Have you ever been in a situation where a really big emotion overtook you? A time where you became really angry or anxious and just couldn’t think straight? There are times in life when we get triggered by situations and are overcome by a tsunami of emotions. Rage, anxiety, disappointment can come pouring out of us and it feels like there’s no way to stop it. But then there’s the aftermath–the wreckage left behind by the tsunami. What do we do with that?
Imagine this scenario: A spouse goes out of their way to set up a wonderful home office for their partner, even including a new computer! They went so far as to make sure their partner was logged into all of their accounts so that all they would have to do is open the computer and get to work. You can imagine what happened next…there was a problem with the computer right as they tried to get on to their first meeting of the day! Of course! Despite the frenzy, the spouse came to the rescue and fixed the computer in time to get their partner to their meeting. But all the while, the partner was so caught up in their own stress and anxiety about being late to their meeting that they let all those feelings flood out on to their spouse–despite the fact that they were there to help. Did the partner appreciate what their spouse had done for them? Of course! Were they so grateful that they had received help so quickly that day? Of course! Were they also overcome by their feelings and didn’t know how to rein them in? Of course!
We are all only human. It is something we must remind ourselves of every day and allow for our fallibilities. We must lean into the understanding that occasionally we get “hijacked” by our emotions and we may say and do things that we don’t want or intend to. But it’s what happens in the aftermath that can sometimes be even more powerful than what happens in the emotionally-triggered moment. The aftermath presents us with a unique opportunity to reconnect with our authentic self–that core part of who are. Our essence. We can ask these triggered parts of ourselves to step aside after we have had a moment to recover, and we can tune in to what we can do to make things better. Owning the flood of feelings, owning your actions, and owning your own triggers is the first step towards healing. What comes next is bringing that to your partner and sharing your experience while owning your part in the situation. Lastly, it is important to hear, acknowledge and understand your partner’s experience from that situation. These steps can easily be applied across all relationships in our lives, from partners, to family and friends.
Here are some practical take-aways to keep in mind after resurfacing from a “tsunami” moment:
- Acknowledge to yourself that you were overtaken by some big emotions
- Tune in to what triggered those big emotions
- Share your conclusions so that the other person can gain more insight into your reaction
- Take responsibility
- Ask the other person if they want to share anything about their experience
- If appropriate, take a moment for some closeness between the two of you
My hope is that through these steps, you and your loved one can find a deeper level of connection that allows both of you to show up as your truest self.
Suri Piro, MSW, LMSW provides couple, family, and individual therapy virtually to those located in Maryland. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Suri!