Elbow Grease for Love

A Little Elbow Grease for Love

The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.

Glenn Gould

Breathe-in, breathe-in, open the diaphragm, breathe-in more, and slowly let the air leave as the emptying space naturally compresses the chest, breathe-out more, and then emotionally decompress… self-soothing is a highly under-rated skill. 

It takes time to develop, but it can make a whole world of difference in a number of areas in life. Self-soothing is a main component of maintaining a sense of internal, physiological calm. A sense of serenity in life. It’s an art, for sure, but it’s an art with science to support it. 

The Gottman Institute posts about 5 ‘secrets’ to self-soothing. One is control of breathing, so deep and even breathing. Another is finding muscle tension and dealing with it. It’s holding tension in each muscle group and then releasing it. 

The third is letting tension flow from the muscle groups to feel the heaviness. The fourth, as like the third, is letting tension flow to feel the warmth. The last is meditate and focus on a calming vision or idea. 

These short methods can count as a five-part set of ‘secrets’ for self-soothing as self-care. When used consistently or well enough – no need for perfect, when the time of real conflict comes forward, you can be prepared physiologically, not as in a defense, but as in a sense of preparedness of mind. 

As a matter of fact, a “preparedness of mind” becomes a preparedness of body, too, because the impacts, fundamentally, sit with the physiological arousal of intimate, interpersonal conflict between partners or spouses. 

Men and women differ, socially in upbringing and biologically if male and female sexes taken as a baseline. When it comes to interactions between couples, their physiological and psychological reactions differ, on average, as well. 

Between 1980-1983, Drs. Gottman and Levenson studied physiological flooding and its impact on the ability to communicate for couples. This information comes from The Gottman Institute. Physiological flooding is excess arousal of one’s physiology. Frequent excess arousal of the body can lead to deterioration of a couple because harmful acts can ensue, repeatedly. These degrade a partnership. Be wary, my friends. 

These repeated experiences can lead to a state of hypervigilance in the relationship. Why hypervigilance – not a great signal? It’s back to a feeling of fear. Dealing with a physiologically flooded person or as a physiologically flooded person, it’s traumatic. The experience becomes punishment rather than a moment to resolve an issue and grow closer. You ‘grow’ apart, in other words.

When physiological flooding happens, you need to self-soothe. Fundamentally, never forget, we are animals. The human animal has rational faculties, but impulses, instincts, drives, non-conscious motivations, and limits to each of them. Healthy patterns in each – balance, homeostasis, harmony – requires practice. 

Imagine a fight expected with a partner – past or present, the rush of adrenaline kicks in, the pumping of the heart, the explosion of affect and action at once. You’re – or your partner is – feeling unpleasant or are unpleasant to be around, or probably both. You or your partner may simply shut down and stonewall. 

Men are far more likely to stonewall. It is the feeling of emotional implosion rather than explosion. When a woman, more often, attempts to connect with her partner and then he stonewalls, he loses out on a bid, by her, to connect on something. 

Emotions are not good or bad to women in general. They just are. The men may be taking this as a bad thing, but the reaching out is a bid for connection on the profound and the subtle emotions. Women must understand about men: They have a harder time and take a longer time coming back down to baseline, calming down, after an argument. It’s biological hardwiring. 

Men must understand about women: They take shorter periods of time to recover from stress in their cardiovascular system. To explode or implode in the presence of a love subject is tragic, the conscientious practice of self-soothing can make a world of difference to avoid these small tragedies from escalating into a big one of divorce. 

That’s why self-soothing is important to inculcate into daily life and practice. At the height of an inevitable relationship argument, breathe, imagine a calming place or idea, do not try to get even, do not become haughty and arrogant, and don’t become a victim, there’s a reason based on the event. 

What happened? An argument happened, which means, a healthy occasion in any relationship because, in some sense, there isn’t indifference. You both still have some skin in the game. So, you both care. Care enough more than that to leave for twenty minutes to self-soothe, come back collected, and reconnect when calm.

Photo by Tiago Felipe Ferreira on Unsplash

Author: Scott Douglas Jacobsen