We all have a response style to stress. Most often, these reactive patterns are destructive and create more problems rather than solve them.
Take Jack, for instance, a forty-year old man who had come to The Marriage Recovery Center recently. Married for thirteen years, he and his wife had been having unresolved conflict for years. Whenever he is faced with a conflict he tends to be reactive and confrontational.
“If you come at me, I’m going to come right back at you,” he said firmly. “I was taught not to back down from anyone.”
We turned to his wife, Shelly.
“How about you? When faced with a challenge with Jack, do you fight, flight, freeze or stay centered and keep your cool?”
“No doubt about it,” she chuckled. “I’ll stand right up to him. But, if he keeps going, which he often does, I’ll freeze and then finally just leave.”
“So,” I said probing, “neither of you practice calming yourself, being aware of how the situation is going, and choose how you want to respond?”
“That sounds like a lot of work,” Jack said. “I’m just trying to hold my own and not get swallowed up by Shelly. She’s powerful!”
“Not the way I see it,” Shelly said quickly. “I can freeze as quickly as anything else. After a few minutes I don’t know what to say to cool things down. So, I freeze. Then I do the ultimate freeze—leave.”
“Well, I don’t think I need to ask how this is working for you folks. Fighting certainly doesn’t work. There is no such thing as a ‘good fight to clear the air.’ And freezing rarely settles any conflicts. We tend to lose ourselves over time with this mode of functioning. Fleeing tends to become a destructive habit. Would you like to hear about ‘flow?’ Both quickly said they would.
Here are a few more guidelines on how to be in ‘flow’ with one another. Consider how you are doing at these practical principles.
First, we must be aware of our tendencies so we can change them. Scripture warns us to “Be sober minded; be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8). We will be unable to change any patterns we are not aware of. Reflect on whether you are a fighter by nature, someone who flees, freezes or one who is able to stay centered, connected and quick to choose healthy responses.
Second, understand the state of being in ‘flow.’ Being in ‘flow’ means we are connected first and foremost to ourselves. We know what we are feeling, are able to ‘contain that feeling,’ and are breathing and self-aware. We are not reactive, are able to make healthy choices, and are able to stay connected to and effectively hear our mate. Our own feelings don’t cloud our ability to listen to our mate’s pain.
Third, take a time out when feeling flooded. We all get triggered at times. Scripture also tells us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1: 19) These are signals that we are in flow—or out of flow. Are you quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger?
Fourth, cultivate these qualities. Today you may be quick to anger, quick to speak and slow to listen. This can change and you can prayerfully seek these traits. They will work wonders for your relationship.
Finally, challenge yourself to grow. Admit weaknesses. Be honest in your self-appraisal. Speak frankly to your mate about your need to grow. Ask for feedback about areas of growth he/ she recommends for you.
In summary, we all have styles of relating that are ineffective, or worse. We have patterns of relating that are like pouring gas on a fire. Fortunately, we can change. Identify your ‘go to’ style and cultivate your ability to stay in ‘flow’ in all your relationships.
We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: July 15, 2014
Recently on Dr. David
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content