Better relationships through increased self awareness and being less reactive

Have you ever done or said something and then wished you hadn’t? This article may help you to choose to stay connected with yourself and not be controlled by events or people outside of yourself.

What is a reaction?

Standard reactions involve defending against the feelings that arise, then denying what is presented and finally burying the issue.

When we deny, we are pretending that something does not hurt. Sometimes we can’t even feel the hurt – we can only feel the anger or frustration overlaying the hurt. We then bury it in our bodies so we erase the hurt from our consciousness – as if it never happened – until, that is, the next time that hurt is triggered.

What is a response?

This is where we accept the feeling that is coming at us and discern if we are angry, whether there is hurt under the anger? And, if we just feel the upset of hurt. Rather than vent the angry reaction, we can simply acknowledge that we are hurt.

We are empowered by our honesty to know whether it is in fact true (even though it hurts) or a story; our re-interpretation of the events that occurred. Either way, we acknowledge that it hurts, and with that honesty look to see and feel what it is in ourselves that triggers this. When we see more clearly what our hurts are, it is less likely that we will be triggered next time, or at least triggered less, as we have learnt something about ourselves that we hadn’t acknowledged before.

If we NOMINATE this newfound truth, then the sea of our reacting momentum begins to change as we no longer need to react against and defend this issue when it arises in the future.

See if this example is valid:

Husband: “You see – you are just like your mother – she always does/says that when she’s under pressure”

Wife: “Don’t be ridiculous – I’m nothing like my mother – you just don’t want to listen ..."

This scenario occurs frequently in couples, and it’s normal for the partner who is being compared to react to this and deny it and get annoyed at the inference. Usually we are hurt by being compared to our mother but we often only feel the anger!

The trick is to catch the reaction as it arises in us – BEFORE IT IS EXPRESSEDfeel the hurt of it – so that we can choose to respond to this stimulus, accept that we have been triggered and then honestly assess what is happening.

This means slowing things down and B R E A T H I N G and feeling into our body, connecting with what’s really true – even if it’s painful.

Then we can either accept the truth of what our partner is saying or choose to respond that we don’t think this is the case.

What normally happens is that partner B reacts, defends against this stimulus, denies it and an argument ensues or it is buried, to cause the same reaction next time it is raised.

What can I DO when I find myself reacting?

  1. Breathe – remember to breathe consciously and try to count 5 breaths.
  2. Ask myself, “What is my body reacting to?”
  3. What need did I have ... what did I need to be different?
  4. What is the hurt that is being triggered here?

Once we can accept and nominate how we feel we are less and less triggered into reaction by the incident. This process, repeated endlessly, helps us to become more aware and therefore choose our responses rather than just reacting out of past energetic patterning. This will bring us to a higher level of responsibility with our words and actions.

There is a distinct difference between reacting and responding and reacting clearly feeds the hurt, anger, frustration and ensuing disharmony/anger. The other gives an opportunity to own our own feelings and communicate in a way that brings both parties to a more honest conversation and therefore place of harmony. Which do you choose?

Is it time to look at the situations where we react more often than respond and begin to make a different choice?

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  • By Jean Gamble, Psychotherapist

    Jean works with individuals, couples, families, teenagers and children. She knows that when we move past our layers of protection from hurt and connect deeply with our innermost self we can have rich, satisfying and purposeful lives and relationships.