When the relationship is on fight/flight mode

I’m sharing with you thoughts from my clinic of couples therapy. My writing today might be a bit more complex, but I think it’s worth it.

I’ll start by sharing something interesting I just read the other day that stayed with me:
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Parents who live in countries with a danger threat, tend on a subconscious level, to *not* play with their children, but instead- create interactions that keep them on a fight-flight mode. The idea is to keep them alert for situations of danger in which they are already practiced to respond in fight or flight mode.
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On a biological survival level- this totally makes sense. Physically- if our existence is threatened – we better fight the threat, or flight it.

The thing is that our body doesn’t distinguish between physical threats and emotional threats.
And… since most places on earth have been a place of danger at some point in time (see WW1, WW2, etc…), most of us have a tendency for the fight/flight mode on some level or another.
Now… this becomes an issue when these bodies, that are wired for fight/flight get into a relationship, and now there’s a relationship between two of these. In this relationship, these two people with high sensitivity to a danger threat, though not in physical danger, are over-alert for danger. So, a so-called small fight can easily turn into a dramatic clash.

These can escalate when one person takes the role of the fight (such as complaining, demanding, etc…) and the other takes the role of the flight (avoidance/ blocking of contact, using phone, work, etc).

These triggers can be very strong as they are wired in our nervous system. In therapy, we aim at seeing these patterns and managing them mindfully to create different paths in the nervous system that can lead to different kinds of interactions.

This work is on the relational level, on the individual level as well as on the humanistic level. As I always say, we embody humanity itself, since we ARE actually humanity. As more and more people/couples can create safer spaces, and literally change the nervous system to a peaceful and calm awareness, this is also the reality we will see in the world.

So, here is something practical to try out: Once you have brought this into awareness, notice the strong triggers in your relationship. Notice when your body winds up and is about to explode (or withdraw into a cave for safety) and pause for a moment. This pause will help you observe your automated response. This will also allow you to choose a different response. Try it out, being curious about how things change when you respond differently.

I hope you enjoy this experiment of making this world a better place.
Of making your relationship and your life a better place.

I welcome you to think of putting this in your 2023 New Years’ resolution.

And of course, feel free to message me if you are interested in trying out this kind of work in the clinic.

With love,

Ronit Haase
Couples therapist
Author of ‘Your Happily Ever Love List’: https://www.amazon.com/Your-Happily-Ever…/dp/B09HCTJ5MF

Photo: Pixabay. A couple CHOOSING their journey.

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