Staying connected when emotions run high?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Workshop in Moree with the title, ‘Staying connected when emotions run high’. For me, it was the best workshop that I have ever attended!

The workshop was intended for carers and professionals who regularly support people with emotional dysregulation or related conditions.

The facilitators were Dr Annemaree Bickerton (senior family psychiatrist) and Toni Garretty (clinical coordinator) from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Family & Carer Mental Health Team.

The thing I appreciated most about the workshop was its practical relevance to personal well-being and safety in times when stress, emotional dysfunction, learned negative behavioural traits and negative coping strategies produce intense emotions that threaten the possibility of ongoing carer and supportive relationships.

Very common in the news and social media of late are traumatic incidents involving stabbings, execution-type behaviours, domestic and family violence, fatalities, critical injuries, suicides, traumatic home invasions and the like. While the workshop didn’t address all these matters per se, it did highlight many dysfunctional elements that cause, underpin or facilitate emotional cutoff and/or the breakdown of relationships.

We see this emotional dysfunction at play in the prickly interactions between family members, workplace relationships as well as interactions with shop assistants, at sporting events and in school environments – wherever people interact with others.

I think that the social fabric of our communities is fragmented when we emotionally cut off and disconnect ourselves from other people: when emotions run high and
distress determines the fate of friendship.

When people lose those relational connections, many turn to violence and intense disruptive behaviour to gain some attention (albeit negative); to have some human contact; or to numb the pain of inner emptiness, rage and emotional aloneness.

In my role as the Regional and Remote Area Bush Chaplain, I encounter this type of relational disconnection daily.

Sometimes this disconnection is relatively benign (but still emotionally intense).

More often, this disconnection is malignant in nature, devouring essential relationship elements of love, joy, grace, forgiveness and communication until there is nothing left – and the relationship either implodes or explodes with devastating consequences.

So, where do we go? What do we do when our emotional world is in tatters or so dysfunctional that we feel the only solution left is the taking of our own lives to end the on-going
inner distress, heartache and emptiness?

The whole point of the workshop was to learn strategies for staying connected when emotions run high!

So how can we negotiate and navigate our way through this deeply human conundrum?

For me, it starts with the sacredness of the kitchen table – intentionally negotiating and navigating positive communications between family members without devices, social media or news media distractions: speaking respectfully, affirming each other as important people of worth, listening deeply, creating a positive environment of friendship, care, and sharing at an emotional level with a touch of fun and humour!

Maybe, this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, ‘And now, these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

I love to facilitate important conversations with families, schools, businesses, community organisations or workgroups about building capacity in relationships and interpersonal connections. Please contact me if I can be of assistance to you.

Blessings to you and yours,
Bush Chaplain

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