Has there ever been a time when the world around you slows down and you feel every emotion intensely? Do you notice the desire to withdraw or attack during heated disagreements? Have you ever felt ashamed of the things you said and the way you behaved during an argument? If so, you have been emotionally dysregulated, or flooded. Congratulations – you’re normal!
Flooding is the primary reason arguments get out of control. When you’re emotionally balanced, you are able to think and feel at the same time. However, when you’re flooded, your emotional brain is a runaway train – screeching and screaming, unable to put on the brakes. This happens because flooding activates certain parts of our brain that interfere with effective problem solving and strategic thinking. We are truly unable to listen and respond coherently to our partner, thereby making any conversation completely unproductive.
So, how do you avoid flooding? The first step is to notice what it feels like in your body right before you’re flooded – does your face get warm? Your heart starts to beat faster? Your muscles begin to clench? The next step is to walk away when you have these sensations. Say, “I need to take a break, but I want to continue this conversation after I cool down.” Finally, take some time to feel balanced: go for a walk around the block, breathe deeply, watch funny videos on YouTube, cuddle your dog. Remember that while flooding is always possible, especially during intense disagreements, it isn’t inevitable. You have the power to prevent arguments from becoming emotionally destructive.
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