Emotional flooding is a phenomenon that can occur in relationships, and it’s not good. However, emotional flooding is also a psychotherapeutic technique that can assist with the onslaught of unhealthy emotional flooding. Phew!
Do you have a home where arguments start brewing over a few days, and tensions are running high, where one tiny simple action or a word cause you, your partner (or both of you) to erupt into a flood of emotions?
Such as uncontrollable rage, resentment, or anger are directed at your partner even though you love them; that is emotional flooding of the negative kind.
What is emotional flooding?
In layman’s terms, emotional flooding is when a person experiences overwhelming emotions that take over one’s rational thinking.
When this happens, we feel a sudden pour of physiological sensations because of a surge of adrenaline and cortisol, or what we know as the stress hormones.
Flooding psychology definition is when a person gets flooded with extreme emotions to where they get lost in the present moment. This experience then triggers our body’s natural fight-or-flight response.
Did you know that this can also be used in therapy? It’s called flooding therapy.
Emotional flooding is positive when used as a psychotherapeutic technique where patients are encouraged to release all of their pent-up emotions and fears. Using it correctly in relationships you and your partner will save you from frustration and heartache.
What happens during emotional flooding?
Emotional flooding saturates your body with very intense emotions and thoughts that make it difficult for you to stay in the present moment.
A person experiencing emotional flooding can experience the following:
Difficulty in breathing
Increase in body heat
Redness of face
There is difficulty in connecting with what you want to say and to what you’re feeling. Suddenly, you’re engaged in your fight/flight system, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Emotional flooding is very normal.
We have all experienced it more than one time. It also more commonly occurs in men, who are likely to have been caused by how men tend to hold onto their emotions or hide them more than women might.
Flooding is a very intense experience. However, once recognized, the intensity of flooding could be managed. This is helpful when in the midst of a difficult disagreement with your spouse.
It’s when a person is already tired, hungry, sick, or sleep-deprived, and then someone makes trigger statements that start emotional flooding.
A person, as much as possible, will control negative emotions, but factors such as hunger, sickness, and lack of sleep can make anyone prone to emotional flooding, especially when triggered by insensitive statements or comments.
How to deal with emotional flooding in relationships?
So far, we now understand the definition of emotional flooding and its causes and signs, but what about managing it?
Managing emotional flooding can be achieved through different techniques, depending on which one will work best for you, the situation, and even for your future.
Here are some effective ways how to deal with emotional flooding in relationships:
Have you noticed how you feel like drowning when experiencing something intense? When you’re very angry, your breath seems to shorten. When you’re calm, your breathing is in a very steady state.
Aside from the benefits of learning breathing techniques for our day-to-day, learning how to breathe during a conflict is a blessing.
When starting to feel overwhelmed by intense emotions, take deeper breaths. As you exhale, you will notice that your thoughts will begin to change, and with these changes in thoughts, you will start to calm and clear your mind.
2. Know your emotions
Dealing with emotional flooding is difficult, and if you want to deal with it, you must learn to understand yourself and the emotions that you are feeling.
What triggered the flooding?
You know yourself better than anyone else. Write the triggers, the cause, and how you calmed yourself.
Use this for future reference, and you can also use this in case you and your partner consult a therapist or open up with each other.
By understanding your triggers and emotions, you will handle the situation better the next time.
When you experience emotional flooding, you don’t feel extreme emotions and show physical manifestations.
Once you feel this, walk away and take some time off.
Being aggressive and giving in to your anger will worsen matters, especially for you. So, do this for yourself.
If needed, go to your room, take time off until you calm down, and then talk about the problem.
Once you have taken some time off, you must learn how to self-soothe.
For this one, try different methods, and choose which one works best for you.
Some prefer turning off the lights and lying in bed, while others turn on relaxing music. Some people want to take a walk, hug a pillow, and rest.
Self-soothing techniques can save you from physical and mental pain. Once you know how to do this, the physical symptoms of emotional flooding will easily diminish.
5. Be kind
If you are experiencing emotional flooding, do not forget that it is your partner to whom you are releasing emotions, and try as hard as you can to be kind as you go through this.
Remember, your partner has their feelings too! And as in the previous point, it’s important to remember to learn to accept your feelings as your own, to take a moment to breathe, and not to blame your partner.
The goal of this argumentation is to find a middle ground where both parties are understood and both parties needs can be addressed.
To the partner being vented to, it’s your opportunity to learn to empathize more.
Empathy is a learnable skill and is a trait of the kind. When a partner empathizes, they offer space for their partner to be able to vent freely without the fear of being judged or misunderstood.
Empathy allows us to understand where our partners are coming from. Empathy also will enable us to love our partners despite being in the middle of a heated row.
Prevention is better than cure. Before you find yourself erupting in a cascade of emotions, communicate your feelings to your partner.
Your partner should be your best friend and ally. They are your confidante. At times, they’re your only solace in the world. Communicating your feelings with your partner should be safe.
Communication, however, might be difficult during an argument.
When communicating with your partner, own your emotions. This is your moment to release; this is your moment to gain clarity of your feelings. Own your feelings instead of blaming your partner.
Take your time and check in with yourself before you say anything you might regret.
Step back a bit to have some air. Focus on your emotions and how they make you feel physically. Try, as much as possible, to be very specific about what you wish to communicate and how you express that.
Remember, your partner is not a mind reader. If you are having difficulty speaking, write it down. Please make an effort to be understood; it will be good for you both.
7. Be present
Sometimes, people keep their frustrations, fears, and agony inside because they feel they will not be heard.
Being in a relationship will require both of you to listen to each other.
Have compassion for your partner and listen. It’s during these times that silence will be appreciated.
Encourage your partner to speak up instead of being defensive.
Be present with them during this intense time and do not turn them away, distract them, or interrupt them. You’re not giving them the space they are due when you interrupt them.
Show your love by being present with your partner.
In a healthy relationship, boundaries exist. It’s when you and your partner honor each other’s right to say ‘no’ if they don’t want to do it. It’s also the act of ‘putting yourself first’ in any event that you need some time off.
These boundaries prevent resentment, hidden anger, and triggers.
Why is it so hard to say ‘no’? Kati Morton, a licensed therapist who helps people through her videos, explains why it’s so hard for us to say no, and the importance of learning how to say it properly.
10. Talk to a therapist
What if there’s infidelity involved? Or maybe emotional flooding isn’t stopping because you’re in a toxic relationship?
In cases like these, it’s also best to ask for a licensed therapist’s help.
These trained professionals know how to deal with triggers, emotional trauma, and communication.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.