He experiences this question as an attack. He tenses up and goes silent. That’s his usual way of coping when emotions like this arise in him.
You see, the biggest challenge in dealing with difficult situations is to
He is not alone in this. It’s easy to see the other person as difficult and to blame them for your uncomfortable feelings. Acknowledging and accepting your own feelings to yourself is an important first step to making a positive response to someone who you find challenging.
In recent times neuroscientists have shown using brain-scanning technology that one of the most effective ways of calming the emotional brain (the limbic system) and engaging the rational brain (neo-cortex) is to name your own feelings to yourself.
The husband then remembered what he learned in the TUF programme. “When I’m feeling ‘emotional’ and want to attack the other person or I become defensive (the fight/flight response) it is helpful to name my feelings to myself.”
He gives it a go and says to himself. “I’m feeling pressured. I’m feeling attacked. I am feeling inadequate.” As he does this a big file drawer in his mind slides open. It is stuffed full of manila folders that each have a case history of every other time in his life when he felt pressured, attacked or inadequate. Some of the files are over 40 years old and they are still there as fresh as the day they were first recorded.
This one act of naming his feelings begins a process of change in him and he becomes less anxious. He no longer perceives that his wife’s question is an attack. He owns the feelings as his own and does not blame her for causing all his discomfort. He sees that she is only a very small file in a much bigger file drawer. He had
He relaxes and is now able to engage in a fruitful conversation about the cost of their holiday without needing to be defensive.
As far back as
Naming your feelings to yourself can lead to greater self-acceptance; it helps you be less dominated by your emotions
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