Emotional Flooding—How to Self-Soothe

Nothing much good happens when you are emotionally flooded during a relationship conflict. Flooding consists of stress hormones surging through you, which makes it very difficult to resolve conflict rationally.  As adrenalin and cortisol floods the nervous system, you will feel the ‘fight or flight’ response. When you are in this state, not much good can happen or be resolved. Emotional Flooding is a Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) response to stress that was originally designed to alert us to danger and enables us to react quickly in self-defense. Stress hormones of cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline are very powerful. Once triggered, it takes time to regain your emotional balance and control. The best strategy to manage these feelings is to take a time out until the fear (stress hormones) diminish to the point that you can have a rational discussion. After the incident of emotional flooding, the first casualty is communication. Dr. Gottman has some very excellent strategies to manage these very difficult and probably regrettable moments. The goal becomes to repair the relationship and reestablish emotional intimacy, perhaps even grow from the conflict.

Some tips to manage those difficult moments. 
  • Be empathetic
  • Be open
  • Breathe
  • Calm yourself
  • Apologize or say……
  • “I can understand the way you feel . . .”
  • “What you’re saying makes a lot of sense.  I can see why you’d feel . . .”
  • “I’d like to hear more about this. . . .”
  • Call for a 20-minute time out.  Agree when and where you will resume the discussion. Then, resume the communication in a calm manner. 

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Dr. Mike Klaybor

Dr. Mike Klaybor

Dr. Mike Klaybor brings thirty years of experience in practicing counseling psychology with individuals and couples. His approach is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Specific specialties include; anxiety and stress management, chronic pain & chronic illness management, depression, substance abuse evaluations, employee assistance and executive coaching for workplace performance and leadership.