“I’m not going to listen to her,” Jim spouted. “I’m tired of her making these kinds of accusations and I’m not going to listen to it.”
Fuming about what his wife had said, Jim spit out his words fast and furious. He rocked back and forth in his chair, bit his lower lip and clenched his fists.
As their marriage counselor, I wondered what I was going to do to help him regain his composure. He was in no mood to be reasoned with, nor was his wife able to say anything to calm him down.
I tried in vain to have him calm down.
“Look, Jim,” I said. “I know you’re upset. Would you like to take a break? We cannot work on problems with you being so agitated.”
“No,” he retorted, “I don’t want a break. I want her to take back what she just said. I want her not to say things that aren’t true. I want out of this marriage.”
What his wife had said did not constitute reason for him to become explosive. While she had said something provocative, he had no reason to spiral out of control.
“This is what happens when I say something he doesn’t like,” she said. “I’m afraid of him and these kinds of reactions.”
While it is easy to be critical of Jim, we’ve all be there. We’ve all heard things we didn’t want to hear. We’ve been confronted in ways we didn’t appreciate and “lost our cool.” We’ve said and done things, in an angry mood, that we later regretted.
Losing perspective and shifting into an angry mood is one of the primary reasons couples end up fighting. Someone says something the other doesn’t like and then, feeling threatened, becomes angry. Couples who succeed at managing their emotions are ahead of the game and stand a much better chance at effective problem-solving.
Managing our emotions, however, takes more than not losing our cool. It takes maintaining clear thinking, self-awareness and skills. Solomon shares this wisdom: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
Here are five strategies to help you maintain your cool in difficult situations:
First, slow things down. It is difficult to manage emotion when our mind is swirling with thoughts and our heart is pounding. We must have the self-discipline to step away from a threatening situation. We must find our quiet place where we can breathe slowly, reflect, journal, pray or talk things out with a trusted friend.
Second, consider the thoughts underlying the e-motion. Emotions are a mixture of thoughts combined with bodily sensations. Emotions are “energy in motion,” or e-motions. When we are able to reflect and understand what is really bothering us, we’re able to put the troubling situation into perspective. The situation, incidentally, is rarely as bad as it seems at the moment.
Third, seek the value in the emotion. E-motions give us a lot of information and that is why I don’t consider there to be “good” or “bad” emotions. All emotions can give us insight into our values, what is threatening us and what needs to occur for us to settle down. We must, therefore, make friends with our feelings. We must, in a sense, ask them what they have to teach us.
Fourth, determine an effective plan of action. Having reflected on our emotions and learned what they have to teach us, we’re then able to make a sound decision. If we are sad, for example, we may need a hug or to be comforted. If frightened, we may seek reassurance that we’re not alone and things are going to be okay. If tired, we need rest. All emotion is valuable to teach us something.
Finally, bathe the situation in prayer. Prayer is nothing more than a conversation with God, the author of all wisdom. Scripture tells us that if we seek wisdom we will find it. God wants us to get personal with Him and is available to offer help in time of need. “Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.” (James 4:8)
Do you struggle in managing your emotion? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please send responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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: April 12, 2016