Connecting Dots to All the Wrong Places

I’m very fortunate — I love my work! Not only do I feel a real sense of purpose when I help people but I truly find it fascinating. Trying to understand people’s emotions and what brings them to respond as they do is like a big puzzle. Of course, sometimes that puzzle becomes very frustrating … because people have connected the dots in a way that makes perfect sense to them and therefore lead them to act the way they do. But the truth of the matter is that the sense is only in their mind.

I’ve often mentioned in this post that when I experience the same situation a couple of times in close proximity, I believe it’s meant to show me a lesson. I think I’m supposed to expose this phenomenon to help others perhaps learn from it.
This time for sure

Often, a client will come in and report to me some reaction he or she had and how his or her mate got really upset by it. Yet, as the reaction was occurring, it made perfectly good sense to my client. Naturally, I ask for the details surrounding not only the incident but what led up to it. Yes — I do have to be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes.

Quite often, it’s apparent to me that the details offered are rather innocuous or certainly don’t add up to the response my client felt. Yet, the person is absolutely convinced that there is a basis for feeling what he or she did. And I think that is the key … the feeling.

I have no doubt that the experienced feeling is intense at the moment it is taking place and that for certain, it appears to be triggered by the situation that just happened. But I also know that you can be responding to something that is happening now but, in reality, it is setting off something from your past.

Constant over-reactions like this can be very destructive to your relationships.
Coming into the present

Do you experience something like this? The likely problem is that you truly don’t know that you’re doing this.

In order to change a behavior, you must be aware of it. If your mate keeps indicating that you are over-reacting, you may want to do some self-reflection. Consider how other people might respond to the same set of circumstances. Maybe even ask a good friend how they would handle the same event.

Do you notice that you over-react with others beside your mate? Is there something, in particular, that seems to trigger you, that seems to set you off? For instance, do you always get bothered when you feel you aren’t getting attention? Or, do you tend to always be concerned about the possibility of being rejected?

Here are some other possible check-points: if it wasn’t for this one particular issue, how is the rest of your relationship? If it’s good except for when you get upset about this particular sensitivity, it’s likely that it is your issue. Do you have trouble “letting go” of something after your mate has apologized?

It’s important that you look at the reality of your relationship. Let’s go back to the idea that you don’t get enough attention. Can you come up with times where you really do get the attention from your mate? Even if it is slightly different than the way you would like it given to you, is the overall picture one where you see that you are cared about?

Since this type of behavior is generally so automatic, it’s hard to just quickly change it. One of the things you can do is to think about the behavior of the other person differently. Yes, he or she did (or said) what they did … but can you think of a reason other than the one you assigned for it? Even if you only come up with one possibility, it means your automatic conclusion is flawed.

The book I’ve written, “Mindfulness and The Art of Choice: Transform Your Life,” offers tools to deal with these types of issues. Or, you may need to seek a professional to assist you with this process. But learning how to heal wounds from the past will very much enhance the relationship you have today!