Sharing Emotions

Shared Emotion. Psychology Fanatic article feature image

We can’t go at this alone. Even though we are afraid of the crippling emotions, we still long for connection. We may need help if past experiences of intimacy bruised and damaged our souls; but the answer is not protected loneliness. We must courageously navigate the hidden trails of love again, learning the vulnerability of sharing emotions to someone who honors those disclosures heals our brokenness.

Through interactions, we connect, adapt, respond and grow. While our brains are not physically tethered to others, expressions, words and movements communicate, starting a cascade of physical reactions. In a very real way, we are emotionally connected, especially to intimate partners and caregivers. The more intimate the connection, the more significant the other mobilizes our emotions. Intimate relationships intensify biological responses.

When insecure, we carefully monitor interactions, calculating deeper meanings, scrutinizing behaviors signaling possible betrayal. We skeptically examine actions for hidden agendas, thinking if we discover the plot, we can prevent the inevitable abandonment. Emotions significantly impact relationship bonds tying us together or pushing us apart.

​”However, emotions are nowadays also thought to have a significant role in social decision making.”  

~Frontiers in Psychology

What is Shared Emotion?

Regions of our brains dedicated to reading non-verbal communication, write the unspoken story and signal for a response. Harmonious relationships amazingly detect each other’s emotions, reading expressions, knowing triggers, and cautiously protecting each other from overwhelming emotions. The healthiest relationships emotionally resonate with each others current state of affect. The relationship strengthens through shared felt experiences of sadness, anger, joy, desire, and even disappointment.

Shared emotion may occur in a number of ways. A common experience of shared emotion in close relationships is when one partner expresses an emotion, verbally or bodily, and the other partner perceives the emotion, and experiences similar feeling affects in reaction to the perception. Another form of shared emotion, similar in nature, is when partner’s lives are so intimately intertwined that their reaction to experience has become nearly identical. Basically, they both emotionally react to the same experience the same way.

Key Definition:

Shared emotion is a coordinated affective reaction to the same environmental trigger. Shared emotion is common in close romantic relationships or between caregiver and child.

Sharing Emotions with Others

​​Willingness to share emotions—both positive and negative—creates vulnerability; we no longer live on a narcissistic island of self. Emotions in these relationships expand beyond the borders of our skin; we feel excitement, joys, sorrows and hurt stemming from a loved one’s experience.

For example, we might enjoy a joyful day at work; but when we return home we discover our partner is troubled by their day. Our fleeting joy must pause so we can share the burden of their pain. These moments of shared emotion create mutual security, strengthening bonds to the underlying fiber of the relationship. To deny, belittle, or shame our partner’s hurt, suggests (at least unconsciously) that they are misguided. They are feeling “wrong.” It is almost as if we are saying, “what’s wrong with you? You shouldn’t feel this way!”

We may attempt to comfort with silly staples such as “oh, that’s not a big deal.” Yet, are belittling their experience is shaming and non-validating.

Shared emotion is a coordinated affective reaction to the same environmental trigger. Shared emotion is common in close romantic relationships or between caregiver and child.

When Significant Others Fail

​Sometimes those responsible to lift and support, miserably fail. Their errors (hand-me-downs from their history) stitch faulty threads into our souls, leaving holes where consistency should live. Betrayed trust weakens in our past, weakens willingness to share in the present. Sharing emotion is a two way street. For intimacy to work we both need to share our emotion and receive our partner’s emotion.

When partners fail to honor our vulnerability, but instead, recklessly bruise our tenderness with disloyalty, we become protective. After disloyalty to the private sharing of our souls, we hesitate to expose weakness through sharing emotion.

If past relationships (parents, lovers and friends) were unwelcoming to our emotions, then the vulnerability of shared emotions is threatening. And this fear is projected onto future relationships as well.

​”Given the tendency for feelings to blur into emotions and interpretations, sharing can easily become an act of persuasion, a way to vent, pressure, induce guilt or solicit pity.” 

~Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D., MPP | Psychology Today

John Michael suggests that “shared emotion can generate social cohesion, trigger team reasoning, and stabilize cooperation” (2016). Shared emotion also benefits regulation. In psychology , we refer to this as dyadic regulation. Through dyadic emotional experience, partners or caregivers assist each other in soothing disrupting or disorganized emotions.

Fear of Emotion

Simone Marie wrote, “but, sometimes, in our attempts to not give in to our emotions, we go too far: we run from them or suppress them — even if that harms us in the long run. Although there are many reasons we might suppress our emotions, one of them is that we are afraid of our emotions” (2022). We internalize emotions previously ridiculed and shamed. Our relationship with emotion becomes broken and chaotic. Our fear of emotion then interferes with smooth sharing of emotion. Creating a chaotic break in relationship bonds.

​”Sharing the depth of your feelings that are in your heart takes emotional risk and courage, as it can make you feel exposed and vulnerable.” 

~Sheri Stritof

Our individual fear of emotion then prevents others from sharing our emotions as well as impedes our ability to share emotion with others. As we embrace our own emotional state, we more easily share those states with a loving other.

A Few Final Words on Sharing Emotion

Sharing emotion is more than slapping an emoji onto a text message. We create emotional bonds with significant others throughout our lives. When we honor those bonds they strengthen us in times of sorrow and lift us in times of despair.

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Marie, Simone (2022). Signs You May Be Afraid of Your Emotions. Psyche Central. Published 7-14-2022. Accessed 3-19-2022.

Michael, J. (2016). What Are Shared Emotions (for)?. Frontiers in Psychology, 7.

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