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one how they should or shouldn’t feel only teaches them to distrust themselves and that there’s something wrong with them. As a communication aid, Inside Out may speak best to older children, because younger viewers may get the erroneous impression that emotions can control them, rather than that they can control their own emotional reactions. The recipe for healthy bonding and

emotional development is for all parties to model how they value the importance of each other’s feelings and respectfully listen for the feelings behind the words. In opening ourselves to being under- stood, we open ourselves to understand- ing others. Good parenting involves emo- tion. Good relationships involve emotion. The bottom line is that emotions matter. We all struggle with negative emo- tions from time to time, and the way we address and deal with them influ- ences our emotional health. The goal is to develop a trustworthy emotional connection with the other person that is important to us, which enhances intimacy and the effectiveness of the relationship in accomplishing good. Using this six-part process of helpful concrete steps applies equally to the children and adults in our lives.

n Become aware of the other person’s emotions.

n Care about the other person by seeing their emotions as valid and important.

n Listen empathetically to better under- stand the way they feel, allowing them to feel safe to be vulnerable without fear of judgment. Seek to understand, rather than to agree or redirect.

n Acknowledge and validate their feel- ings. We don’t need to validate that the thoughts they have about their emo- tions are correct; instead, simply let them know that it’s valid to feel the way that they do. For example, if a friend says, “I feel useless,” we could validate them by saying, “I can see how you might feel that way.”

n Allow the person to experience their emotions fully before moving toward any kind of improvement. We cannot impose our idea of when they should be ready or able to feel differently. This is when we practice unconditional presence

and unconditional love. We are there as support, without trying to fix them or anything else. Don’t be offended if they don’t accept support that’s offered at this time. A benevolent power is inherent in offering love that exists regardless of what someone does or does not do with it.

n Help the other person to strategize ways to manage the reactions they might be having to their emotions after—and only after—their feelings have been validated, acknowledged and fully felt. This is when we can as-

sert new ways of looking at a situation that may improve the way another person is feeling. This is when advice may be offered.

When done successfully, this pro-

cess can transform a conflict encoun- tered in a relationship into solid gold.

Teal Swan is the author of Shadows Be- fore Dawn: Finding the Light of Self-Love Through Your Darkest Times, on how healing hidden wounds reveals our au- thentic selves ( Inside Out will be released next month on DVD.

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