You’re rolling along with a smile on your face and joy in your heart and then BAM! Something hits you. Or should that be someone…?
Whether it’s in person, on the phone, via text, or even on Facebook, you never know when someone is about to pull your trigger. It might be what is said or it might be the way it is said, but a certain combination of words has turned your smile into a frown and your joy into anger.
The problem is that your reaction comes from within you and is founded upon your past experience, your world view, and your ego. So regardless of whether or not the other person was trying to hurt you, the pain you feel is in your hands.
Luckily, if the problem stems from within, then the solution also lies in you.
But before you can find that solution, you have to do something quite challenging – you have to be aware.
Awareness sounds easy, right? If that were true, the world would contain far less conflict and negative energy than it does.
In fact, the vast majority of us go through life with only the most fleeting glimpses of true awareness. We neglect to stop and reflect upon our thoughts, to see them objectively for what they are, and instead let the world – and the people in it – direct our emotions and control our minds and mouths.
The truth is, however, that when someone sets off your trigger, you have a choice – one that will determine the course of your life in one way or another. So, awareness is all about recognizing the choice in front of you and making it in the way that puts you most at peace.
Do you retreat into yourself and launch a counter-attack, or do you embrace the opportunity to express your feelings and seek reconciliation?
Luckily, there are some steps you can take whenever you feel a defensive reaction bubbling inside of you:
1. Pause for thought.
When you feel like you are being attacked, the immediate response is usually one of retaliation. Instead, just do nothing at first; reign in your desire to react and take a moment to compose yourself.
Whatever you then decide to do, it will not be driven from those initial, often irrational thoughts.
2. Step into their shoes.
The other person may have said something to cause you offense, but try and look at things from their perspective. See through their eyes and from their mind and search for the thoughts and emotions that have led them to say what they have said.
Not agreeing with someone doesn’t mean you can’t comprehend their reasoning, and instead of going on the counteroffensive and attacking them back, if you can go through their logic, you will be better placed to form a non-inflammatory response.
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3. Observe your feelings.
Feelings and thoughts are often mistaken for one another or simply lumped together, but they are, in fact, completely distinct elements of your being.
You can be happy because you achieve something, because you are with loved ones, or simply because it is a beautiful day. The same feeling occurs, but coming from different sources.
Thus, whatever is going on in your head, try to look deeper and really feel the feelings inside. Let go of all the thoughts that might be clouding your mind and just sit and breathe for 10 seconds. By separating and releasing the narrative you’ve created, you are just left with the feelings, and you should find that these subside once they are no longer receiving energy from your thoughts.
4. Know that it’s them, not you.
Whatever has been said or done by the other person, remember that it came from them and because of their world view. They have experienced a completely different life to you and their behavior comes about because of their unique history.
This is not to say that you should absolve them of any responsibility – we are all responsible to life – but you can take comfort in the fact that their attack on you was born in their psyche and it does not have to find a home in yours.
Remember: it’s their issue, not yours.
5. Let the heart drive when responding.
In those circumstances where a response is called for – and bear in mind that sometimes no response is the right response – be sure to come at it from a place of love.
Your mind may create the words and action, but it should be driven by the heart. When you do this, it helps to disarm the other person and pacify the situation at hand.
If you want to receive love, you first have to give it; taking this approach at those times when you’d normally show anger is a sure-fire way to reach a place of peace within yourself.
A defensive reaction to any given situation is one that will rarely result the way you’d have liked. Instead, fight the urge to engage in conflict and use your awareness of yourself, the other person, and the choice at hand to take the most harmonious path available.