In Monday’s post on The Gottman Relationship Blog, Zach Brittle took on two of Dr. Gottman’s 4 Horsemen  Contempt and Criticism – in a well articulated and compelling argument for personal accountability and compassion. Today, we invite you to consider Monday’s post in the context of our current series on self care!

At first glance, Dr. Gottman’s Four Horseman model makes sense. Maybe too much sense. It resonates with many of us precisely because of its elegant, sense-making simplicity. Example: the antidote to criticism is to complain without blame by using “I” statements. The roundly critical and unproductive “You are so lazy!” may be replaced by the reasonable and likely effective, “I would really appreciate help with the dishes.”

Couples usually have no problem understanding the model. Problems may arise in implementation. Application is not so obvious.

We all know that trying to dismantle old, maladaptive communication patterns and establish healthy dynamics in their place is no simple task! It can be monumentally challenging and become a source of stress and anxiety. One of the reasons for our frustration is the inevitable difficulty of trying to stay in touch with ourselves and a partner when challenges arise in efforts to build connection.

The irony is less funny in practice. For this reason, we’d like to spend the next few weeks on The Gottman Relationship Blog addressing it specifically –  helping you to help yourself.

According to Dr. Gottman, “Masters” of relationships succeed in part because they are able to nurture a culture of appreciation composed of “respect, gratitude, affection, friendship, and noticing what’s going right,” all of which Dr. Gottman describes as a “habit of mind.” 

Luckily, we have power over our habit of mind. In being aware of our thoughts and emotional reactions to events, we can exert some measure of control over our behavior and experience of relationships. By Dr. Gottman’s definition, this is invariably “a cross cultural experience… [involving] two valid perceptions and realities which make a difference.”

By approaching the Four Horsemen and their Antidotes from a perspective of mindfulness and self-awareness, we hope to guide you in figuring out what you want and need, so that you can express yourself and act accordingly. So that you can find some “I” statements that you can really get behind – statements that work for you, whatever your unique value system, circumstances, and dreams may be. So that you can assert yourself with patience, understanding, and compassion.

As you gather strength in fighting the Four Horsemen, finding and using their Antidotes, we hope that you can begin to relax and enjoy Gottman Method Therapy’s power for enriching and deepening your relationships with your loved ones – and with yourself. Until then, here is a video clip of Dr. Gottman discussing The Four Horsemen:

More in The Archives
Self Care: The Four Horsemen

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.