Unconventional Coaching

Energizing the relationships in your life

October 18, 2012
Fighting Fair

Stuck in the Blamer/Victim Spin Cycle?

You and your partner keep having the same argument over and over again. It’s as if you two are stuck in that old blamer/victim spin cycle.

First, he complains about something,and then you answer back, just to defend yourself.

Then he takes offense and brings up more issues.

Now, you really feel defensive; he’s suddenly blaming you and you end up feeling victimized.

Bad feelings grow.  You are swamped in emotion and may move right into a major yelling fit. The fight that can last a few minutes/hours/ days.

Rinse and repeat.

Maybe the next time, you are the one who pushes the button.

You both feel trapped in this cycle, but you can’t seem to stop it.

My Truth

My husband and I had this cycle going for a long time, until we finally started to do something about it.  (Actually, we did two things, but I’ll save the other one for another post.)

What we did first was sort of a variation of the old “count to 10.” We just tried to find a single phrase or word that we could say to ourselves to stop us before we got all revved up. The one that worked for me was “It’s nobody’s fault.” His was (I just asked him again this morning), “It’s not a big deal.”

If we could just say that inside to ourselves, we bought a few seconds to breathe. And those seconds were critical.


Thanks to David Rock’s great book, The Brain At Work, I’m getting clearer about why this works.

As he describes it,  the brain’s limbic (emotional) system is the part of the brain that is easily upset. If it sees, hears, feels something the slightest bit disturbing, it immediately goes into high alert mode, sometimes in milliseconds. It floods our brain and body with chemicals, and we then are overly aroused and can’t think straight.

Right! We’re suddenly into the Blamer/Victim Spin Cycle.


The really good news, he says, is that this instant arousal can be quickly stopped in it tracks if we know what to do.

If, at the very beginning of an upset, we can get the limbic system to fold quickly, then the thinking brain can take over.

And what helps it fold?


Ah. Those simple phrases my husband and I have said to ourselves have actually been stopping the chemical wash before before it has had a chance to plunge us into the cycle.

As we talked this morning, we agreed that we have really cut down on the number of those fights. And that’s more time to just enjoy each other.


What about you? Have you found ways to stop the cycle? Do you have some words or behavior that helps you “stand down?”


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