How to Pause by Russ WestJan 13, 2023
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO PAUSE?
Our counselor had recommended we pause when we were frustrated with each other but it's incredibly hard to do in the moment.
When we are frustrated, angry, hurt, embarrassed, etc, our amygdala (the emotional part of our brain) floods us with cortisol and adrenaline to fight, flee, or freeze.
TIGER VS TURTLE
I am a tiger so I want to fight (verbally) when I am flooded and my wife is a turtle so she wants to freeze (not say anything) when she is flooded. It is especially hard for me to pause because I am wired to express my frustrations verbally in the moment.
It's taken a lot of practice but I finally have learned the value to pause! For you tigers out there, you're probably thinking it's impossible to stop in the middle of a disagreement. But let me challenge you for a second...if you're boss called you in the middle of a disagreement with your spouse and you pick up the phone, your tone and disposition would immediately turn from frustrated to pleasant. We are capable of pausing but we don't exercise this ability to stop with our spouse. How much more valuable is our spouse than our boss?!
REVEALING WHAT'S ALREADY INSIDE OF YOU
I have also learned that the more intense my emotion (frustration, anger, hurt, embarrassment, etc), the more it is about what is inside of me than what my wife said or did. We call this having a 10 reaction to a 2 circumstance.
So what should you do when you pause?
ASK THESE QUESTIONS
When I pause, I ask myself what I am feeling. The first answer my brain gives is usually I am frustrated. Then I ask myself, why am I frustrated? The first answer my brain usually gives is "you are frustrated Russ because of what Danielle did."
CONNECT THE DOTS
Our brain will try to answer our questions but it will not always give us the right answer. I then say to myself, "No Russ, why are you so frustrated? What else are you feeling? Well, I am feeling disrespected. What else do you feel? I feel embarrassed. Did you ever feel disrespected or embarrassed in your childhood? Yes, my dad would embarrass me in really bad ways."
OWN RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE INTENSITY
Ah, I see that I am feeling the same level of embarrassment that I felt with my dad even though Danielle did not do anything that deserves that level of feeling. Once I have this conversation with myself where I identify what I am really feeling and tie the intensity of the feeling to something in my past, I can now approach Danielle by owning my feelings and coaching her on what would help me to manage my subconscious wounds, fears, and expectations.
Now I can have a healthy reaction to the 2 circumstance instead of having a 10 reaction!
Learn new communication skills you can immediately apply in your marriage and some harder skills (with practice) that will transform your marriage.