Using Mindfulness to Limit Harsh Reactions

Couples Counseling

How many times have you wished you had taken the time to think before acting? Taking time to consider what response you want to provide can avoid regrets, particularly in relationships. When harsh or cruel things are said or done, they may leave an indelible mark that forever casts a shadow on your relationship. 

However, when push comes to shove in a couple’s passionate exchange, one or both of them may have a challenging time stopping themselves from that last comment, question, targeted zinger, or hurtful words.  Learning to take time out before reacting is a skill many people are well-advised to acquire. The therapists at Lindsey Hoskins & Associates, are compassionate couples’ counselors, who can speak with one or both of you in a therapy session to help you bring this essential tool into your relationship.

How do I recognize when to step back and take time to think?

The trick in preventing unwanted reactions is to recognize when you are beginning to ramp up and lose your cool. You can learn to do that easily. It may take a little re-framing of where you direct your attention. If you are only focusing on what your partner did or said, you need to turn that around and put your attention on your own thoughts and physiology.

You can develop the mindfulness release that laser focus on your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, even in the heat of the moment. Stop, and pick up a virtual mirror to reflect on your own feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and what’s going on in your body. Physiological events in your body that can indicate it’s time to take a break from the action include:

  • Breathing becomes shallow and rapid
  • Heart rate increases
  • Head or body feels electrified or buzzy
  • Hot or flushed face
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Clenched hands or teeth
  • Feeling confused, frozen, numb, foggy, or your head spinning
  • Waving your hands
  • Shaking or pointing your finger
  • Pacing
  • Raising your voice
  • Pounding the table or wall 
  • Leaning toward your partner
  • And more

Once you recognize you’re triggered, you can take some time to redirect your focus. Doing so will likely prevent a lot of damage in the moment and to the relationship overall. 

What can I do if I can’t manage to step away and take a time out?  

If you cannot execute a time out to catch your breath and your thoughts, other possible psychological issues may be to blame, including;

  • Narcissism
  • Chronic lying
  • Selfishness 
  • Alcoholism or addiction
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Bipolar disorder

Sometimes, the side effects of medications may also be to blame. If you are willing to change your usual style when it fails, you can then find new ways of managing intense relationship situations. You are well-advised to gain some experience with the practice of taking time out to cool down. The Lindsey Hoskins & Associates office can be a safe space to develop these skills with your partner.  

If you’re ready to commit to yourself and your partner to try something new, you’ve already taken the first and most crucial step. What’s next? Schedule an appointment for Reston, VA couples counseling or individual therapy session.