Self-Reflection After an Argument

June 2, 2016

Staff Therapist Peggy Roth, MS Ed, LMFT specializes in the problems of anxiety, trauma, depression, parenting issues, loss, and uses EDMR extensively. Peggy uses EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help unlock and re-process any trauma, relieve anxiety, panic, phobia, and depression. In this blog post, Peggy offers advice on self-reflection after an argument with your partner.

One of the harder tasks in a partner relationship is to really understand ‘what is me’ and ‘what is not me’, especially during arguments with your partner. Very often, our experience of an angry interaction is something like “my partner is mad at me and talking to me so harshly, but I didn’t do anything wrong.” What follows is a reactive, defensive anger at being ‘attacked’.

Before anything else transpires, it is imperative that your initial reaction of anger/hurt/resentment needs to be fully soothed by allowing yourself to come back into focus. This takes a strong commitment and a lot of practice. It is not easy.

Take a Time-Out

An important ground rule for coming together after an argument is to have a shared commitment already established. This may be to take a time-out when defensive reactivity is so high that the rational or reasonable part of the brain shuts down. Having a good discussion when our angry, unreasonable brains are operating is nearly impossible.

Calmly Reflect on Your Contribution

When you feel calm enough to reflect objectively on the ‘what is me’ part, ask yourself:

  • What did I actually do or say, and what are the emotions I felt?
  • What was my intent?
  • Was I trying to disrespect, hurt, malign, or attack?

Get Curious

If these answers reflect no ill-intent and you can accept that you may have contributed to the disagreement. Can you then get curious about what happened in your partner and wonder how they were misunderstood?

This requires, first, owning that what you did had a negative impact. “I see that what I said has really upset you. I’m so sorry. I’m also sorry for getting angry at you. Can you help me understand what it was that caused the upset?” That intention can go a long way.

The Role of Emotions

It can take a great deal of patience and persistence to get to the heart of the matter. This is because the bad feelings feel so true. In those moments it is hard to remember that a feeling is not a fact. A feeling is just an initial piece of information that needs to be examined closely, understood, and soothed before any action is taken.

We all bring to our relationships, behavior patterns, and underlying emotions from our experiences. Often these patterns and motions are poorly understood (if at all). A pattern that doesn’t work well won’t get better with repetition. As a result, negative patterns often just get more and more entrenched.

What is essential in an intimate relationship is for each party to hold onto his/her own truth. Also, to get to a state of curiosity about self and others. If I can get to my curiosity after the first ‘hit’ of the ‘attack’ by giving myself time to settle a bit and breathe deeply (a lot).  I have a chance of turning the upset from my partner’s negative experience of me into a moment of compassion and connection for both of us.

Peggy is currently accepting new clients at our Paoli, University City, and Blue Bell offices. If you’re interested in therapy with Peggy, request an appointment today.