Insight for the Journey: On Being Emotionally Flooded

Insight for the Journey: On Being Emotionally Flooded

Permit me to start with an automobile analogy. In the old days before fuel injection systems, when cars had carburetors, engine flooding would occur if too much gasoline flowed into the carburetor which would prevent the car from starting. This was most common under cold conditions or if the accelerator had been pumped excessively.

When an Engine Gets Flooded

One of the best remedies for a flooded engine is time. Rather than turning the key to keep adding even more fuel, it’s better to discontinue all attempts at starting the car. Waiting for 20 minutes allows some of the excessive fuel to evaporate and hopefully resume normal functioning. Interesting information, perhaps, but this is not a lesson in car maintenance.

When People Get Flooded

Like cars, people get flooded, not with fuel but with emotion. Perhaps you have experienced an argument that led to feelings of anger and irritation. Many people describe feeling overwhelmed and upset. They may lose their objectivity and emotional composure and become easily offended. Good decisions are hard to make and low-quality snap decisions make matters worse. When someone is emotionally flooded, judgment is often compromised and insight into the process is poor. The aftermath of being flooded compounds any relational problems. Words and actions can easily damage relationships and cause others to be overwhelmed and over-reactive. Let’s examine several ways to normalize the emotional system, de-flood and move forward.

Regaining Emotional Control

It usually takes 20-30 minutes for someone who is emotionally flooded to calm down, think clearly, and regain composure. This is only possible after the stimulation has been interrupted. Both sides of a conflictual episode, attacking and defending, add fuel to an argument and will keep you flooded. Take the time you need to calm yourself or remove yourself from the conflict. Resist the urge to control the other party. Regain emotional composure before resuming conversation. Identify your role in the escalation of conflict and try different communication tactics. Watch for subtle signs of being overstimulated or flooded again. Finally, develop increased self-control and better emotional regulation skills to improve overall relational effectiveness.

Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!