Emotional Bandwidth?

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the term “emotional bandwidth.” It was a couple years ago as I was sitting across from my therapist (yes, even therapists go to therapy) at the conclusion of our session. He inquired about what I thought of my emotional bandwidth. Feeling pretty clueless and a tad embarrassed, I kind of shrugged and said, “Umm, it’s pretty good.” He politely smiled but we both knew I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about.


Since that day, I have been on a journey to learn more about this concept of emotional bandwidth. Needless to say, I have been quite impressed by what I have found and what it has meant for me- both personally and professionally.


So what is emotional bandwidth? It is one’s capacity to feel, experience, manage and nurture emotions. When you have a strong emotional bandwidth, you are comfortable with a wide spread of emotions. It’s not simply being able to identify and recognize emotions but it’s the willingness to hold them in a safe space. Individuals with a strong emotional bandwidth choose to embrace emotions and feelings rather than avoid, distract, or stuff them.


In my work with individuals and couples, I have found the ones with the greatest success have worked to develop and maintain strong emotional bandwidths. This can even be a goal of the therapeutic process. Emotional bandwidth can increase one’s intimacy and connectivity with others- especially their partner. Oftentimes as couples work on their emotional connection, their sexual intimacy also improves due to the heightened levels of safety and attachment.


Three steps to improve your emotional bandwidth:


1.Allow yourself to sit and hold your emotions. Lean into what you are feeling and become a mindful observer. It can feel somewhat overwhelming at first but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Instead of reaching for a distraction (substances, work, humor) to take the edge off, pause and be present with the emotion. This can be most difficult in dealing with unpleasant emotions. Be sure to avoid judgmental or negative self talk. Instead, be inquisitive and ask yourself questions like- What is the root of this emotion? Where in my body am I feeling this emotion? What can I learn from the message this emotion is sending me?

2. Practice being present and engaged in your relationships. Put away distractions, maintain eye contact, and listen to understand. As your emotional bandwidth broadens, you will feel more at ease and confident in listening to the feelings/emotions of others, especially those closest to you. It is not your responsibility is to alleviate or take on their emotions but to convey unconditional love and care. People desire to be heard and understood.

3. Establish solid boundaries for yourself. There is only so much of you to go around. Be wise about the people, places and experiences you invest your energy in. Setting and maintaining strong emotional boundaries is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Our bandwidth suffers and we tend to become the most reactive when we’ve allow our emotional boundaries to be weakened.

When one’s emotional bandwidth is strong and expansive, they love greater and live fuller.


If you are interested in talking further or if I can be helpful in any way, feel free to contact me at amy@emma-schmidt.com