Sunday, February 28, 2021

Helping couples to not fall into the trap of the “fight or flight” responses

In couple counseling, when in conflict, we often see one party demands, and the other party defends, and this may escalate until both parties avoid and stonewall. It breeds resentment and contempt. This then gets repeated over and over again until the demise of that relationship.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s what Gottman named “The 4 Horsemen”.

1. Criticism
2. Defensiveness
3. Contemptuous
4. Stonewalling

If a relationship is showing all 4 signs consistently, that’s bad news, unless we can shift that.

So how can we shift that?

1. First awareness.
2. Align our goals.
3. Be present, mindful, zoom out, and “create space” for thoughts and feelings before acting impulsively on those with our “fight or flight” responses.
4. Gain emotional literacy to understanding ourselves and our partner so that we can genuinely acknowledge and appreciate each other, rather blame each other for being different.
5. We reconnect when we are disconnected, rather than allowing the sense of disconnection triggers our “fight or flight” responses.
6. We resolve our conflict through acknowledgment, acceptance and assertiveness, rather than the usual “fight or flight” responses.

It’s tough. It’s definitely not easy. But like they say, difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.

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