Emotional cycles are the interactive elements in our relationships with family members, friends, and co-workers. Negative cycles start when we become triggered by a someone’s troubling tone of voice, facial expression, or remarks. Immediately, we will feel an emotion that often prompts us to get angry or anxious. We may feel a bodily sensation due to the trigger like a pit in our stomach or a racing heartbeat. We then attribute a meaning to the trigger that might lead to avoiding the problem or getting defensive to protect ourselves. If we avoid, we will withdraw and become vague or unresponsive. If we become defensive, our anger is prompted and we make our argument. Our response of avoiding or arguing is our protection move, which becomes the trigger for the other party as they experience a similar series of emotions. They may pursue us if we avoid it or they may respond harshly to our argument. The cycle has been set in motion and our emotions soon escalate as cycle of conflict repeats.
To get out of negative cycles, we first must accept that there are not the “bad guy” to blame, it’s just a bad cycle. Finding fault or arguing over who is “right” often makes the cycle worse and will reinforce it. We also need to be aware of our own T.E.M.P.O: Triggers, Emotions, Meanings, and Protection moves that Organize the cycle. When we are mindful of these elements, we can get ourselves out of the cycle by not allowing the sequence of emotions to replay. If we can alter one element of the cycle, we can de-escalate the cycle. Finally, an honest and unbiased conversation with the other party to gain their agreement to collaborate and work together against the negative cycle can reduce conflict and improve our most meaningful relationships.