The Four Horsemen | Stonewalling
Couples Counseling | Columbia, Mo
Stonewalling, my friends.
This is the third horseman of the four. This one is pretty interesting, though, in that there’s some physiology that’s at play.
This is the long and short of what happens.
Partners A and B start having a discussion with heart rates around 70 beats per minute (average). It shifts into a conflict discussion/argument/disagreement. Partner A’s heart rate jumps to 80 beats per minute the second the conversation heats up. Partner B’s heart rate has gone up to about 74.
The conversation continues and intensifies. Nothing terrible, but definitely intense.
Partner A’s heat rate has jumped even more, to about 88 beats per minute. Partner B is just now reaching 78.
At this point, we’d encourage partner A to engage in some self-soothing, in order to bring their heart rate down, but they’re not in therapy and they don’t know about the need for self-soothing. In fact, they don’t even realize they’ve escalated to that point.
The conflict continues and Partner A hits about 95-100 beats per minute. At that point, partner A is done. In essence, their body says to them, “Nope, too much. I’m done, dude. I’m shutting down,” and that’s exactly what happens. Partner A has hit diffuse physiological arousal. In essence, partner A can’t think straight, can’t hear what’s being said, can’t focus, and their face and responses reflect a wall (hence “stonewall”).
Why it’s interesting is that it’s the only horseman to be a direct response to physiological arousal (too much of it and not in the right context - #heyo #sextherapyftw).
What’s even more interesting is that, generally speaking, when partner A shuts down, partner B’s heart rate jumps!!! As in, now they’re feeling a heightened state of arousal much in the same way partner A was initially. And they're a little bit in freak out mode because they want to reconnect with parter A. It's infuriating, but is rife with panic!
It’s all chaos from there. Hahaha! I’m just kidding. I mean, it can definitely slide into further chaos, but it can also be addressed accordingly. In saying that, I mean to say that self-soothing is one way of handling stonewalling (and flooding, which can lead to stonewalling).
And also this: just because you may tend to stonewall (or be with a partner that stonewalls) doesn't mean it's "stuck" that way forever. There are very tried and true methods for alleviating the horsemen and the result is a much healthier, happier, and connected relationship. Also, these methods are part of the antidotes to the four horsemen, which are necessary for changing poor communication patterns!
Much like every other post on here, it’s easy (and fascinating) to talk about, but not as easy to overcome. Meaning that it’s simple, but still can be difficult to put into practice. That’s where couples counseling can be helpful (one of many ways it can be helpful).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tara Vossenkemper | Couples Therapist & Marriage Counselor
Tara Vossenkemper is the founder, owner, and therapist with The Counseling Hub, and a counselor (LPC) in the state of Missouri. She specializes in couples therapy and marriage counseling using the highly effective Gottman Method Couples Therapy (and is currently obtaining her certification, which requires three levels of training and ongoing consultation - it's a necessarily rigorous process that she loves).
Tara has a diverse set of clinical experiences, working with both adolescents and adults on issues ranging from eating disorders and anxiety to spirituality and existential crises. However, she is most passionate about couples therapy and marriage counseling. Tara enjoys working with couples looking to decrease or enhance conflict, relearn healthy and effective communication, or are healing from an affair. She's also been formally trained as in the Prepare-Enrich Premarital Couples Counseling approach and the PREP Approach for couples counseling.
Tara is also earning her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri - Saint Louis. She's "ABD" (all but dissertation) and furiously researching and writing to finish things up. She's presented at national, regional, and state conferences, as well as locally, on the topics of discrimination, sexual minority distress, spirituality, healthy lifestyle and mental health, and private practice.