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Understanding Your Emotional Style

Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how to identify your emotional style and understand how it affects your relationships!


Have you ever noticed that you find yourself repeating relationship patterns, even if you don't particularly like them? Do you find that you tend to feel similar emotions in your close relationships time and time again? We all have a unique style of relating to others that has its roots in our earliest relationship patterns. In our first few years of life our emotional world revolves around our family and parents (or caregivers). While these patterns aren't set in stone they provide a default pattern for our emotional life and our relationships throughout life. It can be helpful for you to understand your relationship style so you can modify it when it causes distress or it no longer works for you. Identifying your style doesn't mean that you are blaming your parents for the way you are. It can be helpful to understand your early relationships and how they impact your current emotions and relationship patterns so you can choose to make changes.

Which of the following best describes you?*

1) I want to be closer to others than they want to be. I worry that the people I love will leave me. When I share my true feelings it overwhelms others.

2) Others want to be closer to me than I am comfortable with. I'd rather depend on myself than on others. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself.

3) It's easy for me to be close to others. I have many people that I can depend on. I can say directly how I feel and what I want in my relationships.

Emotional Styles:

1) Worried - You want close relationships but often feel not good enough, fear abandonment, and feel overwhelmed by your emotions. You have a difficult time saying goodbye or being separated from loved ones.
2) Guarded - You value independence more than close relationships, you have difficulty knowing and sharing your emotions and needs, and you prefer not to rely on others. Others regard you as somewhat distant.
3) Confident -You can easily develop emotionally close relationships, you feel deserving of love, and you recognize that saying "goodbye" is a natural part of relationships. You can express your emotions and needs directly in your relationships.

How to Develop a More CONFIDENT Relationship Style:

Worried
" Seek solitude
" Practice self-soothing
" Take emotional "step back'
" Seek consistent relationships
" Express feelings & needs

Guarded
" Seek connections
" Practice self-awareness
" Take emotional risks
" Seek nurturing relationships
" Express feelings & needs

References:
Quiz adapted from Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

Additional Resources:
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How they Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen


Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, specializes in psychotherapy with women and couples. She is passionate about women's self-care and emotional health and frequently presents workshops to women's groups around the country. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services or email julie@wasatchfamilytherapy.com. You may also know Julie as an award-winning singer and songwriter Julie de Azevedo. Visit www.juliedeazevedo.com



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