HALT: A Useful Tool for Meeting Needs and Protecting Relationships

HALT: Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?

HaltI have had many counseling clients over the years who have recovered from addictions by being committed to the truths learned in AA. The acronym “HALT” is a great AA teaching that I learned about early in my career as a therapist. When we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired we are so much more likely to engage in behaviors that are not healthy, whether that manifests in addictive behavior, in our relationships, or in other areas of our lives. When we are “used up” and “frayed at the edges”, we find it much more difficult to stop and think and about what we say and what we do. When we are empty and we approach an interaction with a loved one, it takes all the effort we have not to “snap” at the other or try to illicit a reaction from our place of emotional pain.

Respond to Your Real Needs

Many needless negative interactions can be avoided altogether if we learn to scan ourselves for “HALT”. Both you and your spouse or loved ones can benefit from increased awareness of your emotional and physical state.  You can ask yourself: “Am I HUNGRY, am I ANGRY, am I LONELY right now, am I TIRED?” If you identify one of these states, you can then go in a positive direction by exploring the following:

  • If you’re hungry, having a snack in the late afternoon before going home. This can protect your loved ones from the grumpiness that goes hand-in-hand with being hungry.
  • Ask yourself: “Am I feeling irritated or angry, and why?” Thoughtful reflection on this can help you address needs in a positive way, rather than just lashing out or shutting down.
  • If you’re feeling lonely, you could ask yourself: “Do I really need comfort and connection right now? How can I approach my partner in a way that I am more likely to get what I need?”
  • If you’re exhausted after a long day of work, consider how you can come home and communicate THAT need and negotiate for some rest before you engage in conversation.
  • Ask yourself: “What can I do now, in this moment, to fill myself up, to at least take the edge off, or to care for my emotions and physical body so that I can interact with my partner from a place of stability?”

As we learn to assess and care for our needs, at the end of the day especially, we are much more likely to have a positive entry back into our home with our partner and other loved ones.

HALT: An Opening for Empathy

If your spouse (or kids or friends) don’t seem like themselves, HALT can also give you an opening to feel empathy rather than annoyance. We all know the feeling of “not being at our best.” If we can consider whether our loved one is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, we are more likely to be able to respond in a loving way.

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