In this, the fifteenth chapter of our new book, Snap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls, Dr. Pepper and I talk about how natural human overreactions can still be damaging to a relationship. Enjoy another free sample!
Knee-jerk reactions usually come from protective rather than proactive instincts. Presume your first reaction is soaked in fight-or-flight hormones and resist your reaction. We know that knee-jerk reactions, like walking away immediately or blowing up, are wired into us and that they are a primitive and unconscious survival tactic. They are part of our autonomic nervous system and not mediated by the cognitive part of the brain. Unfortunately, they don’t suit modern life very well. Researchers have identified four major defenses that are part of our earliest evolutionary history: fight, flight, freeze, or surrender.
During our cave-dwelling days, a charging mammoth meant it was a good idea to run (flight); if the marauding tribe was set on stealing your food, it was time to fight; and when the odds were against you, freeze was a good option — perhaps the enemy wouldn’t see you if you didn’t move. These responses bypass the thinking part of the brain and go right into survival mode. Realistically, your partner is not a charging mammoth, marauding tribe, or any other kind of enemy. You partner is your friend, your lover, and your mate and not a threat to your life. It isn’t easy to resist these first urges and behaviors, but even taking a few breaths when you feel your temperature rise or your heart beat faster will keep you from making some bad mistakes.
As always, for the other pages of the chapter and the rest of the book, order here!