Managing conflict in relationships

Managing emotional conflict

In relationships, it’s easy to notice the perceived flaws in our partners and think if only they would change all would be well. However, the only person we can change is ourselves. When conflict occurs instead of blaming the other ask yourself “What did I contribute to this, and how can I assist to de-escalate the conflict and build relationship?”


What is an emotional trigger?

Emotional triggers are intense emotional reactions usually based in past experiences. When something looks, acts, feels, and sounds similar our brains make assumptions and react as if it is the same.


Due to the way emotional memories are stored, when something arises in the present that reminds you of a past event, you may feel the feelings associated with the past event. We call the present-day events triggers because they trigger the emotions associated with the past. We have a hurt part that is defended by a protector part often this is the behaviour seen in times of conflict. Often couples have well entrenched patterns, assumptions and behaviours that reoccur frequently during conflicts.


Common situations or events that trigger intense emotions include:

  • rejection
  • betrayal
  • unjust treatment
  • challenged beliefs
  • helplessness or loss of control
  • being excluded or ignored
  • disapproval or criticism
  • feeling unwanted or unneeded
  • feeling smothered or too needed
  • feeling insecure
  • loss of independence


How to recognise a trigger?

The reaction can be sudden and stir up intense emotions that can change the mood or pace. It feels big and looks bigger in response to the trigger and can feel out of proportion or make no-sense. However, as our brains like to join the dots and make sense of the situation. So, something occurs, you react, and then your brain instantly concocts a reason for your reaction that seems to justify your behaviour. Leading to blaming the other; you did this and you made me feel X Y or Z because of A, B or C.

How work with strong emotions and conflict

  1. Be aware of when a strong emotional trigger is occurring
  2. Be curious about your own inner reactions and learn about your triggers.
  3. Pay attention to your inner voice, and meaning you are making of the experience.
  4. Although this current stimulus may have similarities to a previous experience, it is different.
  5. Rein in the desire to blame the other or defend yourself self-righteously.
  6. Take ownership of the emotional reaction and name the emotional reaction you’re experiencing – fear, anger, hurt, or shame.
  7. Observe the feeling and take time to calm the nervous system. Be compassionate towards yourself, and/or your partner when you observe a strong reaction. You may need to take time out.
  8. Pause if necessary and take a break when you realise the communication isn’t helpful. Physically leaving can help you avoid emotional overwhelm. If you can, excuse yourself to take a short break. This can help you avoid an instinctive reaction you might regret later. A break isn’t to avoid the issue so comit to return to the discussion later when you both feel more settled.
  9. Take control over your contribution to the dynamic. Use an I statement. When I hear/see/notice (name the specific behaviour in the other) I feel (name the emotion). Then formulate a request. Remeber a true request is open to the repsonse from the other whereas a demand cannot tolerate no!
  10. Listen to understand the other rather than to respond in defence or counter argue. Seek to understand each other’s worlds and look for oppertunities to work together and collaborate



Making Progress

As we learn to take charge and understand the internal workings of our emotional reactions, we can extend this compassionate, curious attitude to our partner. When we take a gentler, more honest, open, respectful, and vulnerable approach to ourselves and our partner, we are more likely to get the same response in return. Here are signs that you’re making progress:

  1. You’ll recognize your emotional triggers more easily and therefore be less likely to project or accuse the other.
  2. You’ll practice taking responsibility and blame the other less.
  3. Become better at caring for yourself and soothing your emotional reaction.
  4. You’ll notice a gradual reduction in your triggers, and less reactive intensity
  5. You’ll experience less conflict and more collaboration

Why talk to a professional?

Emotion regulation is a difficult skill to master for most people, and it’s not always easy to identify triggers on your own. A therapist can help you practice using more productive communication strategies to express yourself and offer guidance and support as you work towards a more satisfying relationship.

Seeking professional guidance to invest in your relationship will help with:

  • Improved ways to communicate
    • Increased understanding and appreciation of each other
    • Build relationship skills
    • Find problem solving strategies
    • Discover ways to reconnect

Making time to work on your relationships, is an investment in your future happiness. Why wait until it’s too late? Speak to Heather about improving your relationship on Ph: 0405 821 880. In person sessions in line with current health advice or video telehealth consultations available at 10% discount. BOOK HERE



Buddha Nature: Ocean waves

  1. Everything changes

 The constant nature of change exhibits itself more profoundly in the ocean. While storms may visit, they never last, and calm waters will triumph once more.

“No man can ever step in the same river twice for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.” ~ Heraclitus

  1. Living fully means taking risks; but choose wisely

If you choose to enter the ocean you take a risk. Surfers strategically pick and choose the best waves. Swimmers chose the calmest beaches. If you don’t take risks, you will never get the ride of your life. Staying safe on the shore may feel comfortable, but you’ll miss out on the fun.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

  1. Patience and persistence

Water flows and because it is persistent in its efforts over time, it can cut through the strongest of rocks, smoothing their hard surfaces. Water does not apply force; it applies persistence over time.

“A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.” – Jim Watkins

  1. Calmness brings clarity

When ocean waves are churning up the sand and debris it’s hard to see anything. On a calm day the waters are crystal clear. Your mind is like this water when it is agitated it becomes difficult to see. If you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.

“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?” Tao Te Ching

  1. We are all connected

The vast ocean can’t exist without each particle of water. Rain falls and flows into streams and rivers which flow into the ocean. Each wave emerges from the ocean and retreats into the ocean. Each of us are part of humanity. We are all one small part of the greater whole.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”― Brené Brown

What wisdom do you receive from the ocean?


People pleasing; the problem with being nice

Are you often accused of being a people-pleaser or too nice?

Do you:
• struggle to say “no”
• find it hard to be speak up
• on the look-out for perceived rejection
• fear ‘negative’ emotions
• often do a favour for others at your own expense
• have a weak sense of self
• have difficulty with boundaries
• become emotionally dependent/co-dependent in relationships
• constantly need approval from others
• have a need to be liked
• collapse when someone criticises you
• worry what other people think of you

Consequences of being too nice:

Your happiness is in the hands of others
If you base your sense of worthiness on other people’s approval of you, the power is with others. You have subconsciously given away your sense of self-esteem to the whim of other people’s ability to notice, be grateful, polite or express their opinion.
You suppress feelings and build resentment
If you’re so anxious to make others happy, you suppress your own feelings. Suppressing emotions leads to a build-up of resentment and often sparks acting out of anger or frustration. This is often because your actions are conditional and come with expectations — that others will appreciate or reciprocate your efforts. Suppression of emotions eventually results in physical or psychological breakdowns.

The Cost of Pleasing in relationships

Our pleasing habit denies others the opportunity to help, give, and love us equitably.
Relationships are based on dishonesty, so there is no authentic connection.
We give up our power, happiness, and freedom to truly contribute.
Our unwillingness to risk being authentic and speak our truth creates hidden agendas that damage relationships.

Unconsciously or otherwise others can take advantage of you and, as you enjoy feeling needed and wanted, you unwittingly continue the toxic cycle

How to stop the cycle

  • Remember that you always choose to say yes or no
  • It’s OK to say that you’ll need to think about it
  • Ask yourself “What do I need?”
  • Know your priorities and values
  • Set limits and boundaries
  • Remember “What other people think about you is none of your business”
  • You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s OK
  • Seek feedback from people you trust
  • Learn to rely on your own judgement and assessments
  • Practice speaking up

Heather is a Mindfulness-based Psychotherapist at the Lotus Centre in Brookvale.

The compassionate art and practice of Self Care

What is Self Care?

The art of self-care is deciding to take personal responsibility for your own physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being. Practising self-care is preventative, not selfish.

Why is it important?

Lack of self-care can lead to a build-up of stress, resentment and dissatisfaction with life. The stress hormone cortisol builds up in the body causing our immune systems to become more susceptible to illness and disease.

If you don’t take the time to exercise regularly or eat healthy, balanced meals this further increase the chances of chronic health problems.

Why is it especially important for women?

Women often suffer more from immune illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome and thyroid disorders, ailments that experts believe are often exacerbated by stress. Women suffer emotionally from a lack of self-care can leaving us anxious, depressed and less productive.

Women often carry most of the mental and emotional load – women are the managers of the household and often the main caretakers of the family. We organise and manage the kids, the family social activities, the diary, the household chores, the bill payer, the meals, the list is endless. This mental managerial role often goes unnoticed. Women also carry the emotional load of the family.

Often women postpone self-care to better serve those we love — taking that bath can seem petty when your kids need help with their homework — although forgoing our own needs can actually damages those relationships in the long run.

Even though it feels like there’s no time for you, looking after your own health (emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually) is essential.

Here are some self-care suggestions:

  • Find time for friends – Laughter is the best medicine. Take time to watch a funny movie or laugh with a friend on the phone.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ and set boundaries. Identify situations where you habitually say ‘yes’ and notice if you become resentful – this is a clear sign that you have taken on too much.
  • Learn a mindfulness or meditation tool to help when your feel overwhelmed.
  • Accept help from friends, family members and professionals so you can have break for a few minutes, hours or a day or two. Learn to delegate.
  • Exercise: It has a positive impact on both your physical and emotional well-being. Aim for small enjoyable things try walking, run, swim, garden or learn yoga. It’s a natural way to relax body and mind.
  • Be your own best friend. If you were, what would you tell yourself right now? Look in the mirror and say it.
  • Make a list of activities or hobby that you used to enjoy and add some that you think you might enjoy.
  • Let yourself be cared for. A regular massage or Energy healing session or treatment might help to develop a sense of well-being and is something to look forward to.
  • Talk it over: A therapist can help assist with stress management techniques and will be a sounding board when you need to make decisions that are appropriate for your personal situation.

Heather is a mindfulness-based therapist, Hypnotherapist and Energy Healer at the Lotus Centre. Heather has three grown up kids, a husband and a dog. To book an appointment call 0405 821880.