Here’s a strategy I think could be a particularly supportive in these stressful times, especially for those of us who are going to be in very close quarters with our loved ones for the foreseeable future!
PLAYFUL EXAGGERATION can be a wonderful approach for expressing our emotions in a way that is non-threatening to others.
It is a way of playfully expressing our AUTHENTIC feelings or needs – we bring awareness to an honest reaction, and we play it out in a LIGHT-HEARTED way.
Playfulness is a really effective way of connecting and communicating with kids, but it isn’t limited to that! I use a lot of playfulness in my relationship with my husband too.
Let me give you a recent example of how I used playful exaggeration with him.
The other day, I did something for my husband that, in my mind, was a small, but generous and thoughtful gesture!
But he misinterpreted it. He guessed my intention incorrectly and made a comment about it.
I noticed my reaction, of feeling a bit hurt. I was really wanting to be seen and understood for my true intention.
So I played it out in an over-the-top way, “Oh no! I’m so misunderstood! Boo hoo hoo!”.
I see the value of this kind of playfulness as being:
🎭 I get to express my feelings authentically, if a little dramatically, releasing my own sense of hurt.
🎭 By using playfulness, my tone of voice and facial expression are perceived as “safe” to my husband.
🎭 There is no harshness or blame, and it supports holding both of ourselves with compassion.
🎭 My husband is able to hear my feelings and unmet needs, without being triggered into “Fight or Flight” himself.
🎭 It helps us both to laugh, reducing tension, and releasing “feel good” endorphins.
🎭 As opposed to just working with my feelings internally, this helps to bring more intimacy (into-me-see) to our relationship.
🎭 This kind of playful expression can bring more lightness and connection to our relationship.
The only hitch is that we generally need to be feeling “safe enough” in ourselves (i.e. not too triggered) and in our relationship, in order for it to be helpful. So this won’t be a strategy for every time we’re feeling reactive.
I think that finding ways to move through our reactions to our partner is going to be especially important during this time of increased proximity to one another! The last thing we need are all needing is more stress and tension!
Playful exaggeration can also be used in our role as parents! I’ll share some more examples soon!
I’d love to hear if you use this kind of playfulness in your relationship, or in your parenting!
Photo of hubby and I on our last day of “freedom” pre-COVID-19!