Wednesday, November 1, 2017

don't shoot!

Much of the work I do consists of helping people identify their emotional triggers.  I try to get them to go from reactivity to reaction.  My motivation is largely due to the tragically pervasive outcome of not owning reactivity: shooting the messenger.  This is so distressing to me, especially when the messenger is a loved one, turning love into murderous hate in a heartbeat! Ironically, the real messenger usually turns out to be ourselves, the stories we're telling ourselves that drown out what our loved ones are really saying.

Say your girlfriend raises her voice and pleads, "Please don't go out again with the boys tonight!"  You hear her trying to control you when, in fact, she is earnestly asking you to stay with her.  You pick up the tone but not the content of her message, triggered by your own childhood story which comes projectile vomitting forward as the voice of your own wretched mother giving you grief and making you feel bad for wanting to play.  You experience this as a personal attack and, before you know it, you shoot back, "You're a control freak!" and leave slamming the door.

Say your son has forgotten his homework again and he just sits there staring at you when you ask why. He shoots you a glance that reminds you of your father's silent treatment when he tried to get the upper hand on you, and you shoot back, "Wipe that smirk off your face! You should be ashamed of yourself."

I hear examples every day... I have shot back myself... a switch is flipped and we see the very ones who love us most as threats, treating them like enemies when, most of the time, they never say half of what we hear coming from their mouths.

It is so damaging.

In a nutshell, we need to stop and reflect, slow down, and hear the stories in our heads, owning them before acting them out on someone else.

How do you stop violence?

When you get triggered, don't open fire.

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