Here are some useful steps to practice so that your next conversation doesn't escalate.
We all sometimes react to things that our partner says or does (or to what he or she fails to say or do!) in a way that appears - when we look back on it after a little while - as disproportionate to the situation: shouting, losing control, blaming, and sometimes even throwing things, etc...
Although normal in all relationships, our emotional reactions benefit from being "monitored" and understood, so that we do not harm our relationship over time in a way that is beyond repair.
Indeed, over time, resentment may start to build up and make it more difficult for us to forgive our partner's errors as well as our own. Our mind becomes obscured with past arguments, and we are no longer able to see our partner outside of this emotional build up.
Here are a few steps that are useful to practice when feeling calm and away from any triggering situation, so that the next potentially challenging conversation does not escalate into conflict:
1. Identify a situation with your partner that triggers you: don’t go into a lot of story telling and drama here!
2. Notice briefly, as you recall the event, how you feel when you are triggered : do you shout? loose control? cry? It is not necessary or useful to judge yourself here, simply observe your internal turmoil.
3. This part of you that gets triggered, that shouts for example, that loses control, describe it for yourself: is it like a witch? like a rebellious teenager? like a wounded child? What could be a good metaphore here?
4. How do you think that “crazy” part of you might be able to help you? What is it trying to say? How is it trying to protect you?
Although this may be difficult to grasp at first, when we get upset, we are informed that something is not right for us. Our reaction may be disproportionate and as such show that we are unskilled at dealing with the situation, but this does not mean we are entirely "wrong".
Therefore we can learn not to entirely dismiss our emotions but rather to observe and be curious about them.
That way, we can use them in order to communicate calmly what we need in our relationship, instead of blaming and making our partner responsible for our unhappiness.
Which situations trigger you? What are the "hot spots" in your relationship where you know you are entering dangerous waters (don't we all know that familiar feeling ;-))?