“…A relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy – it often doesn’t – but because any…relationship, if we view it as a practice, is the clearest mirror we can find..” –Charlotte Zoko Beck
Have you ever been talking to someone when all of a sudden something they say just triggers you? Makes you mad, insults you, hurts your feelings?
Of course you have. We all have.
We all have those people in our lives who trigger us. If you have to live with one of these people, or work with one of these people, or interact with one of these people on a daily basis, life can get pretty uncomfortable pretty fast. And this can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness and increased stress.
What if there were a way to undo this cycle and learn to relate to these people in a different way?
Here’s the process:
When you notice yourself feeling angry or hurt or upset by someone’s behavior, don’t react. Instead, stop. Take a deep breath and then ask yourself these three questions:
- When have I felt this way before? Is this person or situation reminding me of something I have experienced before? In childhood? In a different setting? In a previous relationship? Often just pinpointing the original feeling can help dissipate some of the negative energy you are feeling.
- When have I done this to others? Often the behavior we most despise in others is behavior we exhibit ourselves. When have you acted like this person is acting? When have you made someone else feel like you are feeling now? Have compassion for those you have hurt with your behavior in the past and with yourself for how you are feeling now. Then forgive yourself for your past behavior. Recognizing how you are alike, instead of how you are different may help you to understand their behavior.
- When have I done this to myself? This can often trigger a very powerful “Ah-ha!” moment. We all treat ourselves as poorly, or sometimes worse, than we treat others. When have you done this to yourself? Are you able to forgive yourself? Can you love yourself as you are right now? Once you do, you may find it much easier to forgive the other person and let go of the feelings of hurt and anger.
By asking these three questions you use the situation (and the other person) as a mirror to see where you still need to grow and heal and what you are still trying to love and accept about yourself.
If you can find a way to use the situations and people that trigger you for your own growth and development, you might just find yourself appreciating the more challenging relationships in your life.
[Thanks to Karen Lindvig of Seattle Unity for teaching me the three questions!]
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