Available for Interviews: Dr. Alice Fong
Alice Fong, ND, is an integrative naturopathic doctor specializing in stress, integrative medicine, diet & weight loss, and is a business growth consultant for holistic healthcare providers.
What Dr. Alice Fong can say in an interview
on Breaking the Fight Cycle:
Do you ever feel like you’re having the same argument in your relationship over and over again? Even though WHAT you are fighting about might vary, what is SAID seems to be on constant repeat. You’re not alone. This is a very common issue in relationships. Especially during these trying times, stress can prevent people, in general, from practicing effective communication skills.
Here is how to stop having the same fight over and over again:
- Recognize and develop an awareness of when you are triggered. You might notice yourself becoming angry or irritable when your partner does something that bothers you. Some possible signs that might indicate that you are: impatience, faster breathing, sweating, heart racing, saying things in the heat of the moment that you might not mean (but may later regret), raising your voice, or urge to walk away (and maybe slam doors). What’s happening is that the emotional control center in your brain, called the amygdala, is triggered and activated and gearing your body for “fight or flight.”
- Slow down and breathe. Slowing down your breathing actually slows down your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure, and gives your logical brain (the prefrontal cortex) a moment to catch up to your emotional brain and act before your emotional brain says something you might later regret (or says something that would trigger your partner). Before you say anything in the heat of the moment, take a breath and then ask yourself “Is what I’m about to say going to be productive for the conversation?” or “Do I really want to get into a fight? What do I really want to accomplish or communicate?”
- Notice the common words or phrases that you and your partner use in a fight and try something different. Sometimes hearing the common words or phrases one partner uses can instantly activate and trigger the other one to use the common phrases they say in a fight, and then it’s a ping pong effect where the fight escalates because you both are triggering each other. Saying a neutral phrase or word in those moments when one or both of partners are noticing they are triggered can break and interrupt those common fight patterns we have. A word my partner and I like to use is “pineapple.”
- Do some inner child healing work. Oftentimes, when we are triggered, it’s like we regress back into being and acting like a child. Our childhood wounds and traumas can impact and sabotage our present relationships unconsciously because from those childhood experiences, we may have developed negative core beliefs about ourselves. For example, if your spouse gets upset with you for not doing the dishes. For you, the underlying core belief that might be activated could be “I’m not good enough.” For the spouse getting upset, when you don’t do it, they might perceive it as that you don’t love and respect them and the relationship. Their core belief that might have been triggered is “I’m not loveable.”
- Walk away to cool off, but communicate your intention to complete the conversation when you are calmer. If we are too triggered and we know we’re likely to say something hurtful, sometimes getting some space is the best way to prevent the fight from getting worse. But it is important to complete your conversations and be able to do it when both people are calmer and more receptive to trying to listen and understand the other person. So if a cool-off break is necessary to avoid a bigger fight or a breakup, before you leave and to ensure the other person doesn’t feel abandoned or like you don’t care about the relationship, say something like “I know I’m really triggered and if we continue this conversation right now, I might say something hurtful, which I don’t want to do. I love you and I need a moment to calm down. I do want to hear you out when I’m not so triggered so we can work on building a healthier relationship.”
- Work on developing your communication skills. This can be with a therapist or doing relationship workshops. Or reading relationship and communication books together such as “Crucial Conversations,” “Getting the Love You Want,” or “Loving What Is.” There are so many resources out there, because believe it or not, you’re not the first person to have communication breakdowns in a relationship.
To avoid having the same familiar fight all the time, we need to break certain cycles that we fall into when we are triggered or reactive. Following the above steps can help to reduce the frequency and hopefully intensity of those familiar patterns.
Interview: Dr. Alice Fong
Known as the “Virtual Stress Doc,” Alice Fong, ND, helps busy professionals break free from their stress and anxiety so that they can focus on what matters to them using a 5-step holistic approach. She is the founder and CEO of Amour de Soi Wellness, which offers one-on-one wellness programs, corporate wellness workshops, e-learning, and resilience training courses.
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