12 Dec Cooling Down Couples’ Conflict With Mindfulness
Mindfulness can help straighten fights between you and your spouse, using just TWO techniques to cool down emotions, anger and stress! A lot of us fight with loved ones, so let’s do something about it, before it’s too late!
We’ve all been there: Your partner says something that rubs you the wrong way (or vice versa), and you launch into an argument.
As you both get increasingly revved up, the blood pressure rises, eyebrows furrow, stomach churns, fists clench, you lose your ability to think straight or see one another’s point of view, a sign that your levels of cortisol, the body-brain’s stress hormone, are running high!!
Before you know it, one (or both) of you explodes and says something jaw-droppingly nasty, something you can never take back.
What could have been a minor disagreement has escalated into a major conflict, and you both come away feeling hurt, disappointed, and dissatisfied with your relationship.
That dissatisfaction might lead to more, and more heated conflicts in the future.
Here are two mindfulness related methods to extinguish the flames of anger between you and your partner:
The first is called “attentional mindfulness,” meaning how well each partner can intentionally tune into his or her thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations during the conflict, without getting too wrapped up in those thoughts or emotions, instead observing them from a safe distance.
In the study, people who scored high in attentional mindfulness during the conflict generally agreed with statements like, “I was aware of my thoughts and feelings without over-identifying with them.”
One of the best interventions, which encourages attentional mindfulness, is simply to ask, “What am I noticing now?”
There can be tremendous benefits in shifting your attention to your own bodily sensations—clenched jaw or fists, tightness in their throat or chest, churning in the stomach—and by labeling your feelings as they arise and escalate: Anger, sadness, fear, and shame are the most common ones.
Noting your patterns of thoughts and behaviours helps see them for what they are: habitual and automatic, well-grooved into the brain’s neural circuitry. Like any habit, these patterns don’t need to own or define us; they are something we can change.
2. Attitudinal Mindfulness:
Then you can dive into the world of “attitudinal mindfulness”: it entails being open, interested, curious, accepting of your own experience (the researchers also refer to it as “mindful curiosity”).
In the study, partners who scored high in mindful curiosity generally agreed with statements like “I was curious about each of the thoughts and feelings that I was having.”
Noticing and naming sensations, feelings, thoughts—and accepting them as part of being human, helps you take your own experience not so personally.
You can recognize that when you feel threatened within a relationship that you depend on for safety and comfort, it’s not surprising that you’d demonstrate evolutionarily hardwired and habitually conditioned responses, such as aggression (negativity) or withdrawal (abandonment).
Once you understand that your reaction is understandable but not inevitable, you can begin to take responsibility for reacting the way you are—for your own part in the conflict, for any of your own negativity, either aggression or withdrawal.
When either partner begins to take responsibility, it can immediately shift the tension in the couple at that very moment.