The side-effects of Anger: Couple’s Guide. It can happen at any time. We’re having a conversation when our partner says anything that sets off our internal fuse, whether it’s intentionally or not. Our brains are fantastic at mobilising a fight or flight response, which, of course, leads to withdrawal, full-on engagement, or feeling frozen.
Of course, we believe there is a problem with our partner’s brain rather than our own. Keep that notion in mind. With themes and variants on “How can you think that?” and “What’s wrong with you?” the fight version expresses our disbelief. Internal ideas are the same in the withdrawal version, but they are expressed in quiet. As a numbing reaction, the frozen version is shutting down.
While it is natural for healthy couples to become enraged, vent negativity, and respond with negativity, some forms of anger are destructive, while others are constructive. An essay about the good elements of rage will be published later.
Anger isn’t necessarily a byproduct of some other underlying issue. Anger is an understandable and appropriate response in some situations. Anger is required to organise steps for action and change in response to injustice or advocacy for equality or fairness.
I’m talking about an immediate and destructive flash of anger that forms our response to our partner and gets in front of our ability to put the brakes on, as opposed to anger that is triggered by common day-to-day frustrations leading to irritability between partners and manageable negativity between partners. The usual filters and better judgement take a back seat to an out-of-the-blue escalating angry response.
Let’s discuss, The side-effects of Anger: Couple’s Guide
Maybe the problem isn’t with our partner’s brain, but with what’s going on in our own.
So, what happens in our brains when a significant anger reaction is elicited, resulting in an extraordinary difficulty to communicate? It has to do with the sympathetic nervous system, which is triggered by the amygdala, a little almond-shaped structure in our midbrain. The amygdala, which is linked to memory functions in the brain, sends out alarm signals in response to perceived threats, causing neurotransmitters (catecholamines) to raise heart rate, blood flow, blood pressure, and breathing.
Other neurotransmitters and chemicals, including as adrenaline and noradrenaline, are activated as a result of this process, increasing physiology and maintaining the anger and on-alert state. “Flooding” is the term for this complex combination of reactions.
Relationships suffer as a result of chronic flooding.
It’s vital to remember that when partners are inundated, their reactions are strong, rapid, and uncontrollable. That implies the amygdala is in charge, and the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for judgement and impulse control—is temporarily deactivated and unavailable. Even if we aren’t conscious of what has been triggered or what the underlying triggers are, it becomes a matter of survival.
Personal History is Related to Triggers
Triggers are events from our own past that the brain encodes and stores for future reference and safety. Our brain sees a threat and becomes activated when situations in our lives resemble or remind us of earlier unfavourable experiences in our history.
Enduring vulnerabilities are events that create an emotional wound that can be activated and re-lived in real time. The past becomes the present in those moments.
Couples are perplexed about what is truly happening because flooding feelings are so intense and seemingly out of the blue. Everything appears to be out of scale and an exaggeration. We will be less likely to perceive the reaction as “crazy” or “oversensitive” if we can begin to realise that flooding occurs when profoundly felt emotions are awakened. It’s in our DNA to anticipate danger and seek out solutions to feel safe.
Flooding: What to Watch Out For
Strong reactions do not always indicate that someone has been inundated. Flooding is a physiological response to danger that is usually indicated by a pulse rate of more than 100 beats per minute. A normal resting heart rate is in the 60-100 range, therefore noting a heart rate that is over, or much above 100, is something to be aware of. Resting heart rates, of course, differ from person to person and are influenced by physical health, drugs, and other factors.
If you experience quick and powerful emotions that feel overpowering, as well as responses that appear to be overreactions on the surface, flooding may have triggered the alarm system, and self-protection should be your top priority. Flooding, on the other hand, tends to activate a non-declarative memory—one that you can’t access but can feel—in other words, a feeling memory.
I overheard a couple in my office talking about a quarrel they had on a camping trip. Pedro and Alicia (not real names) had taken their seven-year-old daughter Jackie camping. Pedro observed a yellow jacket circling Jackie as they were packing up. Pedro called to Alicia to fetch Jackie while he sprinted toward them, since Alicia was closer to her. Unfortunately, Jackie didn’t comprehend what Pedro was saying, and the yellow jacket stung her as she was asking him what he wanted. Pedro became enraged and screamed at Alicia, accusing her of being a bad mother.
This was not a normal exchange. Pedro was not known for condemning or blaming others, and he frequently expressed his admiration for Alicia as a great and loving mother. So, what went wrong? Pedro grew up in a huge family, it turns out. He was frequently left to fend for himself as a five-year-old middle kid.
While he knew that his parents did the best they could as adults, he was enraged when he discovered that Alicia was unaware that Jackie was in danger. His midbrain was aroused very immediately, sending out alarms and the emotional memory of neglect that constituted his world at the time. The rational thinking section of the brain was inaccessible.
When we discussed what happened and how and why Pedro reacted, we had an entirely different dialogue, which gave the bad interaction a whole different meaning. Pedro had already apologised to Alicia for his actions, but he felt ashamed and perplexed at his reaction before realising he had been triggered. Pedro and Alicia began to understand their fights in a new light after learning about triggers and flooding. They also discussed what to do if one of them was flooded. While we are all accountable for how we handle our emotions, understanding what is beneath them makes it a lot simpler to deal with them.
Flooding Prevention Techniques
When one or both of you appear to be swamped and overwhelmed, it’s critical to agree to take a break from the talk. This works best if both parties agree on a signal that indicates it’s time to stop talking. This is a great preventative tactic to use before things get out of hand. According to one study, the parasympathetic anti-stress hormones need a 20-minute pause on average to put the brakes on raging emotions.
Once you’ve agreed on how to signal a break, do whatever you can to avoid “distress rehearsing thoughts,” or replaying what just happened in your head. The physiology is maintained by thinking about your companion and the talk. Read, go for a walk, meditate, or listen to the radio or a podcast instead. Take any action that may divert your attention away from the situation.
Make sure you approach each other to try again once you’ve both calmed down enough to have a chat. When the mid-brain isn’t in charge, things are more likely to go smoothly.
It can be quite useful to talk about what triggers have been pressed at some time. “I’m guessing my intense reaction stems from my childhood experience of being ignored. “I despise the sensation.” This is the time for compassion, not judgement, from the spouse. Validating your partner’s vulnerability in discussing a trigger is a great answer. “I can see how my failure to answer to your question would have triggered that emotion.”
When Anger Can Be Beneficial in a Relationship
The subject of this article has been negative fury. When this flooding state is prevalent and characteristic of how couples manage rage, it has been recognised by Gottman study as one of the indicators of relationship meltdown. According to the findings, there are healthy and constructive forms of anger that really promote intimacy and closeness. “The Upside of Anger in Relationships” will be released soon. In terms of conflict resolution, we know what works and what doesn’t.