Over the years, I have taught numerous people to cool down with Time Out. Time Out is a way to calm the body and mind down so you do not say or do anything you regret. You “enlarge the thought box.” which disappears once we dump adrenaline into our system.
I was reading some of my favorite blogs and came across Gottman’s take on Timeout. He calls it Self-soothing. Bottom line, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your relationships with others.
Read about it here: Friday, March 1, 2013 Weekend Homework Assignment: Physiological Self-Soothing
Dr. Gottman refers to as emotional and physiological flooding. Here is what he says about it:
If the Four Horsemen are present in a conflict discussion with your partner, you may feel overwhelmed by a barrage of negativity, both real and perceived. As adrenaline kicks in, all systems are in overdrive, and constructive conversation becomes totally impossible. If you keep going, you’ll find yourself exploding at your partner or imploding (stonewalling), neither of which will get you anywhere. In Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman writes about his research on flooding, explaining that “if your heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute, you won’t be able to hear what your spouse is trying to tell you no matter how hard you try.” It is physically impossible to communicate.
According to his own studies and those of other researchers, including Robert Levenson, Ph. D., and Dolf Zillman, Ph.D., Dr. Gottman, along with other researchers, have shown that
men and women are different in the way they flood.
There are some biological differences hearkening from out days fighting saber-toothed cats! There is an area of the brain, the limbic system, that stores emotionally charged memories and is the seat of out fight or flight response. It releases adrenaline whenever there is a situation we perceive to be dangerous. It saves us to see another day.
Men have a quick limbic system response to danger . He that reacted the fastest and stayed alert lived and passed on his genetic coding. This worked great when things could easily kill you. In the present day, it causes men to excite too quickly to any threat, real or imagined, whether it can eat them or not.
Women, on the other hand, had limbic systems that did excite but did not stay aroused as long. They could not breast feed their young unless relaxed, so the woman who could quickly calm down had offspring that lived, passing on her genes. This is still true today.
It is more difficult for men’s bodies to calm down after an argument. Women calm down more quickly because it takes less time for their cardiovascular system to recover from stress. If the husband asks to be left alone so he can calm down, let him do it! Also, do not approach too quickly because his system is still aroused. Take AT LEAST 20 minutes for a time out – that is how long it takes for the system to calm down. Longer is okay too.
Clients find that timing out is one of the best and most effective tools they have for calming down any argument. Give it a try!