“When Eddie blames me, I react so fast, before I have a chance to get my loving Adult onboard. I’m explaining and defending before I can even take a breath,” Lori told me in one of our sessions. I knew exactly what she was talking about, as I had struggled with this same challenge for years.
Most of us learned early in our lives to react to any kind of rejection – blame, anger, withdrawal, judgment, criticism, or being ignored – with some form of reactive behavior. I had learned as a child and adolescent to react to any form of rejection by explaining, defending, crying, blaming back, getting angry, complaining or giving myself up. Even today, if I’m overly tired, I might go right back to these protective, controlling behaviors.
When I’m feeling rested and centered, I can now respond as a loving Adult, which means that I can respond with compassion for the suffering I see the other person is experiencing, or speak my truth and disengage, or remain quiet and hear them out, or remain quiet and disengage. I remember that I have no control over the other person’s intent to act out of their wounded self, so I focus only on what is loving to me, rather than trying in any way to get them to see things differently, or behave differently.
What are your frequent ways of acting when you are being reactive?
- Explaining, defending
- Shaming, judging
- Withdrawing, shutting down, ignoring, resisting
- Yelling, blaming, attacking
- Crying as a victim
Sometimes, when trauma is triggered, you might feel so scared that you go into the fight, flight or freeze response. I used to completely freeze in the face of blaming or shaming. I would freeze like a deer in the headlights, because I had no loving Adult who knew how to take care of me in the face of another’s unloving behavior. I would get triggered right back into my mother’s rage at me, having no idea what to do.
Since practicing Inner Bonding and developing my loving Adult, I no longer have the freeze response, and for this I’m so grateful. Even at those times that I might get reactive, I don’t freeze. I speak my truth, although I might speak it as an attack or blame – trying to control - rather than having the presence of mind to fully accept my lack of control over the other person.
In order to fully accept my lack of control when another is in their wounded self and they are being unloving to themselves and me, I need to fully accept the loneliness of the disconnection from them, and my helplessness over them. This means that I need to be open hearted and in deep compassion for myself.
The challenge of not reacting means that:
- I need to be fully present with compassion for my own core feelings of loneliness and heartache.
- I need to completely and compassionately accept my lack of control – my helplessness - over another.
- I need to be in connection with my Guidance to know what is loving to me in the particular situation – to actively listen, to reach out to sooth them, to be with them and just listen, to lovingly speak my truth, and/or to lovingly disengage.
- I need to be fully willing to take the loving action in my own behalf, rather than try to influence the other person in any way.
None of this is easy, and it generally takes a lot of practice to move beyond reactivity and into loving action for yourself and with others.