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January 12, 2015
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Mindfulness of Shutting Down in a Relationship

One important quality to harness in an intimate relationship is openness. Often, we find ourselves shutting down emotionally during conflict or disagreement, which only exacerbates the divide between us and our loved one. Learning how to use mindfulness to navigate this habit is one step we can take towards greater connection and harmony.

Why Do I Shut Down Emotionally?

If you’re closing down emotionally in your relationships – whether in general or specifically during conflict – there are many reasons this could be the case. Past trauma, anxiety, and depression are just some of the reasons we might find ourselves closing down on our partners.

In addition, when we are in a disagreement with someone, the body might perceive this as an imminent threat. Just as we shut down when faced with physical danger, we might find ourselves closing down in an effort to protect ourselves amidst conflict.

So what do we do about it? Given that we each have unique reasons for why we close ourselves off emotionally, the journey to unravel this is different for each of us. If we want to use mindfulness to support this process, we can consider the following tips.

Mindfulness for Greater Openness

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    If we are shutting down in a relationship during conflict, one of the most beneficial things we can do is to take a moment’s pause and to come back to the breath. By breathing mindfully or by practicing belly breathing, we invite the relaxation response to arise. So long as we are not in physical danger, this will help us to communicate more openly with our partner.
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    Heart-based practices such as metta meditation can also assist us in opening our hearts to compassion and care – both for ourselves and for others. This is not something we would necessarily practice in the midst of a challenge; rather, it is something we can explore during our regular meditation practice.
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    Lastly, body scan practices can help us to be more aware of any physical tension or contraction we unconsciously hold in the body. Increasing self-awareness in this way might help us in the long run to approach our relationship with greater ease and openness. Note that where trauma is present, it might be necessary to explore this with a trained practitioner.

It is important to note that if you’re shutting down emotionally, you may need to explore measures beyond mindfulness practice. Find the support you need to experience greater harmony and openness with your partner if that is what you feel called towards.

About the author 

Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]