Emotional reactivity is a phenomenon that kicks in automatically, like the fight or flight reaction, triggered by a jolt of adrenaline. An important distinction is that an emotionally reactive response, while hair-trigger fast, is not usually the result of a truly life-threatening situation.
We experience emotional reactivity around those that ironically are deeply important to us, that have the ability, because they are so important, to push our buttons with a mere word, or look. It's so hugely important to us to be in accord and to feel appreciated and loved by certain individuals, that the mere hint from one of them that we fall ever so slightly short is enough to send us into a tailspin, leading to recriminations, shouting and over-reactions galore. New relationships go through at least a period of such heightened reactivity. But, even long-time couples can fall prey to it, to the detriment of their relationship.
- Knee -jerk emotional reactions, often negative, to events or people, that happen before your mind can analyze the reason, are often the result of emotional reactivity.
- While under the sway of emotional reactivity, small slights can feel like crushing insults.
- Our automatic defense system, which protects us in an emergency, can swing out of control when it senses a negative word, or look, from a loved one.
“Just about all lovers go through a stage of high emotional reactivity that threatens to destroy their relationship.”