Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Think I Will Scream!!

She's driving me crazy! He doesn't understand how his behavior makes me feel! If she keeps nagging me I think I'll explode! If he doesn't listen to what I have to say I'll scream!

Sound familiar? We have all been in that place where we are infuriated with our partner and feel like we are going mad. We may want to shout to the heavens in frustration or curl up in a ball and disappear. Regardless of who began the current disagreement, we both end up in the same old argument again and again. What is happening? How do we get off the merry go round?

The high emotional toll that conflict brings to a relationship can be devastating. As partners we were once gentle and loving with one another. Now we bicker and argue almost daily. It seems as though not a day goes by without tension or a disagreement. We both feel like we are walking on egg shells. Every comment is taken the wrong way, every gesture and look misinterpreted. We feel stuck and can't seem to break the destructive pattern.

There is a way out. Empathy is the answer. When we can put ourselves in the place of our partner and imagine how they are feeling in that moment, we are becoming empathetic. When we are angry our ability to empathize with another vanishes. We are upset and consumed with our own feelings. In such a state we simply cannot empathize. In that moment, it is imperative that we give ourselves a time out and take a break from the situation and our partner to regain our center.

We may respond to a perceived threat by feeling anger. This may be our first line of defense. The adrenaline we produce in response to the emotional reaction from a threat, prepares our body for fight, flight or freeze. If we opt to fight with our partner, we add to the drama and discord. If we freeze, we become unable to communicate, again adding to the discord. However if we opt for self care, we can take that burst of adrenaline we received from our emotional reaction and use it to care for ourselves. We can take a brisk walk. While we walk we can mull over the events that have come to pass and use the adrenaline in our system as well. This not only protects our relationship from further harm, but also allows us to burn the adrenaline out of our system rather than letting it negatively impact our health. After a brisk walk we can return to the discussion feeling centered and empathetic, capable of coming to a mutual solution.

Although it may feel odd to walk away from conflict initially - we may have been programmed from early childhood to stay and fight it out with siblings or playmates - once we have tried this approach and found it successful, we will want to incorporate it into our tool bag for frequent use. Taking a time out, decompressing, coming back to our center, returning to empathy and being able to come to a mutual solution, are all beneficial ways of solving recurrent arguments in our relationships.

We use our tools in our daily lives. Our consistent practice of self care gives us increased self esteem. As our relationship improves our ability to be a part of an inter-dependent relationship increases and we become happier more fulfilled human beings. And isn't that what it's all about?
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