4 Strategies To Manage ‘Emotional Flooding’ and Enhance Your Relationships

Emotional Flooding: (source: Wikipedia)

Emotional flooding is a form of psychotherapy that involves attacking the unconscious and/or subconscious mind to release repressed feelings and fears. Many of the techniques used in modern emotional flooding practice have roots in history, some tracing as far back as early tribal societies.

I suspect that everyone, at one time or another, has experienced ‘emotional flooding’, being so overwhelmed with fear that one is catapulted into a ‘fight or flight’ mode of communication.


Emotional flooding is often associated with the trauma

But there is a much broader meaning.

Here, we will apply emotional flooding to whenever a person goes into psychological and psychological overwhelm when you experience conflict with a partner, family, or friends. When this happens, it is ‘impossible’ to have a rational and productive conversation. How do you know when this occurs? When you leave a conversation feeling a blistering sense of defensiveness, shouting arguments where you only talk in circles or simply shutting down and, extremely muddled thinking.


Emotional Flooding

Emotional Flooding: Insight cannot happen when you are emotionally flooded


From my past writing, you will be aware that we are programmed at our deepest subconscious level for ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ when we sense danger. We instinctively move towards what gives us pleasure and away from fear.

When we perceive a person’s point of view as an emotional threat, it signals the adrenal glands to release stress-related hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline. Bypassing logic, we become emotionally flooded with the fight or flight response.


The cells of your body are not logical

They just respond to the chemical flooding.

Specifically, when does it happen?

  1. When something extremely intense happens to you. Supreme rejection like abandonment, being criticized, loss of an individual, financial security or losing your job
  2. If you are an overly sensitive individual, you will easily be triggered into intense emotion
  3. When you suppress your emotions, a pressure cooker of anger suddenly unleashes, and you are catapulted to extreme anger

Bad News: Emotional flooding in NEVER good for anyone and can easily ruin relationships.

Good News: The emotion you experience can deliver a message of wisdom to you. However, to receive the message, you must be self-aware and adept at insight.

Insight cannot happen when you are emotionally flooded. Insight can only take place when you gain distance from the emotion.

Traumatic events, by definition, overwhelm our ability to cope. When the mind becomes flooded with emotion, a circuit breaker is thrown that allows us to survive the experience fairly intact, that is, without becoming psychotic or frying out one of the brain centers. The cost of this blown circuit is emotion frozen within the body. In other words, we often unconsciously stop feeling our trauma partway into it, like a movie that is still going after the sound has been turned off. We cannot heal until we move fully through that trauma, including all the feelings of the event.

― Susan Pease Banitt, The Trauma Tool Kit


Manage Emotional Flooding With 4 Steps

1. Ask yourself, “Is what I feel a physical threat or simply a perceived threat?”
Learning to distinguish the difference is vitally important to manage your emotional flooding.

2. Gain physical and psychological distance immediately.
Psychically distance yourself from the conversation for a least 15 minutes. Return to the conversation in the next 24 hours.

3. Distraction is one of the keys to gaining insight.
I personally choose exercise. You can also gain distance by going for a walk, watching a video or a movie, reading something distracting or talking to your closest friend about your situation.

4. Be kind to your nervous system.
Every stress reduction or meditation exercise begins with deep breathing. Inhale slowly (to the count of four) through your nose. Exhale slowly (to the count of four) through your mouth. Do this five times and you will be amazed by your sense of calmness. Have a pet? Pet your pet. Studies confirm that 10 minutes of petting animals can lower your stress hormone levels. Take a shower or go for a swim. Water is curative.

Managing your mind is one of the most important skills you can learn. When you manage emotional flooding, all your communication and therefore your relationships are taken to a greater level.