Have you ever had one of those conversations where your partner says something minor that leaves you enraged or bursting into tears? What do you do when your partner triggers intense emotions in you? The first response in most of us is to want our partner to stop it. We want our partner to change so we don’t have to feel that distress. Another thing we tend to do is distract ourselves; we pull out a smart phone, look for something to eat, make a drink, or do some other compulsive behavior. We want to numb the pain we are feeling. At times what we want is to stuff our feelings away. It is like shoving them in a bottle and putting a cork in it. We want to contain them and hope that they will go away. Unfortunately, that is a myth. Now we are walking around with bottled up painful emotions, and that cork can blow at any time! When it does, that’s when we get triggered by something minor. We have an intense response to a very small event because our emotions have been locked away. The other problem with these unhealthy methods of dealing with your painful emotions is that any further conversation with your partner at this time will likely lead to arguments. You will not be able to effectively discuss anything when flooded with intense emotions. When your partner makes you want to scream, how do you deal with it in a better way? We want to share our 3-step method to help bring you back to a calm, peaceful centered place, and deal with these intense emotions in a healthy manner.
The first thing you can do is first simply notice your emotion(s). Rather than pull out your phone or distract yourself, pay attention and ask what am I feeling right now? Maybe your emotion shows up as a physical sensation. For some people, they might have a nervous habit of picking nails, they may fear feel in their gut, or tension or stress in their jaw or shoulders. Maybe you experience strong emotion in another way. Your first action is to pause and simply notice what you are feeling right now.
Step two is to name the feeling. Often people call most of their feelings ‘frustration’. However, there is a wide range of painful experiences we can have. Give yourself a second to consider exactly what the feeling is at the time. Perhaps its loneliness, rejection, sadness or loss. It could be fear, concern, worry, shame or embarrassment. Naming the emotion can be difficult, but helpful in better understanding what’s going on inside of you.
The third step is to give yourself a healthy way to get those emotions out. For some people it means talking to someone they trust. If you do this, be careful who you pick. For example, don’t pick someone who is quick to talk about themselves or quick to give you advice. You likely won’t feel heard or satisfied. Find someone who is a good listener so you are able to really get the painful emotions out. Another healthy way people get emotions out is by engaging in an activity. Some people express themselves by creating art, writing about it, or creating or listening to music. Some people get emotions out simply by crying, walking or running, even cleaning. All these suggestions are ways to get emotions out that get them released in a healthy way; a way that isn’t going to damage other people and is not stuffing them down and hoping they go away.
If your partner was the one who triggered these emotions, you need at least 20 minutes to do this 3- step technique to bring yourself back to center before talking with them. Once you are coming from a calm peaceful place you will be able to approach your partner about what you are unhappy with, and have a productive and effective conversation. Do you need the tools to have a productive and effective conversation with your partner? If so, call us at 908-246-3074, or email GetSupport@CouplesTherapyCenterOfNJ.com to schedule an appointment with one of our relationship experts.