Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reflection vs. Reaction

I will offer a little self-disclosure here. Actually, I think I offer quite a bit of self-disclosure here on these pages, but anyway... I want to share a recent insight I've had. I will change the names and circumstances to protect the privacy of dear others.

I am presently in a relationship with someone where I am experiencing much tension, and this has been ongoing for some time. I also get the sense that I am actually having more anxiety and anger in this relationship than the other person, who we'll call Mr. A. This man, Mr. A, really triggers me. In fact, I sometimes find myself so annoyed by him that I uncharacteristically snap on him, become rude, and have even gotten angry enough to stomp away. Essentially, I throw a little tantrum because I get so ticked off. Just to clarify, I don't typically act like this in relationships! I'm actually known by friends and family for remaining level-headed, avoiding confrontation, and very rarely exhibting anger (even when it is probably warranted). Something about Mr. A really gets my goat, however, and I have no problem getting angry... and quick. Afterward, I always feel guilty, embarrassed at my juvenile behavior, and even more angry at him that he MADE me act that way.

It would be really easy for me to type on and on about all the horrible things this person does and how my anger toward him is justified. I could rant and rave about the rightness of my frustration and how things would be much better if he would just change. What I'm finally understanding, after a significant amount of time with Mr. A, is that he is not real likely to change. What I am now motivated to do (after many months of tension and conflict) is to examine myself.

Mr. A does seem to irritate other people as well and we have mutual friends who have commented on this. None of them, however, seem to get triggered quite as intensely as I do. What I now want to try is REFLECTION rather than REACTION. I have gotten so angry with him at times that my reaction was quick and surprised me. Sometimes I've said something very scathing, scoffed loudly at him, and various other things that surprised me. Sudden reactions. What I would like to try is to stop myself before I get to this point and take a time out. I'm not sure how I'm going to get the time-out. Most likely I'll just say, "Excuse me for just a minute, I just remembered something important I need to take care of," or I might try, "Let me take a few minutes to think on that and I'll get back with you." If you hear me saying that to you this week... well, sorry. It's better than getting hostile and sarcastic, right?

Once I get space and step away, I want to REFLECT. My reflection is what I see when I look into the mirror. I will see me staring back at me! I don't actually intend to go look into a mirror, but maybe I can examine what I am seeing within me at that moment. What am I feeling? What does this feeling remind me of? What earlier times in my life did someone make me feel this way and what was the outcome? Are those past events somehow affecting my present interaction? Most likely, yes. My reaction is so intense, it suggests that a relationship template is being triggered. This is a template that got solidified within me over time after a repeated interaction with someone very close to me. For example, some of us learn at a young age that if you show anger in your home, you are shunned and shamed by a parent, so you learn to stop exhibiting signs of anger and feel shame instead. Later in life, when we encounter someone who wakes up the "shaming parent" template inside us, we automatically and unconsciously slip into the role of shamed child who denies anger. Then we wonder why we feel so crappy every time we're with that person!

I believe that if I REFLECT rather than REACT, I am going to learn some very valuable things about myself. I hope to gain some insight about what type of issue is being triggered. I also hope that I can begin to practice some new ways of dealing with Mr. A rather than the usual red-headed tyrrant routine I've been pulling. I'm not real happy with that act lately. I doubt he is either! Almost makes me feel sorry for the poor guy... just almost but not really. :-)

I'll keep you posted on what exciting traumas I dredge up within myself!

Photo above found at:


  1. It seems that we head into relationships that echo past experiences. It seems like "Mr A" is triggering some issue from the past that you have not yet resolved - at least that's my take on it.

    I'm never sure if you get my comments or if you would just prefer I not comment... Often the comments I leave never show up here.

    If you would prefer that I not comment or read your blog just let me know.

  2. Hi Shen, I always post every comment of yours that I receive and am grateful for them. :-) I think there's a Blogger glitch sometimes! You're definitely right about Mr. A. He is really touching an unresolved issue in me!

  3. Melissa, thank you for sharing. I agree with Shen about trigger issues from the past. Appreciated your comment to me earlier on my blog. Blessings and hugs.