Couples therapy can help you sort through confusing feelings and sensations. Have you heard of the fight or flight response? This is when the emotional nervous system feels triggered or overwhelmed. Often, these feelings are accompanied by the urge to either fight or run away. Either way, it’s a response to feeling out of control and afraid. Emotional flooding is similar. In the case of emotional flooding, the sympathetic nervous system detects a threat to safety. It may be that the threat is imagined or that it feels imminent due to previous, traumatic experiences. Whatever the cause of the threat or the actual danger posed, this feeling can cause a person to react.
When experiencing emotional flooding, the person affected will feel overwhelmed, as if the emotions they’re feeling are too intense to be contained. Indications can range from the feeling of a constricted airway and a rapid heartbeat to heavy breathing and sweating.
Sometimes, experiences in earlier life that were traumatic can cause a person to develop a deep sensitivity to the emotions or circumstances associated to that trauma. When something comes up in later life that reminds, or triggers, the person to relive the memory of the trauma, they can forget that their circumstances are no longer what they were when the initial trauma occurred.
Someone who is triggered can forget where they are and feel, suddenly, like they’re back in the situation and circumstance that they were in when the original trauma happened. This can cause the triggered person to stop thinking logically. They become overwhelmed with memories and feelings to the point that they are unable to really process the reality around them in the moment. They are brought back to the time and place that they were traumatized.
Who it Happens to
Emotional flooding can happen to everyone. If you have emotions, you’re liable to be flooded by them at one point or another. However, people who have had certain experiences in their lives may be more likely to experience emotional flooding than others.
Some studies have shown that men are more likely to experience emotional flooding than women. This could be due to the societal pressures placed on men to not display their emotions. Because men have just as many emotions as women, this pressure to keep them inside can cause them to boil over when they reach a saturation point.
It’s also been theorized that adults who have lived in families or relationships where they experienced trauma, abuse, or dysfunction are more prone to experiencing emotional flooding.
When a person is triggered to relive a previous emotional trauma, they may feel so many feelings that they are unable to process them. This is called emotional flooding. When someone is experiencing emotional flooding, they may have trouble communicating clearly about what they’re experiencing or about what they need. When this happens in the context of a relationship, it can make communication very difficult.
Because communication is one of the key requirements to maintaining a healthy relationship, emotional flooding can be a source of difficulty, both to the person experiencing it, and to their relationship. If you feel that you are experiencing this with a partner, couples therapy can be helpful in learning to cope.
Along with being triggered by reminders of past trauma, emotional flooding can also be triggered by external circumstances. Being hungry, tired, or overwhelmed can cause a person to be less resilient to difficult emotions and can make emotional flooding more likely to happen. If someone has had difficult or traumatic experiences with abandonment or rejection, behavior from their partner that feels akin to rejection or abandonment can cause emotional flooding to occur. Emotional triggers are subjective. This means that they will be different for every individual person. Love language within relationships can look like learning to recognize the emotional triggers of your partner and understanding why and from where they originate.
When emotional flooding occurs within a relationship, it can cause stress. A cycle of stress can occur. First, the person experiencing the emotional flooding may feel misunderstood by their partner. They may also experience a sense of shame once the flooding has passed for the way that they acted while their parasympathetic nervous system was activated.
The partner of the person experiencing emotional flooding may, themselves, be triggered by the emotional flooding of the initial partner. They may also feel confused and unsure about how to handle the situation. They may worry that it will happen again. They may not understand what is happening or why it’s happening. All of these potential circumstances are likely to lead to confusion and a sense of isolation.
One way to work through this is through couples therapy. By working with a qualified therapist, couples can process the experiences that led to the emotional flooding and work on ways to mitigate the effects or causes in the future. By being aware of potential triggers and also of their partners’ original trauma, members of a relationship can work to strengthen their bond.
Couples Therapy Can Help You Cope
Seeking qualified help through couples therapy is the best way to cope with emotional flooding. A trained professional can help you and your partner learn to process emotions so that they don’t become overwhelming to the point of flooding your system.
On your own or with a therapist, there are certain things you can do to cope with emotional flooding. The first thing is to learn to identify when it’s happening. This can be challenging because one of the things that happens with emotional flooding is difficulty becoming aware of one’s self and surroundings. However, this can be achieved with practice.
Take Care of Yourself
The biggest thing that you can do to prevent emotional flooding, and to work through it when it occurs, is to take care of yourself. Make sure that you get enough rest, eat healthy foods that make you feel good, and get enough exercise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take time away. If you need a break, take one. If something doesn’t feel right, address it. When we have been stuck in unhealthy coping patterns, it can be hard to break out and really take care. Therapy can help you with this.
Schedule Couples Therapy
If you’re interested in learning more about how couples therapy can help you and your partner weather the storms of emotional flooding, contact us by calling 925.324.4514. We have the experience and expertise to help you find your way.