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Exercises

The GIFT Exercise:
Helping Couples Understand their Frustrations with Each Other

Relationship experts say that most fights are not what they seem to be about. The chronic conflict over your husband cleaning up his crumbs from the counter top is really not about the crumbs at all. There is a deeper root. As a couple we did not know how to get in touch with what those deeper roots were. This dilemma led us to develop an exercise designed to help us get in touch with what is underneath our anger in marital spats.

Anger theorists teach that anger is not a primary emotion. It is a secondary response to 4 primary feelings they are: Guilt, Inferiority or inadequacy, fear, and hurt or pain. Since this list was hard to remember in the “heat of battle” we developed and acronym to remember it—

  • Guilt
  • Inferiority
  • Fear
  • Trauma or Pain

The acronym spells the word GIFT which not only makes it easy to remember, but it is also a gift to each other to communicate more effectively.

In the past when we became angry we merely exchanged angry words. This just made our partner even more angry and did not bring clarity or understanding. Now when one of us is mad we say “When you do this—— I feel guilt, inferiority or what emotion might best fit the situation. This allows us to calmly discuss our marital dilemmas and brings understanding where there was once frustration.

The Digging Deeper Exercise

When you are in conflict, this exercise helps you determine what you really need so you can get to the root of the problem quickly and without causing even more damage. It consists of 5 questions:

What is the behavior that you do, that triggers my anger?
When you….. I feel….

Identify the root of my anger using…
The GIFT Exercise

  • Guilt
  • Inferiority
  • Fear
  • Trauma or Pain

When have I ever felt this before?

What do I do when I feel this feeling? Or what is my behavior?

What do I really NEED?