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Fixing emotional disconnectedness

Written by Adeoye Oyewole - Nigeria

Adeoye Oyewole
Discourse about emotional disconnectedness cannot be exhaustive without considering the concept of emotional bank account. This was brilliantly defined by the legendary author of the book entitled, "Seven habits of highly effective people," Stephen R. Covey, as 'a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that has been built up in any relationship.

It is the feeling of safeness you have with another human being. This concept operates in our relationships and it is the most fundamental concept in handling emotional disconnectedness. Most of us hardly ever perceive interpersonal relationships in the context of deposit or withdrawal to the emotional bank account that underlines all of human relationships. If I make deposits into the emotional bank account of persons I am in a relationship with through courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping my commitments to them, I build a reserve.

The trust towards me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust level such that the emotional reserve will compensate for it. Communication becomes easy, instant and effective. However, when an individual in any relationship is in the habit of strong discourtesy, disrespect, cutting off, overreacting, becoming arbitrary and betraying trust, eventually, the emotional bank account is overdrawn.

Relationships cannot be taken for granted by leveraging on parochial, cultural and religious prescriptions through conventions and charter of sacred duties. If a large resolve of trust is not sustained by deliberate continuing deposits, a marriage, for instance, will deteriorate. Instead of a rich, spontaneous understanding and communication, the situation becomes one of accommodation where two people simply attempt to live independent life-styles in a fairly respectful and tolerant way.

The relationship may further deteriorate into hostility and defensiveness. This may snowball into open warfare in the court where bitter, ego-decimating battles take place.
When parents overdraw from the emotional bank account of a child, the trust level is low and the communication process becomes closed, mechanical and unsatisfying, such that he may not be open to the parents' counsel as he values those of the peer group. This may, however, be the beginning of an initiation ceremony of the vulnerable teenager into the drug culture.

Repairing emotional disconnectedness requires time and effort to recognise and admit the factors inherent in the partners within the relationship context that created the disconnection. The major challenge in this part of the world is the apparent lack of awareness of the existence of this emotional bank account and how it operates.
It seems that our cultural and religious orientations have no practical insight into this profound psychological issue, which is fundamental for emotional connectedness. This may explain the utter disregard that our political leaders have for the citizens in the manner they carry out their leadership responsibilities.

Children are not properties to be owned, just as husband or wife is not acquired utensils to be used and dumped at will. The principle of emotional bank account prescribes that our relationships must be managed, with the view that the participants possess sophisticated mental endowments that require serious consideration and management.
I suspect that our cultural and religious orientations have programmed us to disregard this concept until we damage our relationships through reckless withdrawals as we indulge in ego defensiveness. This, invariably, mars effective communications where the offending party will choose not to really listen.

A good number of our youth counsellors must understand this concept as they deal with anti-social preoccupations in this cohort. Our contemporary marriage counsellors should take a step further from the entertainment of accusations and counter-accusations and deeply analyse the largely unspoken issues of reckless withdrawals from emotional bank accounts.

We may not all come from the same background, same temperament or same level of self- development; but we can choose to submit to certain sacrosanct principles that govern interpersonal behaviour. We need to continuously learn and develop skills that can make major deposits in emotional bank accounts.

Genuinely seeking to understand another person is probably one of the most important deposits you can make for others, but it is not the same as indulgence of weaknesses. Attending to the little things of life and courtesies are so important. Small discourtesies, little unkindness, and little forms of disrespect make large withdrawals. As a matter of fact, the little things are the big things in any relationship. Also, keeping a commitment is a major deposit, while breaking one is a major withdrawal, especially without prior explanation.
Clarification of expectations for each other from principles rather than cultural sentiments guide against reckless withdrawals. Great deposits come in the sincere words of apology, not ego- defensiveness, even when withdrawals are made from the emotional bank account.
The ultimate deposit, however, is the continuous acts of unconditional love, even when there is no feedback from the partner in all forms of relationships, since true love covers multitudes of sins and guarantees mental well-being.

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