Have you ever been in a an argument or heated debate with your spouse and felt your heart start racing, you started sweating, found it hard to breath and you just couldn’t get your thoughts out right?…me neither (sarcasm mine) but if I had I would have been emotionally and physiologically flooded.
What we are experiencing is our body and brain on overload, we are becoming overwhelmed with negativity (real or perceived) and stress and all rational thought is either headed out the door or its already left tire marks on the driveway of our mind. Our brain gets so overloaded that our rational thought takes a backseat to our fight or flight instinct and we either lash out aggressively or we completely shut down and stonewall…neither of which are wise choices so do this instead……
TAKE A BREAK
If you start to feel those feelings you need to recognize them and understand that you aren’t going to be able to get rational thoughts out of your mouth or into your ears so you just need to call a time out. Hit the pause button on the conversation for at least 20-30 minutes and let your body and mind chill out and return to a more calm state of being. Believe it or not it takes that long for your cardiovascular system to recover from all of that stress.
PLAN A TIME TO COME BACK
So, you’ve recognized that you are flooded and that you need a break to calm down…you can’t just walk away can you?…..you could but you definitely should not. When you realize your need for the break you have to let your spouse know that you aren’t just walking away or ignoring them or the issue at hand. You can simply say “I’m sorry but I’m not thinking straight right now. I really need to take a break. Can we continue this discussion in 30 minutes?” It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes by any means, it could be longer or could even be the next day if it needs to be. If your spouse can’t agree to that you may have to just make the plan yourself and let them know because you recognize that nothing positive is going to result from continuing in such a state of mind. But make sure that you try to make an agreed upon plan and certainly spell out the details so both of you know.
It’s important during your break that you don’t just dwell on the conversation and that you take steps to calm down. Don’t think about what you should’ve or could’ve said or what you wish they had said but rather try and get your mind off of it for a while. Read a book, listen to music, pray, meditate or exercise…anything that helps you clear your mind. This will help your mind and body regulate and return to proper form. Remember that this will most likely be difficult to do right away but it’s important that you do it and it will get easier with repetition.
I think that you will be surprised at how the conversation may go after taking these steps. Not only will you feel better but hopefully you’ll have less to apologize for and so will they. Share these tips with your spouse and your children while there are no conflicts and let them in on the simple secrets to successful arguments, disagreements or disappointments. Not only will they be armed to take control of their own emotions but they’ll understand what is going on when you do.
LIGHT THE TORCH AND LEAD THE WAY!
for more in depth and intelligent information of emotional and physiological flooding check out the work of Dr. John Gottman and The Gottman Institute at www.Gottman.com as well as Dr. Gottman’s book “Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work”.