier balance.
Experiential Therapy
  1. Equine Assisted Therapy (EGALA), Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) uses horses, horse professionals and licensed therapists to assist clients in identifying emotionally impacted feelings and behaviors. This is a therapeutic approach that allows the client to understand how others may react to him/her and creates a method for developing change techniques.
  2. Art Therapy – This therapy allows the client to use different mediums of art to explore and learn about their inner emotional world. The art therapist helps to interpret the client’s self-expression and relate it to their experience in the world. This allows them to examine, understand, and strategize on how to affect positive change in relationships.
  3. Movement Therapy - The therapist uses movement therapy in dance to find awareness between the interconnections of the body and mind. The client can utilize the movements as a way of self expression and a way of finding insight as to how they move about and feel in the world around them.
Integration of Psychotropic Medication with Other Therapy
 
In some instances psychotropic medication such as an antidepressant, anti anxiety, or other type of medicinal intervention may be necessary to help someone maximize their ability to integrate with others. If this is true, it is important that it be used as an adjunct to other therapies to monitor and balance emotional ties in both the inner and outer realm of relationships.
 
The degree of elasticity or tension of emotional ties is dependent on the perception of the stressors that are placed on relationships. Over time most relationships struggle with attempts to keep these bonds in balance with tensions and relaxation. However when that is complicated by negative emotional behavior or regulation it can seem impossible.
 
Mental health professionals have a plethora of tools to use that fit within most individual, couple or families need. I encourage you to reach out for help, find new ways to strengthen your emotional ties and reach for the stars in all of your personal interactions.

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