THE “Ouch” TECHNIQUE
By Ese Magege CEO & Founder Alchemical Center Of Change
Just like most things, conflicts amongst spouse have patterns which can be changed once the patterns have been identified and broken.
The challenge then becomes identifying where to initiate the break in the pattern once it has been recognized.
By pattern, I mean certain words, thoughts, moods, emotions and actions tend to trigger our body’s natural “fight or flight” response or put us in a “defensive mood” or “attack mood”. This is so because the brain has processed these triggers as threats and naturally the body will defend itself by either fighting back or fleeing.
Most things that cause the body pain will more than likely be processed by the brain as threats. Conflicts can cause pain and once the door has been opened, it can easily get out of hand, if there are no systems in place to manage conflict.
One of my favorite conflict management system is the “ouch” technique. I learned this technique from Rev. Olsen. It is a two-step process. In the first step, you say “ouch” out loud when your spouse or loved one says something that causes you pain or discomfort. The key is to say “ouch” immediately you feel the pain or any uncomfortable emotion and then in the second step, you explore the emotion; when was the first time I felt this emotion? How do I typically respond to this emotion? Where did I learn to respond this way? Is it serving you? Do I want to change it?
Saying “ouch” initiates a break or gap between the triggered emotion and the typical reaction. The introduction of this break or gap brings awareness to your internal world (the condition inside of you). Is like turning on a light in a dark room. Awareness has been known for centuries to be the first step in resolving any challenge in life. Saying “ouch” also signals your spouse in real-time that you have been hurt which could cause a change in his or her action.
Knowing your argument style can save you lots of time and energy wasted in conflicts & intense arguments. John Gottman Ph.D., a world-renowned marriage researcher theorized that there are 3 types of conflict styles in relationships; avoidance, validating, and volatile. Let’s look at a typical untrained response to conflict. Joel says something to Cynthia that makes her angry. In response to her anger, she lashes out at Joel who in turn gets angry because he perceived her “lashing out” as a threat and lashes back at her. It becomes an endless cycle of “lashing out” between the couples unless the pattern is recognized and broken.
The question that arises here is this; are we reacting to the words or actions of our spouse? Or is it the emotion that is triggered in us that we are reacting to? Conflicts are an emotional reaction to what has been perceived. When we become aware of our angry emotions in this way, it loses its grasp on us. We cease to be victims of our own emotions.
In conclusion, the Ouch technique is a useful method in resolving conflicts amongst spouse because it does not only introduce a break in the argument cycle, it brings awareness to the uncomfortable emotion we feel so we are able to explore it. It also serves as a signal alerting us that there has been an alteration in our state. When our state or mood is changed to a state we have not mastered control of (such as anger, irritability, and annoyance) we tend to think, say, and act in unfavorable ways. This is because we have not trained the body or showed it how to react to these uncomfortable emotions in a way that serves us.
The key here is to get to know our uncomfortable emotions and explore them so they don’t unconsciously control our lives.