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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Feeling Styles

Some of us are bigger feelers" than others - we use a feeling vocabulary with ease, naturally speaking about our emotional inner life, including our immediate intuitions about a person or situation. We are quick to express our sadness through tears, our anger through strong words, our happiness by clapping our hands or jumping up and down. Regina finds that she is strongly affected by nuances of mood or energy of which her husband Jere claims to be completely unaware. She likes to talk about her feelings; about what she is "going through," emotionally. He feels nervous whenever she brings up the subject or asks the question, "How do you feel?" or "What are you feeling?"

Like many couples, and those who work together on a common project, Regina and Jere have discovered that their "feeling styles" are enormously different. It is not that Jere doesn't have feelings or doesn't feel things very deeply - he does! It does mean that he expresses his feelings in a way that is often completely different from his wife's way.

For some, talking about feelings is a type of self-therapy. It is comforting to be able to air what is going on inside. It is satisfying to be able to label the stuff that is swimming around in the emotional gut or the mind. Talking about and sharing feeling states is, for some people, a way of deepening the bonds between them, and two close friends might use this approach as their primary access to intimacy. For others, however, silence and withdrawal are the primary healing modality. John Gray, in his insightful book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, speaks of the need (especially for men) to retreat temporarily into their "cave," where they can sort out the strong and strange emotions that are bearing down on them. His advice to their female partners or friends and coworkers is, "Don't go in there!" - at least, unless requested. It is respectful to leave other persons free to work out their pain, their anger, their fear, their sadness, in their own way, in their own timing.

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