All feelings and emotions are generated in our subconscious mind. They are triggered by what is happening in the present moment – input from the conscious mind – which is processed by the subconscious … in effect our emotional brain.
At times however, especially when we are feeling stressed, upset, anxious or slightly depressed, our emotional brain can overload, resulting in a feeling of being totally overwhelmed.
You can liken this to a blocked sink with the water flowing into it being input from our conscious mind – hearing, seeing, feeling, etc. The more upset we get, the more the pipe shuts down, until suddenly we hit the wall - it blocks completely and the sink overflows. And imagine that when it overflows it is then followed by an electrical short, where fuses (neurons) get blown.
What has happened is the emotional brain has become so overloaded that is truly feels damaged.
This state can affect all types of people at all different stages in their lives. Partners who are experiencing relationship issues, never ending life responsibilities, an unbearable work environment, not liking your self … perhaps overweight or unfit, grief as a result of a family incident, trauma, PTSD, menopause, … and the list goes on.
Emotional Overload in a Relationship
When this happens in a relationship – and one partner feels overwhelmed, their only way of dealing with life, facing each day – is to find or create ‘space’ … to withdraw, shut down or emotionally disconnect, and to only focus only on the practical – to recover from their hurt & enable healing.
Unfortunately this is often perceived by their partner as a cop out, an escape … a desire to leave or end the relationship.
However this is far from the truth. The person feeling overwhelmed will still love their partner, but at the present moment they just can’t have anything to do with them - they just can’t face them. Communication beyond the basic requirements - eating, driving kids, shopping, etc - is impossible.
At this point it is so important for the partner to truly understand this, believe it, support it, and not take it personally. Because when you can do this you create the ‘space’ for healing to take place.
What the Partner Does Wrong
The problem is that ongoing conflict and a breakdown in conflict has resulted in this overload – and now the partner is also feeling insecure, vulnerable & hurt. However, because they haven’t experienced the feeling of being totally overwhelmed, they don’t get it, and usually do three things:
1. Constantly try and talk it out
2. Continually look for signs of the person reconnecting
3. Take any opportunity just to touch the other person seeking a positive response.
Every time you do this you are setting your partner back. You are blocking the drain. You are blowing fuses. You are setting your partner right back into that state of emotional overload.
Trust that when your partner says they need space it is not about leaving the relationship. Stop talking about any relationship issues. Stop talking about future plans – no matter how positive they may be, such as a holiday. Stop analysing anything that has gone wrong in the past. Stop being defensive when your partner gets upset. Stop looking for signs of healing. Just Back Off!
Truly understand that their subconscious brain, something that they are not directly in control of, needs to heal. Believe in the process, and a stronger marriage can eventuate.