By Jessica Marchena, LMHC
When couples fight or argue, things can get heated quickly and emotions are fast.
Those moments when you feel hurt or angry can take over like a lightning bolt and rush through your body quickly. Your pulse quickens, your heart rate increases and your blood pressure may rise. My clients tell me that they just get mad and can’t control it. They say things they don’t mean. They yell, call each other names or they walk away and don’t talk to each other at all. Their inner critic tells them that this is not how they want to be with their partner and that they are a bad wife, girlfriend, husband or boyfriend. They ask me what to do at that moment.
When you get angry, your brain has a neurological chemical reaction.
Your amygdala or the lower part of your brain becomes “hijacked” or flooded with certain chemicals that make it impossible for you to deal with the situation rationally. Your body goes into a “fight or flight” reaction. You feel like lashing out (freeze) or feel like shutting down (freeze). With awareness and mindfulness practice, you can begin to notice it and know that this is a red flag or warning. It’s like an alarm goes off in your body telling you there is danger ahead.
Mindfulness is a practice that helps you notice the feelings and thoughts without acting on them. “Mindfulness is not hitting someone in the mouth”, says Meditation teacher Sharon Salzburg.
So, what can you do when you feel your temper rising? When you want to lash out and say something mean or you feel like running away.
Here are 5 things you can do when you feel your anger rising.
- Notice that your body is going into a fight or flight mode.
Your teeth are clenching. Your heart rate is rising. Or you feel like shutting down. Once you notice these warning signs, then you’ve given yourself a heads up that trouble is brewing. Whenever you feel upset, noticing these warning signs will help you calm down. It is not easy at first but the more you do it the easier it will get. Tell yourself, “I am having an angry thought or feeling.” You tell yourself you have the thought or feeling not that you are the thought or feeling. So, you say, “I am having an angry feeling right now instead of “ I am angry right now.” See the difference? This way you don’t let the feeling or thought overcome you. You own it but you don’t let it own you.
This is the most effective technique to bring you back to calmness. Take 3-5 min to do some deep breathing.
- RESIST saying anything or doing anything until you are calm.
Just breathe and tolerate the feelings until they pass. Your feelings may feel awful, you may feel like you’re getting sick, but they will all pass. Tell your partner you need a break to calm down and then talk about it later.
- Work hard to see things from your partner’s point of view.
What did he mean when he said that? What was the feeling when he said that or when you said something to him. Try to understand his perceptions, feelings, and needs from that situation. And help him understand the same from you. For example, “When you said that, I felt hurt because I felt you weren’t understanding what I was trying to say. It came out as anger but I was really hurt because I felt unheard.”
- Choose love.
After you have had a chance to talk and validate each other’s feelings and needs, it is important to connect emotionally and physically. So maybe after you’ve connected emotionally, reach out for your partner’s hand, hug and or go for a kiss!
Remember you are on the same team. By learning “how” to fight you will help your relationship and get through those arguments a lot easier and come out much better on the other side.
If you would like to schedule a first-time appointment to see Jessica or one of her colleagues, please call 562-203-9280 or send us a message here.