I started today (Tues) off with therapy! As much as you all may remember my reticence to go back to therapy - it was, of course, a very good decision. And although I plan for this stint to just be a short term measure at getting me through my Dad's upcoming wedding - I have decided that my therapist can never, ever retire. I plan to need her for the rest of my life. She's going to do my (God willing!) pre-marital counseling, my post baby counseling, my empty nest counseling and my husband's bereavement counseling when I die. (That's right, I'm dying first contrary to common wisdom about women living longer - I don't wanna!) Bottom line - she can't ever retire.
Its a completely different experience going to therapy this time around. First of all - I am NOT depressed. In the least. In fact, my friend Kate keeps referring to me as "Zen-[my real name]" which I think is hilarious. And its true - despite my issues surrounding my Dad's remarriage, I am more content and peaceful these days than I can ever remember being.
It is a really, really good feeling. I highly recommend it.
Anyways - so therapy is really different this time around. Much more about strategies, strengthening boundaries and thinking of coping skills to help me "manage" my Dad. I'm able to think about things so much more clearly and rationally.
I am also able to recognize when I am being "social worked" (or really in this case psychologist-ed) which is really funny when I notice! I am more aware of when she's using common therapy techniques or certain "therapy words". Sometimes it just makes me inwardly smile - and occasionally bristle - but today I really made an interesting connection.
My therapist used the word "flooded" to describe a reaction that I commonly have to my Dad. I've heard the term before - we use it with kids in foster care quite a bit. I understood the basic concept - but after hearing it applied to ME today I did some "google-ing" to understand it a little bit better.
What I understood about emotional flooding was that it was when a person is triggered by an interaction that they so are overwhelmed by their emotions that they can not react appropriately.
What I didn't realize was that this was not just an emotional reaction - it is a physical reaction as well. Heart rates increase exponentially, muscles tense up, and it can be hard to breathe. The triggered person is left physiologically incapable of thinking straight, reacting appropriately, or seeing things rationally.
Well - THAT explains a lot!
And then I read this little gem, "If disrespect is chronic, you produce continual emotional flooding, chronic hostility, and a dead relationship.
Continual emotional flooding - yep, I definitely struggle with this in relation to my Dad.
Chronic hostility - I'm working to reverse the effects of this one.
Dead relationship - does not sound good to me.
So - what can you do about it?
Everything I read stated that the best (and possibly only) way to stop the flooding and make progress with the person or situation that is triggering it is to get away from it. Go to a different room, take a walk, but whatever you do - do not engage with that person/trigger for at least 30 minutes. That gives the stress hormones a chance to stop pumping and the flooding to subside enough for the triggered person to be able to think clearly and rationally again. Once you come back and attempt to work out the situation - both sides must be willing to deal respectfully with each other.
Otherwise, you are back on the fast track to a dead relationship. And I know that I do not want any dead relationships in my life.
I could go into another long segment about how to apply this to any traumatized children in your lives - but I think you are all capable of doing so yourselves!
If you'd like a good place to start try here or simply Google "Emotional Flooding" like I did!