Meet or Retreat

Do you meet the conflict or run from it? What else can you do?

Hi, this is Jasmyne with Relate Family Therapy in Centennial, Colorado, and I want to talk about escalating emotions. This is a big, fancy term that therapists use, but the reality is it’s when somebody is really upset, very sad, really frustrated, and you can see it, and it’s written all over their face, or they’re yelling and screaming about something, and you’re not exactly sure what to do. I’ve talked to people about this so many times, and I’ve had it happen in this office more times than I’d like to admit, but the reality is is people get escalated! Emotions come out, and people don’t know what to do with them. There are two things that we often do. We meet or we retreat. When we meet somebody in that heightened emotional state, we begin to argue. There’s defensiveness. There’s judgment. There’s bad feelings flying around, and we feel like we’re both yelling about something and someone started it. The other thing that a lot of people do is they retreat. When they sense that somebody is really upset, and things are going poorly, and they don’t know what to do, they don’t want to get yelled at. They don’t want to be the brunt of whatever’s happening, and so they avoid, and they pull back, and they run away from it. I want to talk about how you can avoid meeting and retreating, because there are better ways of communicating with someone who’s in that place. One of the ways that we work on in therapy is we talk to people about becoming more neutral. If that person’s yelling about something or really upset or escalated, it might not have to do with you. They really might be feeling that for a variety of reasons, and you can check in with yourself before you talk to them or check in with them about what’s going on. You can think through whether or not this is something that does have to do with you, and if you’re able to hear what they’re saying in that way you can become more neutral automatically, and that neutral stance will help you so you don’t meet their emotional state, and you don’t retreat from it. Hopefully, you’re able to work with them in a way that you can help them see where they’re coming from. If that doesn’t work, you can always take that next step, which is take the deep breath and help them to feel heard. Help them to feel validated around what’s going on for them. See what they’re saying and, even if it doesn’t make complete sense to you, you can put yourself in their shoes for a minute. When people feel like you hear them, they often calm down just naturally and automatically. When they feel like somebody understands what they’re going through and they feel heard, they immediately relax. So if you can use one of those two strategies, you can avoid the meet or retreat.

 

 

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