The Power of the Pause

Alexander Reben

When you spend as much time as I have on studying relationships, you notice a lot of patterns and there is one pattern that I see time and again whenever a relationship goes south.

Someone says something that does significant harm in a moment of passion.

In some cases this has led to deals falling through, friendships crumbling, or just general frustration on both sides and in other cases it has led to awkward conversations for years.

We all have moments when we fly off the handle or get triggered by something someone has said and here’s the most important thing to understand about this:

Our rational brain is NOT in control.

Our primitive brain is.

We have a primitive part of our brain that is meant to protect us and triggers the response of fight or flight when we feel threatened and this includes emotional threats.

We’re prone to feel emotional pain as intensely if not more intense than physical pain so our mind is going to react in much the same way we would when we are being physically attacked.

What this means in relationships is that our brain is being hijacked and we are going to react FAST.

But there is a way to combat this and it doesn’t require any new drug or expensive therapy.

In fact, I have used this method myself many times when I could have flipped out and it has always worked to get things back on track.

Here it is:


It’s a law of physics that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and it’s a law of relationships that an emotion that is immediately triggered, tends to remain the same emotion.

By pausing even for a few seconds, there is the opportunity to check in with ourselves and question how we’re feeling and why we’re feeling that way.

It also gives us the priceless opportunity to see if there is a misunderstanding or a communication breakdown in the relationship.

Most importantly, it stops us from hurtling forward with whatever emotion is bubbling up in us in that moment of pain.

Is it easy?

Not often.

Is it doable?


So the next time someone responds in a way that makes you want to fire right back, take a moment and pause.

You may learn something about yourself and the relationship and you will definitely come up with a better answer than anything the primitive brain is offering up.

If our emotions are under control we can weather almost anything.

If our emotions are in the driver’s seat that’s when we have the most crashes.

Don’t forget who’s driving.


Artwork © Alexander Reben

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