Do You Know Your Raw Spots?
We all have raw spots. The tender, sensitive places that we know can trigger us into difficult feelings. For some, it could be feeling criticized. For others, it’s being doubted. Sometimes specific topics are a raw spot, like money or sex. When that raw spot gets triggered, we have a rush of emotions come in. In the moment, it can feel like our partner has just attacked us. All of a sudden, we see each other as the enemy – how dare you question me? Accuse me? Not see all I have done? Doubt my intentions?
Often arguments become about right or wrong. Are you right or wrong for feeling upset about this? Is your partner right or wrong for saying what they did? As emotions escalate and we feel misunderstood, we lock into our stances, because underneath our feelings are telling us something. Your feelings are telling you hey, something hurt! And your partner’s feelings are telling them hey, I didn’t do anything harmful!
Just for right now, though, let’s try to look at this instead as an opportunity to get to know ourselves and each other better. These raw spots aren’t irrational. You aren’t crazy. Your partner also may not have been intending to cause harm, or may be thinking something different than it looks in that moment.
With your raw spot, let’s sit with it for a little while. Where does it come from? Does it feel familiar? I have one around being questioned about finances. I know it comes from my family of origin. I also know I’m hyper aware if my partner hesitates or even breathes differently when we talk about me spending money. Our disagreements go better when I can go to him later and say, “Hey, this is a sensitive topic for me. The idea that you, whose opinion matters so much to me, could question my judgment on this is really tough for me. I need to understand more of what you’re thinking because when you just get quiet, my mind lights up with all these bad ideas of what you’re thinking about me.”
This generally goes better than my automatic reaction, which is, “WHY ARE YOU HESITATING, DO YOU NOT THINK I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, ARE YOU SECRETLY MAD AT ME?????”
Sometimes it’s way too difficult to share differently in the moment, but knowing and owning these places within us can help us have a different repair dialogue later. Often, it can feel like a relief on both sides when people own their raw spots. The partner feels less accused, and has a better understanding about where something is coming from. The other partner feels more understood, and more cared about.
- Johnson, S. (2004). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy. New York, New York: Brunner-Routledge.