A natural response to life’s challenges is physiological escalation. This is the classic Fight, Flight, or Freeze response. When partners are working through a conflict this response can escalate to what Drs John and Julie Gottman refer to as Diffuse Physiological Arousal. Most people are in DPA when their heartbeat exceeds 90 beats per minute. In DPA, our prefrontal cortex essentially ‘goes offline’, inhibiting our best problem solving, our ability to be empathetic, and our capacity to truly understand what another person may be experiencing – their perspective. All of this significantly damages our ability to productively resolve whatever challenge we are experiencing.
Working with folks in my private practice in San Francisco, I teach them a process created by Dr. Russ Harris, Drop Anchor. This comes from the therapeutic modality of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a mindfulness based therapy useful in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other challenges to living.
I have created a downloadable file for my clients to use when they are approaching DPA, or in DPA. I am making it available here, with gratitude to Dr Russ Harris, and the ACT community of therapists.