Imagine this common scenario: you are in the midst of a heated argument with someone and you are so angry you “can’t think straight.” Some call it seeing red. Ever been there? Those in the psychology field call this flooding. Flooding is when emotions become so overwhelming that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the portion that is in charge of reasoning, “shuts down” and takes a back seat to the emotions that are taking place. Research has been able to show, using MRIs, that this is a physical reaction that takes place. 

What are the dangers of flooding? When cognitive abilities are diminished and emotions have taken over, very often words are said that are not meant. Some may behave in a manner they may not normally behave if they were not flooded. Both of these can have short-term as well as long-term repercussions. 

However, there are ways to help stop flooding before it happens. First, a person needs to be aware that they are becoming overwhelmed with emotion. That means that a person needs to be looking for it. Next, one option of stopping flooding is to take a break from the argument. This may mean going to separate rooms, going for a walk, or going for a drive. It is important to disengage from the argument. Once there has been a break and both parties are “cooled down,” rules of communication become important. While these rules will be discussed more at length in a future blog, a few rules include using “I” statements, accepting responsibility, and listening. Using rules of communication can help both parties listen empathetically while avoiding flooding.