As gentle and kind as you may want your communications to be, sometimes situations heat up between two people and escalate into angry words and raised voices.
As each person seeks to be heard and defend themselves from the other’s attack, they become locked in a battle of wills and force, the only outcome of which will be that both are wounded. It is a lose-lose game that gets played out again and again, usually between people who care deeply for each other.
Yesterday, I heard my neighbors—a long-time married couple—arguing with each other. Their voices got louder—his more accusatory, hers more shrill—as they armed themselves against their ally turned enemy. Angry words, profanities and threats flew around the room where neither would back down or leave—that would take perspective, a deep breath, the remembrance that the other is important to them, and their own peace of mind and heart is at stake.
From my rooftop, where I was watering plants, I listened—not to their words, but to their energy—the desperation and frustration expressed in the lunge, parry and contretemps of fencing partners engaged in a serious and clumsy duel. I knew, from my own experience, that they would eventually exhaust themselves and the battle would end, with both sides being losers; having lost self-respect and self-trust and projecting that on to the other.
The slamming of doors would be a metaphor for shutting down their own hearts.
Later, they would likely emerge feeling fragile, with a weak apology and meek attempt at reconciliation, avoiding the raw wounds they’d inflicted on one another—too painful a mirror of what they had allowed themselves to do because of the pain that resides within each.
They will push it back and down below the surface and pretend they are okay—the storm has passed.
But the fact is they had been shipwrecked in the storm of their own uncontrollable emotions, and the rubble now lay all around them in the broken shards of their hearts and aggravations of their minds. A mess. In their own way, each will pick up a proverbial broom and sweep it into a pile in the corner of the room of their relationship, adding to the debris of pain, and then go on, hoping—even vowing—this will never happen again.
Yet it will.
The next battle is inevitable because they have not faced or resolved anything.
What needs to be faced is the truth that these perennial battles are simply an expression of one’s own pain. The other serves as a mirror, reflecting places in our self that are unloved. Interestingly, we often choose to love those who share similar vulnerabilities, old hurts, and coping mechanisms that no longer work; but, no matter how similar or different in form or expression, everyone on earth has suffered emotional wounds. Only love of self can heal these.
What needs to be resolved, or solved, is uncovering the hidden ways (from our conscious mind) that our lack of self-love interferes with our own sense of joy and peace. This is the great gift and challenge of relationship—to appreciate the opportunities for increasing self-knowledge, self-love, and creative self-expression—as our interactions bring to light (sometimes appallingly) the yet-painful buttons we have long carried and hoped to not have to face.
In the beginning of attraction, the underlying commonalities of unloved parts of self are masked by the elation of having found this other in whose reflection we feel good about who we are.
We feel “seen”—but what is seen is what we love about our self, the “best” parts. Over time, inevitably, what we have not-yet loved arises, and it’s easy to blame the other for reflecting that which we’d rather not see or have be seen.
Here is the core of conflict: not between I-and-another, but within my self.
If the triggers, hooks and buttons didn’t reside within us, they would not exist to trigger, hook or push us. And what are these triggers, hooks and buttons but wounded places within that beg for tenderness and love in order to heal?
So, every time anger or defensiveness arises, we have the opportunity to hear ourselves, our own pain. If we can stop at that moment of awareness and turn inward with kindness, instead of outward in attack and blame, we not only avoid creating more pain, but we begin forging a different path toward greater self-love, and thereby greater capacity to give and receive love.
What might have happened if either of my neighbors had the “presence of mind” to halt their patterned dynamics? What if—at the first flush of angry, irritated, defensive response—one had said, “I hear you. And want to respond, not react, so can I have some time to think about this and get back to you?” Even if the agitated person persisted, they would soon stop in the face of no resistance, and the drama would not escalate.
Can you hear and witness someone else’s pain without reacting?
Especially someone in whose connection you have invested a great deal? Not if it pushes your own buttons!
The task before us, always, is to cultivate awareness, self-love and self-trust so to create the situations and relationships we say we want.
If we take ownership of our buttons, and bring loving kindness to our “humanness,” it is possible to weave a strong and beautiful emotional fabric that replaces the need for triggers, hooks and buttons.
Aysha Griffin guides entrepreneurs, writers and artists to create profitable enterprises that make a positive difference in the world. A certified business/marketing and relationship coach, writer/editor/publisher and former print and broadcast journalist, she is known for fusing the artistic, visionary, and practical to empower creative individuals to Inhabit Your Dreams! She has published more than 400 freelance articles in lifestyle, business and travel magazines and 18 books (for herself and clients). Based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, she welcomes opportunities to present workshops and provide coaching, marketing and publishing services to clients worldwide. Contact her via AyshaGriffin.com and Inhabit Your Dreams.
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Assistant Ed: Terri Tremblett/Kate Bartolotta