Has this ever happened to you?
You’re in a conversation with someone, and something they say (or the way they say it) suddenly triggers you and you go OFF?! Like, the reaction you have is sooooo far beyond the thing that they did or said in that moment, and you can’t undo it. It’s too late.
Ugh. It’s such a terrible feeling. It’s embarrassing. It’s confronting. It’s exasperating (especially if it’s not the first time it’s happened).
I can remember a VERY specific situation when this happened to me, and I was mortified. As soon as the reaction escaped me, I realized that I was way out of line, but I couldn’t do anything to change it.
What made it worse though, was the response of the person who was with me. Even though my reaction wasn’t towards them, it was near them, and they couldn’t let it go. They kept circling around it, reminding me of it, and bringing it up out of the blue.
I wasn’t able to articulate this at that time in my life, but looking back, I realize why this has struck with me is that I was DEEP in the danger zone with this person and I didn’t know it.
I was never in physical danger with them. But emotionally, they had me cornered. Never allowed to step outside certain, unspoken boundaries, and heavily reprimanded if and when I did.
As long as I kept their environment pleasant, and made sure that their emotional needs were met, then we were good. If I accidentally upset them though, it was torment for me – constantly being reminded of how I’d messed up, how I’d ruined something for them, or how I’d made things worse.
What I can see now that I couldn’t see then, is that this person wasn’t interested in helping me uncover the root behind the reaction, so much as they were happy to focus on the reaction itself.
Can I highlight to you that in a HEALTHY relationship (friendship, romantic, family, etc.), the focus is on creating health, not on what’s broken.
If you’re in a relationship and you find yourself harping on what they’re doing wrong, I’d love to invite you (and, in fact, I implore you) to instead approach it with curiosity, and ask yourself “I wonder what happened in their life that’s causing them to react to life in that way?” and if/when appropriate, bring that question to them and explore together.
It may not always be appropriate to bring that up, and this may be more self-reflective than highlighting other people’s stuff, but at least be aware of it and extend grace.
And if you’re in a relationship where someone else keeps focusing on your reactions instead of approaching the root cause, you can be aware of that and explore the root cause on your own if they won’t join you for it.
Seek support in working through this, and loop in a professional if you need to. Relationships are valuable, and they are worth approaching with a “you’re worth it” attitude!
There’s a LOT more going on in people’s lives than we can possibly be aware of, and it’s layered, so it may not all be solved at once.
Have grace for yourself, and for others!
Sign reads: “Success is dealing with people as they are, not as you would like them to be”
Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/d_a_shirley/
Location: Legacy Center – San Diego, CA