No doubt you have experienced them, perhaps even this week…
These “dis-es” so easily turn inwards as rumination and regret, or outwards as anger, often displaced. Looking for somewhere to put our restless emotions they can so easily disturb our peace of mind, destroy relationships and detract from what matters most to us – creating dis-ease and disease within and around us.
Is there an antidote? The ancients called it “loving detachment.” The ability to simultaneously connect deeply with, and stay separate from, the other – ensuring our emotions do not become entangled with theirs. This is hard to do. We tend to be stronger on one side of the equation or the other. Some of us are able to connect deeply but prone to take things to heart and take on other’s problems. Others of us are good at creating boundaries but less likely to connect deeply.
I have been reflecting recently on how this can apply with us. How few of us are able to fully acknowledge both our emotions and our reason – honoring and listening to each equally, metaphorically holding both out in front of us so we can objectively and subjectively look at them both.
How do we find our Brave Way through this? Developing a Self Differentiated mindset can be extremely beneficial. One tool we use at Brave involves choosing one of our go-to defensive behaviours, seeking to understand how it currently serves me and envisioning a different response and outcome.
It goes like this. Say I tend to become resistant when not at my best. I allow myself to re-experience a time this happened and the emotions I felt. I validate those emotions, seeking to understand what fear they represented and what they were trying to protect me from. Perhaps I discover that my resistance was rooted in a desire to control things that I think might hurt me, or others. Or perhaps it came from a sense of being disrespected or disillusioned. I name that root cause and acknowledge it is real.
Then I engage my rational thinking, remembering what actually prompted the response in the first place and what other ways of interpreting it might be. Perhaps there was no disrespect intended, Perhaps, even if there was, this response is not the best way to protect myself, perhaps this is not who I want to be and how I want to show up – even if others “deserve” it! Then I rationally recall the outcome of the situation and analyze its overall effectiveness. I choose a different path for next time. A ‘more true to who I am becoming,’ braver path.
The next part of the exercise is to envision baby steps towards this more differentiated self. Imagine there is a river that needs to be crossed between the way we respond now and the healthier way we would like to. What might some stepping-stones be across that river?
Two powerful strategies are:
- Noting each time a similar feeling emerges and the circumstances that prompted it.
- Developing the habit of taking a few deep breaths and then asking yourself “What do I really want here?” (Are you raising children or leading people? This can be a game changer!)
Often we discover that what we really want is to understand the other, and to have them understand us; to have both their and our needs met; to move forward in a way that won’t leave any of us with “dis-es.”
The same approach applies if you tend to become critical, demanding, easily offended, blaming or slow to recover. (For a more complete list of options see The Brave Way p. 107). It is simple. It is hard. It can significantly change our interactions and it can make us BRAVE. Teach it to your children. Use it for yourself. You will be glad you did.
 A concept first developed by Murray Bowen.