Number 10 in a Series
How do you typically react when someone who is important to you does something that upsets you?
How do you tend to react when someone who is important to you gets upset with something you’ve done?
Upsets are inevitable. They occur around unmet expectations, broken agreements, or differences in beliefs, opinions, experiences, hopes, needs and wants. They occur over a wide range of issues from the most mundane such as neatness, manners and lateness, to more consequential issues such as lying, sex and spiritual or political beliefs.
After years of studying upsets, I know that an upset provides a golden opportunity to learn some very important things and create closeness instead of distance. But, when another person has disappointed me, or behaved in a way that I judge as wrong, bad, or inappropriate, my rational mind still, at times, goes out the window.
In those moments, I lose my heart-connection and my immediate reaction is to blame, want to get revenge, justify my behavior, seek confirmation that the other person is wrong, or self-righteously wallow as a victim.
When another person is upset and comes at me with anger or criticism, my reflexive, heartless reaction is often to tense up and either fight back or emotionally withdraw.
Whether fighting or withdrawing, my curiosity and compassion is muted. I know all-to-well how that story ends, and it’s never pretty.
However, losing my heart-connection in the heat of the moment never means that the opportunity to learn is lost. Whenever I recenter, whether that is in minutes, hours or days, the rich source of learning that comes when I’m connected to my heart is always available. My focus shifts from what another person has done, or needs to learn, to:
- Learning about my own position and any part I may have in the difficulty (sometimes with the help of the other person).
- Wanting to learn more about the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
- Making amends for any pain to which my behavior has led, and once that’s all done.
- Searching for resolutions that preserve everyone’s integrity.
By taking personal responsibility for creating my part of, what is most of the time, a circular system, I accept that I am not an innocent victim. When all participants in a difficulty open their hearts, constructive dialogue takes place where there is no blame and everyone learns important things about themselves. If only one person opens to learning then others miss that golden opportunity.
Being open to learning in the face of upsets, is rarely modeled. When my parents were upset with something I’d done or said, I don’t remember them ever wanting to learn about the very good reasons I had for my actions or about the beliefs and fears that were responsible for their reaction. In fact, I never saw that kind of reaction from anyone including my teachers, on a television show, or in the movies.
Staying heart-connected in the face of upsets is an ideal to which we can aspire but will not easily accomplish. Conflict brings us face-to-face with many deep fears of losing something that we believe we need for our sense of well-being such as losing another person, or our carefully constructed identity.
So, to protect from facing our fears, instantaneous learned responses kick in. It’s the well-known syndrome of fight or flight, fighting or withdrawing that inevitably results in a lessening of trust and emotional intimacy.
Being heart-connected is a complete shift in consciousness. It has a completely different look and feel. There’s no middle ground. There is being heart-connected and there’s everything else. (If you’ve forgotten these distinctions you can review them by clicking here.)
For Your Journey
- Recall a recent upsetting interaction where you were not feeling compassion and not open to learning and write down what resulted.
- In the above situation, write down what might have happened had you kept your heart open.
- Seeing upsets as opportunities to learn about ourselves and others is such a different mindset that it has likely set off some triggers for you. What are those reactions and what do you want to do with them (or with me)?
- The chart From Upsets to Harmony shows the heart-connection or a heart-disconnection flow that follows an upset. To see the chart press here.
- Share-it-forward. Discuss the chart From Upsets to harmony with another person and discuss what you’ve learned about staying open in the face of upsets.
First in the Series: Live Joyfully: Get Out of Your Head
Next Week: # 11- Arguing Is For Losers: Two Steps For Never Arguing
BECOMING YOUR OWN HERO illuminates a path available to us all to attain the kind of personal power demonstrated by our most revered and inspirational heroes. Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times best-selling author said, “I highly recommend this illuminating and touching look into the possibilities of staying connected to our hearts, even when facing difficult situations.”