Relationships are tricky at times, this is no surprise to anyone in a relationship I’m sure. It would be nice if we could all get along well all the time and not trigger each other. In my work I support people to get better at the art of managing relationships personally, professionally, and most of all with oneself. Because ‘you’ also have a relationship with ‘yourself’. Why are relationships so challenging? It may seem that it is the other person’s personality, triggers, quirkiness, opinions that rub you the wrong way, so we blame them for how irate we get. This is understandable of course, and yet I wonder that if we get hooked by other’s perspectives consistently then are we doomed to feel adverse emotions and be in blaming and judgmental mindsets?
Tough I know if for example you have a condescending boss. I am personally practicing with this above notion in my own life and in the lives of my clients. It is exciting and harrowing work. Remember that when we get triggered, we shut down our rational mind, which is actually needed to keep us out of hot water. If we don’t catch our triggers then we may do or think things that we don’t really want to. And if we blame ‘them’ for causing our frustrations then we are adding a deeper layer to the situation and making the truth a bit more opaque. Our job is to keep ourselves as calm as possible so we can enlist our thinking mind in creative ways, and not be slaves to our adverse feelings and the unproductive actions that ensue.
One facet of trigger is when someone gives you feedback that you aren’t ready to hear, or it is delivered in such a way that feels aggressive and threatening. This can create anxiety and frustration within us, and lead us to get defensive. I think we all have been there. It is my quest to be in this place less often. This is why I advise you (and me) to take it in. What does this mean? If you can catch your anxiety and frustration and cool it down, and then choose to listen, to take in the world of another person, then you can be engaged in that world.
There may be a gem for you to look at of course, but it may be a gift for the other person to figure out something about themselves through your listening to them. If you decide, really choose to not get hooked by your defensive position and open up to take in what someone else is saying about you or the world, you become more free, and a force for compassion. Recently somebody close to me gave me some feedback, in not such a nice way, that I take feedback in but then turn it around and give feedback to them.
This is not purely defensive because I do listen, but then the situation gets turned around so that the other person feels like they are wrong, misguided, or not listened to. At first upon hearing this through a frustrated tone of voice, I began to shut down. What I realized though is that the person may have a truth for me to see (which they did), as well as something deeper to realize about themselves.
So I took it all in. I listened, I validated, I acknowledged that I can sometimes be defensive, and I asked questions. I resisted the temptation to put it back onto this person and have them look at something. I just sat in the feedback for me. I lowered my defense and became vulnerable. And I learned something about myself. So I throw the gauntlet to you. Where do you get defensive? What would it be like to let this guard down and take it in? What could happen? What’s the worst that could happen? Why do you think you get defensive? Find one place and start to practice, you may be surprised with what you find.
I found that when people are aggressive towards me I want to fight back because I had a negative step-father in my life in my teen years. I felt powerless a lot of times in those days and when aggression happens to me and I don’t catch it I want to fight back because I felt like I couldn’t in the past. Interesting.