You have an amazing power within you that gives you control over how you react to anyone or any situation. Unfortunately, you can’t control what someone says or does or what happens to you, but you can control how you deal with it and react to it.
I brought this idea up in the 5 Simple Steps Guide and I received a lot of questions on it, so let’s dive a little deeper!
Let’s be specific with this idea as it relates to our romantic relationship; even more specifically, when are in conflict, on the verge of a fight perhaps.
Accepting this universal truth that we have no control over how our partner behaves or what they say will change they way you communicate with your partner; particularly when entering an argument. I believe that if you can really believe this, you can prevent arguments all together and deal with conflict from a healthier, more productive place.
There is really only way to stop an argument from happening, and that is to stay present; like there is crazy glue in your brain keeping you stuck in the awareness of the present moment. This is sometimes considered a ‘woo woo’ concept but it is actually very practical.
I can tell you exactly what is going on in both of your heads in the moment right before a big fight. You are both drudging up old negative thought patterns from your past. You may be thinking of something he did last week or last year and are still mad at him for it. He is most likely doing the same. You may be thinking how someone else treated you in a past relationship that felt similar to this moment. It’s not. You can’t compare any moment to anything from your past. This is dangerous territory because you aren’t living in the present. You are totally unaware of what is really going on now.
When you are not in the present moment and only thinking about what is happening right now, you are being triggered. It’s an incredibly important thing to understand and be aware of; not only in you but in your partner as well.
What happens in relationships is that our partner or spouse does something that irritates us, angers us, makes us sad…pretty much anything that sets off a negative emotion. You know when it happens because you feel it. You want to get defensive, or yell at him or scream silently inside or stomp off in anger or roll your eyes. We’ve all had these moments because we’re human.
The next time you feel like this, consider for a moment that it may not be him that is the problem. I want you to stop, count to 10 and consider that perhaps you are being triggered. Dig deep. Is this really about him or something else going on in you?
Take a deep breath, relax and instead of reacting from the normal angry place, ask yourself when in a past relationship or in your childhood have you ever felt like this. It may not have anything to do with the situation but it’s the feeling you’re paying attention to. You won’t be able to figure it out, if you try to relate it to exactly what is going on. Instead get super aware about how you are feeling and try to think of a time you felt this way in your past. Stop using your brain and try not to think too hard. Feel it.
A True Story
I had a client that was so angry at her husband because he would remind her about little things she’d forget to do. Particularly annoying was how often he’d tell her to turn lights off when she left a room. The trust was that they were on a budget and money was tight so every little bit helped. But she wasn’t being logical and aware of the truth, she was being triggered and believing something else; taking it personally.
She would roll her eyes and stomp back to the room and turn the light off in a huff. He would get defensive and it would end up in a fight about her feeling like he always had to order her around and tell her what to do. She would end up yelling at him “You’re my husband, not my Father! Stop treating me like a child!” and stomp off in a rage.
What she figured out after a session or two with me around triggers, was that her angry, defensive reaction had nothing to do with what her husband was doing and saying in that moment. She realized it must have had something to do with her past that was coming up in those moments. In our session, she couldn’t think about what that was. So, I told her to pay attention to the feeling next time and see if she could come up with it in the moment.
The next time her husband asked her to do something she had forgotten to do, she didn’t react (she admitted how hard it was to stay calm!). Instead she took a deep breath and really tuned into her body and what she was feeling. It was like a lightening bolt, the memory of her mom being controlling and critical came flooding back.
Her Father had left them when she was young and her Mom had three kids to look after and was exhausted and frustrated for most of her childhood years. Her Mom had no patience and not a lot of time for nurturing. She had no awareness around her children’s mental well-being and how her stress could be effecting them. There was barely enough money to keep them going, she worked a lot and demanded help from her children. She constantly ordered them around and didn’t have time or patience for anyone doing anything wrong.
As an adult she could fully appreciate where her Mom was coming from. She had a lot of compassion for what her Mom went through. However, her young mind during those painful years was scared of her Mom and she lived in fear of not doing things right. She didn’t understand what was really going on and the feelings of being controlled and unappreciated were ingrained and sat there dormant for years. And this is why she couldn’t come up with these feelings from her past in our session. Her brain understood why her mom was like that but her deep seeded feelings still haunted her and she wasn’t even aware. They came out in moments in her present when she felt the same way.
This was a huge eye opening moment for her. She came to realize that her husband wasn’t a mean controlling jerk with little regard for her feelings. Asking her to turn the light off was a fair request. She was projecting onto him how she felt and couldn’t react as a young child from her Mom. It was this strong feeling of shame she felt based on her mom’s controlling nature that made her react negatively to him. It had nothing to do with the current situation at all.
And even though she forgave her Mom as an adult, she carried around a hardwired belief system and a pattern from her childhood that she was totally unaware of until something triggered it, even a small, well-meaning request.
Once she communicated this to her husband, he was able to understand her anger and became more tactful and compassionate when letting her know that something needed to be done or that she had forgotten to do something.
How To Deal With Others Being Triggered
That takes us to the second part of triggers and the other side of the coin; being aware that other people may be triggered in a situation. And then being able to come at it from a place of understanding and compassion instead of taking it personally.
When you are sensing a negative reaction or mood from your partner, keep in mind that there is a very good chance that they are being triggered.
This awareness allows you to step back and realize that he may not be reacting to you at all in the moment. It is so freeing if you can do this, because no longer do you have to take things so personally. You can stop and realize that any negative behaviour or mood you are seeing in your partner or anyone else for that matter, has nothing to do with you.
By taking yourself out of the equation, you don’t have to get defensive or angry. You can detach from the situation and come from a place of kindness and objectivity. Coming from this place, allows your partner to hear your words and energy differently and the situation will always be diffused.
Knowing he is being triggered is the next best thing to reading his mind. You don’t need to know what is triggering him. Simply being aware that something is coming up from a past situation for him is enough to allow you to let it go because it has nothing to do with you!
And from there, you’ll shift your perception from defensiveness to compassion and move forward from a healthier place diffusing the argument!
Hope this helps, email me anytime with comments or your success stories!
Sending you all my best,