Emotional Flooding & How It Wrecks Your Ability To Communicate

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You know those times that you feel like throwing your computer out the window because of the nonsense you read on the internet? What about when your kids are refusing to listen to a word you say? That significant other that just can’t see how obtuse they are being?

Well friends… those strong emotional reactions have their roots in emotional flooding. I’m not talking about slight annoyances, but rather the overwhelm that causes us to act in an irrational manner. During these emotional flooding episodes our rational mind is off line.

Emotional Flooding is generally triggered by feeling attacked and perception that the situation exceeds our limits to endure. This activates the feeling of danger in the body and mind by increasing blood pressure, shallow breathing, dilated pupils, and forces us to choose between fighting or fleeing for our life.

As the name implies, it’s the stress response. You can easily identify when you’re flooding:

  • Feeling like you want to run away
  • Getting frustrated and upset
  • Raising your voice or saying mean things
  • Difficulty putting thoughts together
  • Pounding heart
  • Shaking
  • Shutting down

All of this is emotional flooding and based in our survival instincts. You can’t think rationally when you are emotionally flooded as the pre-frontal cortex isn’t operating at full capacity. When emotional flooding occurs there is no room for empathy and understanding—as both are responding as if you’re fighting for your life.

It doesn’t matter what you are doing when the flooding occurs, you need to take a break and get away from the source of the flooding. Take 20 minutes and then revisit things when you have calmed down.

If this happens with other people, then you will likely need to establish strong boundaries. Some people don’t want you to leave as a means of controlling the situation, but you need to leave to prevent things from escalating. It’s in both of your best interests.

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