Ticking Time Bomb

July 1, 2005



The past month has involved a lot of discovery. I’ve invested myself in learning about Arwyn and my relationship patterns. I’ve delved deeply into my own thinking patterns in order to discover the various sources of trouble. And there are plenty.

In Gottman’s Why Marriages Succeed or Fail he adds much to the discussion by joining behavior, thinking and physiology. I’ve given some discussion of this in my other blog.

This blog deals primarily with my interactions and struggles. I bring up concepts covered over there and apply them here. And so it is regarding my own reactions to conversations and interactions with Arwyn. I’ve basically been programmed and conditioned into a mode of hostility towards almost everything she says. And her reaction is defensiveness to the point where she will rise to defend herself no matter what I say. Repair attempts by either of us are minimzed or ignored.

Today I was in the midst of paying bills which is always stressful anyway. Then she asked me if I had any cash.

My heart rate went through the roof. It was already going up because of the bill paying experience and she unknowingly triggered a physiological avalanche of stress and defensiveness. We didn’t really argue or fight. We’re both stonewalling at this point. But I became keenly aware of my body jumping into combat mode almost instantaneously at the sound of her voice. I sometimes feel like a vicious and wild animal, ready to pounce and strike.

Healthy? Only if heart attacks and strokes are a healthy goal! My thinking goes into negative mode, my emotions jump in and my body follows. There is simply no easy cut and dried technique for controlling this. First off, getting a grip on my thoughts seems to be the first step. I have to catch my thoughts before they cut loose. The problem is that once a negative emotion is induced, my body starts dumping adrenaline into my bloodstream and my thinking goes south from there. This is a prime case where emotional arousal becomes a bad thing. I need to get ahold of my thoughts but they make the jump to light speed at the slightest provocation. I become ambushed by my own emotions.

None of this is Arwyn’s fault, per se. She can certainly aggrevate and escalate. She played a part in the conditioning process, but I’m not sure she could turn the tide if she wanted to.

Most therapists are not even familiar enough with respondent conditioning to even address it. I have touched on some cognitive interventions such as REBT and The Work. But there probably needs to be some counter conditioning going on. I’ll look into this to see if such a program could be developed. Gottman is good, but he isn’t a behaviorist. His suggestions are good provided the negative pattern doesn’t run deep nor is too long running or severe. Mine is all of these.

I wrote earlier that Arwyn represented the challenge of my life. I was wrong. *I* represent the greatest challenge of my life! My own health and well-being are at stake. I’m a heart attack waiting to happen.