In a prior post, I shared the first step to improve communication in your relationship which involves exploring and understanding what safety is for you. Did you try it? When you communicated that with your partner, friend, or family member did it work? OR, did a similar situation play out and you were left with the thought “that advice sucked!”
Often, as I work with individuals and couples around the topic of creating safety they come back to their next appointment and say “Well, that didn’t work!” Not surprisingly, I also hear how both people became frustrated, their feelings went sideways, and their emotions escalated to a point they repeated the same cycle.
While we explore the experience(s) further, I ask “how did you feel?” going into the conversation? “What did you notice” during the conversation? “At what point did you feel yourself becoming escalated?”, “How did you regulate yourself?”, or “What did you do after the conversation to cool down?”
Commonly, responses may include “I don’t remember”, “I don’t know”, or “I didn’t notice.” While the responses are appropriate, because when we become escalated and agitated, once again, our sympathetic nervous system kicks-in and our ability to process information becomes diminished. The response to the questions are also insightful into the mind-body connection that exists.
Which brings me to the second step to improve communication in your relationship. Once again, this step is focused on YOU and the mind-body connection that exists within you. It is extremely difficult and challenging to enter a situation, begin a conversation, or be open to others if we are not attuned to ourselves. For individuals or partners, to stay in a conversation or have dialogue around sensitive subjects, they must be able to notice, name, and regulate themselves in an effort to remain present in the conversation.
How often do you experience any of the following?
- Mind racing
- Dizzy, disoriented, or lightheaded
- Sleep disturbance
- Vision strange or blurry
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling breathless, breathing fast, or breathing shallow
- Nausea or lack of appetite
- Jelly-like legs
- Wanting to run
These internal experiences, plus many more unique to you, are signals that your sympathetic nervous system has kicked in and your body is telling you something. The objective is to understand what these signals mean to you.
While many of these signals are commonly experienced by everyone, the internal message is unique to each of us. For example, one partner may tremble with fear when they are approaching the other to discuss finances. While the other partner may tremble with anger when the subject of finances are brought up. While both are trembling, each of them is experiencing something different. What is common between the two is that they are already in an escalated state and their ability to manage the conversation is diminishing quickly.
What is important, for both of them, is to develop the ability to notice the feeling, name it, and regulate themselves in a way that allows both to stay open to the situation, maintain the conversation, and reach the outcome they desire.
In an effort to begin to develop a mind-body connection I suggest that each partner becomes an EXPERT in themselves.
To do this, we need to gather data, I suggest to start small and pick an hour where you have a number of activities taking place. This can be at home, work, etc.
Track the following:
- Feeling/Emotion – What are you experiencing?
- Situation/Context – Where are you? What is going on?
- Trigger – What or who is around you that has possibly evoked this feeling/emotion?
- Frequency – How often does this take place? Is this a one time experience or something that occurs frequently?
- Duration – How long did it last? 2 minutes? 5 minutes? 20 minutes? Did it linger with you the rest of the day?
- Intensity – On a scale of 1-10; How would you rate the feeling/emotion? “3” noticeable heart rate increase, “5” body is tensed up, “7” voice got louder, “10” Shut down, screaming, etc.
- Physically – Where in your body did you first notice it? Body warm up? Particular area become tense? Mouth dry up?
- Mode of Expression – How did you express it? Get louder? Speech become more rapid? Shut down?
Use your phone, voice record it, journal it, or find a way to log it however it is the easiest for you. After you’ve gathered some data take some time to review it. What do you notice? Any patterns, situations, or experiences that trigger you more than others?
While taking an hour is a small sample it is a first step in beginning to become an EXPERT in you and understanding your own mind-body connection.
By continuing to become more aware of the signals your body is sending you in your daily experiences you will become more attune to understanding, anticipating, and regulating what you need to remain present in a conversation and reach the outcome you so desire.