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Reducing our time of misery.

Regardless of how much your feel it is the behaviour of the other that has caused you to be triggered, the reaction is happening in your body and is therefore your responsibility.

Reducing our time of misery.

What difference does it make if I catch my reactive charge?

Isn’t how I feel fair and an opportunity to establish boundaries and tell people what I really think?  

Surely if I am really angry because they are doing the wrong thing again and again, I should let them have it and then hopefully they don’t do it again?

These are pretty much the questions asked during a Mindfulness@Work session where I had shared my ‘Canberra Story’.

My husband and I had agreed to leave home for Canberra the next morning at 7.30 am. He is an old military man and I’m a Dane, so when we agree to leave at 7.30, it means 7.30! At 7.25 I scraped the rest of the breakfast in the bin, so I could be in the car at 7.30. Once in the car, he said, “I just need to go and get a coffee for the trip.” 

I observed a very strong reaction in my body to that comment. Knowing it was 4.5 hours to Canberra and that if I said anything from the charge it would not be pretty, I zipped my mouth and paid 100% attention to the sensation.  I closed the eyes, observed the sensation while holding it in an attitude of “Dear Body, I see you.” During this it is so important not to get into any story about the situation, but to simply stay with the sensation.  A few tears were released, then the body started to calm. By the time we pulled up at the coffee shop, I could speak a little like an air hostess, very matter-of-fact: ‘In future, I do think that all errands should be completed prior to the agreed departure time’.  He answered: ‘Sure, and would you like a tea?’

If I had not caught the sensation, the trigger, the message from the reactive, I would not have been able to make a calm, clear statement.  In effect, I would have spoken from a primal part, the wounded part that is threatened.  From there it is all about ‘me’.  And the communication would have had no intention of exploring or connecting but simply be a shout of anger and frustration.  The communication would have no intention of a ‘better’, clearer way forward.

Regardless of how much we feel it is the behaviour of the other that has caused us to be triggered, the reaction is happening in my body and is therefore my responsibility.

Another dimension to this is that when we are really triggered, we might not recall later what we throw at the other, but it is likely that the other will remember, and it can be very hurtful and hard to recover from.

Also, if I had spat all my anger out, I would have been seething all the way to Canberra and later I would have felt shame and guilt about my outburst which could have lasted some time!

We don’t always catch the reactive in time – it is an ongoing challenge – and we can just be grateful when we do.

Naturally we may catch emotions other than anger.  It could be ‘shutdown’, or ‘avoiding’. They can be similarly destructive but usually create more of a slow-burning problem rather than an explosion.

The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awake’ and we are awake when we notice our reaction in the moment.  The Buddha was about reducing suffering. Catching the reactive is a great example of how we do that.  We can reduce both the immediate suffering and the ongoing, lingering misery that can come from poorly managed conflict.

Key is to pay attention to body sensations.  As you know, the body speaks the language of the reactive and it communicates faster than thinking – which ultimately is always an afterthought!

Once calm, we can have the conversation which will be much more proactive and curious than one arising from the reactive charge can ever be.

Till next time.


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