How many times do we react without a pause to consider our reaction? The spouse hits a trigger, the kids push a button, a disappointing outcome is revealed. Our mood turns sour and we think this is going to be one of those days. Do we ever consider changing our state? Right when we are at the boiling point or just after we explode do we ever consider we can still have a good day by deciding to hit our internal reset button?
We all have buttons. We make a commitment. We agree changes in our relationship(s) are needed. What do those changes look like? Do we have a list?
STEP ONE – Make a List
I want to change x about me. Write it down.
My spouse wants me to change x about me – write it down.
I want my spouse to change x about themselves – write it down.
My spouse wants to change x about themselves – write it down.
Do you know what your spouse wants you to change? No? Go find out. Ask questions. We are more likely to avoid this discussion, wait for things to blow up, get or give a laundry list of grievances, react defensively or with hostility, pout or fume for a few days and then go back to ‘pretending’ everything is ok. No resolution. No plan. No commitment. No understanding.
Who would choose consciously to live this way?
It’s not real unless we write it down. A business with no business plan, no commitment and no capital is just an idea. So go ahead and dream away how your spouse is going to magically change. Wish for all the things you wish your relationship had. Autonomically go through another day after another day after another day. Same story. Different day. OR…..
STEP TWO – Negotiations
They want you to change things. Some you are willing. Some you are not willing. You want them to change some things. Some they are willing. Some they are not wiling. This is where negotiations begin. Pick your top three things and ask them to pick their top three. THEN NEGOTIATE ON ONE THING. Do we think we are capable of more than one change at a time? Do we think our spouse is?
The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises, and is already on the road to perdition. -Carl Jung
How do you figure out what needs to be changed? Ask questions. Right when the attack is triggered relax and ask questions. “Why do you feel this way? Can you give me some examples?” Then when they tell you how it’s all your fault; DO NOT REACT. They tell you they have no part; DO NOT REACT. They blame you. They shame you. They call you names. They deny y”our claims. Do not react, do not react, do not react.
STEP THREE – HIT THE RESET BUTTON
They hit our hot button and we reacted all over them. Oops! I swore I would stop throwing coffee cups. I said “STOP” at the stop sign and he almost hits a bicycler because he didn’t listen to “STOP! STOP! STOP!”. I have a story about how this is a metaphor for our relationship; he does not listen. He has a story about how this is a metaphor for our relationship; I am critical. I only said “STOP! STOP! STOP!”. He heard “you are doing it wrong.” He reacts and barks at me as though it’s my fault he ran a stop sign and almost hit a bicycler. His reaction triggered my reaction “why do you not listen to me”. I throw the coffe cup and walk home.
The cold war has begun.
Sound familiar? Two people reacting to the past. Two people with a story. Two people hear a ‘hidden message’ in a chain of events. It’s all a story to defend our postion. To justify our reaction. And where does this ever get us? Are we happy? Do we find peace? Does it ever get resolved? Patterns are act, react, act, react, act, react. Who will break the cycle? Who has the courage to swallow their pride first? Who puts ego aside in place of joy?
We made a choice to hit the reset button.
He was immediately willing to hit the reset button and work it out. I still walked home because I have a temper and do not trust I will use nice words when inflamed. Once calm I sent a text. That was a relapse. I want to stick with our plan. We still agreed to disagree on who said what and how they said it. That was immaterial.
Our egos will make ‘being right’ the MOST IMPORTANT thing.
If we do that, WE LOSE. What do we lose? A chance for peace. A chance to work it out. A chance to break an old worn out and exhausting pattern. Are you tired yet? Can you imagine another 10 years of this? No? Keep Reading.
The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it. -Napoleon Bonaparte
We decided. We did not choose to go through the rest of the day upset. It was the past. We both drifted into old behavior. We are wise to expect more relapses. Did we think a declaration “I will change” would send unicorns floating down to earth and blow fairy dust out our…..
Change takes time. We will revert back to old patterns. There is a reason for relapse. Expect a relapse. Then hit the reset button and get back to work. Here is a big secret. The other person does not have to participate at first! We can change a lot. When we change they will change. We will change how we see them. They will change how they react to us. What if in the middle of a fight we drop our pants or lift up our shirt? Sound crazy? Crazy sounds like fighting year after year over the same old things over and over and never having any peace.
So shift states, try something new. Bite your tongue and say “you are right”. Say “yes” when you want to say “Hell No”. Say “NO” when you would normally agree and give in. When you are mad say “I want to be close. Maybe I don’t know how. Are you willing to learn with me?” That would really shock them into another state. When you want to run instead stay. When you want to be defensive relax and look for where they are right instead of how they are wrong. These are all new things to rewire your brain out of those same old patterns. It’s a choice. New things are often uncomfortable and hard to apply. No matter, apply them anyway. You may fail. No matter, keep doing it. You may think it’s unfair that you are doing all the work. No matter, work anyway.
Click the below link to learn more about the neuroscience behind chemical pathways formed in the brain and how they are responsible for how easy it is to relapse back into old patterns.