Friday, January 22, 2010

Pity not (and other things about Expressed Emotion)

If, as they say, high emotional expressiveness on the part of family members leads to more frequent relapse by the patient, it would be nice to know what is meant by this. From my own experience, I offer up the following.

It is not good to criticize. While this seems obvious, it is not always easy to carry off, especially when your relative is acting strange, doesn't answer, stands in a corner or never smiles, to name just a few things that come to mind.

Criticism isn't just verbal, it is actions and expressions. Keeping a poker face when you otherwise want to roll your eyes or grimace can be learned and rather quickly becomes easier.

Crying and other big displays of emotion in front of your relative also upsets them. Again, this is obvious, but often almost asking the impossible of the family on a daily basis, especially when the crisis first breaks.

I have been guilty of all of the above. There are five of us in our household and there is a lot of Expressed Emotion, although, being the only female member of our family, I am told it comes mainly from me. My sons and husband seem to think that when I think that I am not raising my voice, they hear me as actually raising it. "Chill," they say. "I am chill," I retort. "I can show you what a raised voice is, if you really want." I grew up in a family of girls. There was always a commotion/emotion going on. We were verbal. By and large, men are not. They are the Neville Chamberlains of domestic life. Peace at any cost. They are not at all comfortable with female emotions. The higher female voice is a raised female voice, in their opinion.

If you pity your relative, this is going to come across even if you think you are hiding it. This is one area where I can claim the higher ground. I never pitied Chris, because I was determined that he was going to get better, come hell or high water, so there was no need for pity. That's one reason why I deliberately avoided buying into the diseased brain model of schizophrenia that is perpetuated by some of the better known names in mental health.

Rushing your relative into something that he or she isn't ready for sets the stage for relapse and all-around frustration. It is often hard to appreciate that just because your relative isn't ready to take on bigger projects now, doesn't mean that he will never be ready. Here, patience is a virtue.

My track record with regard to Expressed Emotion is pretty mixed, but I am aware of this and have been working on rectifying it.


  1. Rossa, You have the ability to put into words so well what I too feel. I too speak too much, my voice gets squeaky and louder, and I show my emotions in sharp contrast to my son who shows nothing. Thank you for helping me to understand him

  2. The ironic thing is that I had a "benign neglect" policy for my children for years. I never fought their battles, I never took their side over that of a teacher, I never helped them with their homework. Now, given what's happened, I am supposed to hang back and not get emotionally worked up. Aaaeeiii!


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