Time Outs

Time Outs


Before emotions and/or words begin to run really hot and

hard it is a very wise to take a “Time Out.” Doing so may

safeguard your saying or doing something regretful!

Many relationships break up when people are really upset,

hurt or angry. At these time we are, literally, out of our

bodies and what is working us is our reptilian brain stems;

fight or flight, etc.

Coming back to center is paramount; doing what needs to

be done such that we avoid escalations leading to saying

or doing things that are, or seem to be abusive. We want

and need to learn how to communicate and move from our

higher consciousness levels, our limbic and neo-cortex

brain centers.

What follows are some tools or guidelines for just how to

move from “reacting” to “responding” to problematic

events in our lives. How to take Time Out!

Guidelines for problematic interactions between any two


1) Agree on signals for when one person or another needs to take some time to

breathe and relax. For example: “lets take a few minutes to relax and then come

back to our argument or disagreement.” Or, “I need to take some time out . . . I am

beginning to get really hurt or angry.” Also: The universal “T” for time out signal used

in sporting events.


2) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Use some easy thing to get upset about and

practice time outs and returning to discussion.


3) When taking a time out donʼt “stew.” Avoid arguing in your mind, or defending or

excusing or in any way preparing for the next time you enter into the conversation.

When taking a time out donʼt “stew.” Avoid arguing in your mind, or defending or

excusing or in any way preparing for the next time you enter into the conversation.


4) Give yourself the “Signal Breath”. Blow the air out and then take several deep and

easy full inhales. Remind yourself that you are safe from assault of one kind or

another and donʼt have to be afraid. Breathe deeply and “come back into ʻthe nowʼ.”

Pay attention to feelings of air and temperature on your arms and face, to what you

experience sitting or standing, to what you see and what you hear. Stop thinking and

switch to experiencing. Focus on relaxing muscular tensions.


5) Remind yourself of your love for other, children, life, whatever.


6) Notice when you are relaxed that it is easier to “choose a better thought or feeling.”


7) When your heart slows down, your breathing comes easier and your thoughts are

kinder then indicate to your partner that you are now ready to re-enter the talk.


8 )  Come back into the talk by staying with “I” statements.

# What I perceived

# What I experienced as sensations in my body; how my body felt#

# What I thought, remembered and what emotions came up

# What I think is going on; and,

# What I want or need from the other person.

 Take turns actively and reflectively hearing the other person. Repeat what you

have heard and see if that is correct. When one feels heard then change roles.


9) Remember to use “turn-around-phrases” (that may be so, regardless, nevertheless)

so you can stay with your truth without escalating into an argument.


10) And, practice, practice, practice around easy dis-agreements: the ones that donʼt

light fuses about explosive issues.

E-mail Scott Sherman

Visit Humboldt Psychotherapy .

Emerald contributor since March 2012


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