Strong emotions that arise during conflicts almost always have their origin in the past, most often in childhood, says couples’ therapist George Taylor. When we inquire within to identify the source of our reactivity, then share it with our partner, we begin to break free from old, conditioned patterns of behavior that no longer serve us or our relationship.
The four most common strategies that most people rely on when they feel threatened are to:Attack Defend Pursue Withdraw
Dismantling these kneejerk reactions is a courageous process that requires both self-awareness and self-disclosure, but the results are transformational, Taylor says. The key is to focus on your own experience, without blaming or criticizing your partner.Ask Yourself: What’s Getting Triggered?
In other words: Be mindful and investigate your own strong reactions to see what old trauma or wound might be getting triggered before you lash out or withdraw. The questions to ask yourself, says Taylor, are:Does this response feel familiar to me from childhood or previous relationships? Where might I have learned it and what can I learn from it now? Knowing this, how do I want to respond to my partner?