If there were one gift I could give everyone, it would be the ability not to take things personally, to stay neutral under what seem like personal attacks. It would eliminate so much unnecessary suffering.
I bring this up because I had a perfect example the other day. A client called me after a fight with her boyfriend, wondering if their relationship was over. When I looked at him psychically, what I saw was that he was having a career identity crisis. He was unbelievably frustrated at his perceived failure at a job he didn’t really want anyway, while working successfully but slowly on the side to create his ideal work. And in his frustration, he just lost it at her over a minor disagreement. Because he called her some names, she took it personally. That’s natural in the circumstance, and of course the best thing would be for him to learn to separate his frustration at his work from his disagreement with her.
But she, not he, was my client. And all she can change is herself. So what she can learn to do is to ground, take a deep breath, relax a bit, ask the question, ‘What is going on for him?’ and wait for the answer to come. It will always come, because at some level, we really do know what's going on with others. It may take a while, and the more you ask the question, the faster the answers will come.
Then she can act on that answer, for example, mirroring back his frustration to him, rather than holding on to her position. This gives him the space to acknowledge his feelings, and possibly go deeper into them, rather than making her wrong. That makes the relationship stronger and safer.
Think about all the circumstances where this technique might be appropriate. A good clue is that the attack on you is completely out of proportion to what was happening immediately before the attack. I’m sure you’ll think of a few. Remember to
- take a deep breath
- relax your body consciously and
- ask, ‘What is going on for him/her? What is this outburst doing for him/her?’
- wait for the answer
Sometimes, though, the argument is really about you, or about the relationship. How do you tell? I’ll tackle that in my next blog.