Emotional Contamination Can Drag Down Your Recovery: Tips to Put a Stop to It Today

Life does not come with warning labels. If it did, you might encounter some that say ‘beware of emotional contamination.’ Emotional contamination occurs when the feelings that were created from one event start to ‘pollute’ another situation. This emotional rollercoaster can drag your recovery through the mud. Here are some tips to watch out for when you are walking this journey of healing.

How it Happens

One minute you are talking to someone, the next minute you realize the tone in which you ask a question or respond sounds out of character for the situation. Perhaps you are more irritated than you should be when your kid asks you to play a game, or you are annoyed your wife did not not respond the way you hoped about something. It could be you are deciding on a job opportunity need to process but comes out sounding belligerent and annoyed. This cross-contamination from work or other life situations can derail your healing if you let it.

What Happens

Emotional contamination causes you to make poor decisions when you don’t realize your feelings from one thing leaked into another. You feel you’re angry about something else, or frustrated, and you continue taking your ire out on others. When one reaction seems unreasonable, it may be helpful to ask what was really going on there when you overreacted.

How to Shift Gears

Work and life can be pretty stressful, especially in recovery. You cannot just walk away and be all alone without the world coming into your space. You feel like maybe you’ve collided into things that trigger you, make you feel anxious, and if you are not used to dealing with feelings, you likely feel bombarded. It can be helpful to try the following techniques so you don’t cross-contaminate your relationships with work stress and put more strain on those people whom you love so dearly:

  • Ask yourself if you are bringing outside stress to a situation or conversation
  • Be prepared to fail
  • Have a backup plan for what to say or how to act if you are called out
  • Have a safe person to call on speed dial to help process

If the other person gets defensive when you speak, stop talking for a moment. Take a deep breath and ask if they felt your response was appropriate. If they say no, accept that. Ask what you can do differently so they feel validated and heard. Often, contamination is not just about you, it’s also about the people you interact with. When you make them feel heard and valued, you are more likely to feel the situation has been addressed appropriately with all parties involved and make progress in recovery.

The Last Resort provides a safe, supportive environment for men in a retreat-like setting. Nature is an important component of recovery and healing. We strive to provide a place of enrichment that cultivates the inner as well as the outer journey of recovery. However you find your way to the Last Resort, we endeavor to provide a haven where you can journey through recovery feeling like your life and story have meaning and a purpose. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.