Less reaction, and more creation.
Sometimes when my spouse is struggling with her own stuff, my body instantly responds and goes into a habitual reaction. My mind, then translates this and makes it about me because I grew up with a parent who’s body language mimics my partners.
At this point in my reaction, because it’s uncomfortable and I want it to go away, I might try to “talk it out” with her by focussing all my attention on her. I will say things like “You seem angry,” “You’re shut down,” “What’s wrong with you right now, why are you so distant?” etc. Because I grew up with feelings of emotional abandonment, this wounded part of me is clamoring to get the connection back, to avoid feeling that abandonment feeling.
When I don’t “hold my seat” and react like this, my own upset adds another layer to her upset. We now have what I call “compounded conflict.”
But, when I am sharp and “on,” I understand all of this and am able to relax into a bigger seat, beyond my body’s habitual reactions and impulses. I’m able to hold both her and I with love and care, not needing her to change or be different. I’m “holding me” so that I can “hold” her.
This tends to be the exact thing she needs to soften out of her “stuff.” If I stay embodied and present, her body can slowly trust mine and now, without any words, or processing, we come back into connection. By the way, this is what a well-attached, resourced parent does with an upset baby.
The bottom line here is that if it’s true we want the connection back, we need to get in the driver’s seat of our own reactivity, relax our nervous system, and learn how to be a trustworthy, safe, homebase for our partner to come back to.
This article originally appeared on Jayson Gaddis
Photo credit: Nathan O’Nions/flickr