If you are getting really frustrated with yourself because, despite all the insights into personality traits and great communication techniques, and the awesome self improvement stuff you’ve learned that made eminent sense, when push comes to shove you default to old behaviours. Reading this could make all the difference…
We are all familiar with situations that snowball, where we go from feeling good to bad or bad to worse. Often these, we perceive, are caused by others. Others bringing an energy to the situation that sets you off in a downward spiral.
In the office I’ve dealt with my fair share of both aggressive and passive aggressive behaviour. At home, my partner and I have battled it out with the best of them. As a parent, the kids constantly throws me curve balls. Siblings not getting on, especially when one is distressed and the other is feeding off that energy, creates a whopping great negative vortex that has a really strong pull.
Learning to cope with children's unfiltered communications has much to teach us about our other experiences. In the midst of all the screaming “mummy mummy”, I’m often scrambling to remember all the brilliant advice I have read, written down and even practiced in saner moments. There comes a point though when the only release seems to be to yell and scream in response. This of course feeds the vortex further and down we all spiral.
Understanding the science behind why this happens helps. We now know thoughts emit energy, and that the greater part of your thoughts are recurring patterns that are running in your subconscious, the vast majority planted there early in your childhood and reinforced over and over again in scenarios throughout your life.
Once you are aware of this, particularly when you understand that early childhood experiences are imprinted mainly from body language, you begin to understand your default programming. The wiring that occurs from those early well intentioned lessons and discipline you received, often translated as you not being up to scratch in some aspect of your being.
This is not because of the words being used, or even the emotion behind them, which is likely intentioned from a point of love; some version of "it's for your own good". Young children, however, interpret body language above all else, which is usually rooted in a fear of the consequences for the child. This translates as bad energy, the impression they get is of being judged, they are not good enough, or are intentionally naughty.
Over and over again these early imprints get reinforced through experiences at school and all the other scenarios where, as a young child growing up, adults are in control of what you do and don't do.
As a result, as an adult you will often instinctively feel attacked and defend in some way if someone presents with bad energy. Your brain, sensing danger, goes into flight or fight mode and you are no longer able to access your conscious mind where all the wonderful new information about having a better interaction is stored, the old programming has kicked in.
So how do we evolve past the old programming into the new? Well, it is a process, one that you have to keep coming back to with your awareness time and again. It’s a process of unraveling all that early wiring that has been reinforced over and over in your experiences. While unraveling it, continue to focus on the new path you want to take.
How can you do this amid your brain kicking into flight or fight? My ‘ah ha’ moment came to me when my oldest daughter was losing the plot because she’d been told she wasn’t having another ice cream. In an attempt to bring her out of her spiral my partner was playing back to her the ludicrous noise she was making, like a braying donkey. Unfortunately it was making things worse.
“Don’t feed the energy”
Suddenly it struck me, don’t feed the energy. Simple. When my brain is starting to rapidly descend into flight or fight mode, that simple phrase is something I can hang onto. I hear it as clear as day. Now I have to admit that I can then feel a bit like a stunned mullet, wondering “what next”. Here is the beauty, nothing.
When we stopped feeding my daughter’s energy over that ice cream, the braying noise quickly stopped, the protests dwindled, we moved on.
What I’m not saying is ‘ignore’, this isn’t about moving from aggressive to passive behaviour, you can acknowledge through your body language, that most primeval part of us, that you hear what is being said, you just don’t have to respond to it, to get sucked in. Instead, let it be. When the energy lessens, move on.
Saying “don’t feed the energy” to myself snaps me out of it, gets me grounded. Sometimes I think I should distract the kids with other things, change the subject. Changing the subject too early though just sends a message that you don’t care what the other person is feeling, or a judgment that they shouldn’t feel that way. Instead, first let the current energy diminish like ever decreasing waves crashing on the shore.
In any environment that will feel uncomfortable at first, a bit like the ‘silences’ encouraged in coaching, sales calls, performance conversations and so on. Perhaps practicing in the office is best tried after practicing at home a few times. However, the principle works. Whatever you can do to bring yourself into observing the present moment – as opposed to being swept away with it – will be a triumph for your wellbeing, your day, and for the authentic you.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/136199332@N03/23891629443">Max Caulfield</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
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