#6 Stop Being Defensive

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#6

Stop Being Defensive

In this series, I’ve talked about Identifying Your Triggers, Arguing Effectively, and Emotional Intelligence. They all speak to mastering awareness in your communication. Perhaps the most important and impactful element of this is the ability to stop getting defensive.

Defenses

We experience a sense of needing to ‘protect’ ourselves whenever we become afraid and perceive that we are at risk for losing something. Whenever we imagine that we are in danger of having less of or never having something… we also may feel afraid and we tend to want to fight. When we feel attacked, we want to fight back. Emotionally speaking, we aren’t taught effective strategies very often and unless the other person we are speaking with is also equipped with similar strategies, the communication is sure to break down quickly. The conversation can resemble a war zone.

Notice Defensiveness

First, you must make the effort to understand when you become defensive and how it feels in your body. Does your blood pressure rise? Your shoulders? Is there a tightness in your jaw? Does your heart race? Notice that they are the same symptoms of fear. It’s your parasympathetic nervous system getting ready for a fight.

Step Back

When you feel your body tightening, that’s the moment you know it’s imperative that you step back. Take a deep breath. Count to five. Get Grounded. Remember who you are – who you want to be. Think about something you love or really like about the person in front of you. If it’s a stranger or an estranged individual, remember that by engaging you are giving them YOUR power. Stop.

Back Down

Backing down from a confrontation demonstrates emotional mastery – not weakness. Think about how much intention it takes to get to this point after your fear or fight is activated. It takes great strength to step back and gain composure. Adopt the attitude that you will not engage in a confrontation infused with negative energy.

Once you take the defensive energy out of an interaction, you’ll be amazed at how it dies down – it’s akin to a fire without oxygen. Your confrontations turn into constructive discussions and problem solving when you get to the point where you can…

Stop being defensive.

TTAHListen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

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#127 Identify Your Triggers

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#127

Identify Your Triggers

Defined

An emotional trigger is something that provokes you. It may be a person, an opinion, a situation, or an environmental condition. When we are ‘triggered’, we generally REact emotionally – often with a defensive behavior. We experience a swell of emotion and it may or may not be specifically connected to the experience at hand.

Discovery

In order to properly manage your emotions, it’s imperative that you know what your triggers are. Ninety-nine percent of the time, our triggers are based in fear. Fear of losing something, having less of something, or never having something – that ‘something’ being anything really… trust, respect, time, money, love, etc… When we understand ‘why’ we are reacting – managing our reactions is much – much easier.

Management

Once we know ‘why’ we get triggered we can learn how to communicate and manage our reactions. Often, it’s about learning how to be present – not allowing our histories to overrun the present moment. It’s about communicating our truest emotion – that thing we fear (i.e, not being loved, having enough time, etc…) By being aware of our immediate thought, engaging our breath, and making an intentional choice in our response, we can stand down those automatic responses that tend to stand at attention when we are triggered.

In order to change anything – we need to be aware and know what needs to be changes and so to improve our reactions it is imperative that we make an effort to ….

Identify our triggers.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

Dreams Come True

“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.”  – Roman Payne

I’ve never had closure over that photo. The explanation just did not set into my sense of reasoning. It may have been my growing sense of insecurity, or my fear that I wasn’t ‘enough’ for this man I married, or jealousy of his ability to have such extraordinary alone time. My only option was to ‘drop it’ and yet somehow it got tucked into that old mental file of mine, the Yuck file that had been created just a few years back.

We were outgrowing our inner city townhome. We were facing the reality of educating three children with a private education due to the impotence of the local public school system. Additionally, the neighborhood in which we lived was changing; becoming a less desirable location for raising a family. We began house hunting. We looked at house after house, week after week and the discouragement began to build. Simultaneously, we had our home listed for sale at a price far below our cost and offers were not flowing in.

One evening we were pouring over a real estate magazine (before the internet, we had to look in newspapers and weekly magazines) and saw a four-bedroom home on an acre of land in our price range. It looked amazing but we didn’t know anything about the location as it was in a neighboring state. We agreed to drive out and investigate. Thirty minutes over the state line we found ourselves in the country where curvy roads wound around gently sloping landscapes dotted with small communities in a suburban fashion. It was so pretty. We eventually found the house from the magazine and immediately became captivated by its position on an acre of hundred-year-old oak trees. It looked small from the outside but since it was empty, we stole views of the inside from each window. We walked around the circumference of the building, creating an image of the layout in our minds, based on the visual information we were gathering. It seemed perfect! We made an offer that was accepted and relented on trying to salvage money from our townhome and sold it for a low number. We were scheduled to move Labor Day weekend, in time for Francis to start a new school at the beginning of the year.

Our new house was perfect and there was so. much. room. Francis started 7th grade and we found a preschool for 3 & 4 year old’s that Sara could attend that fall. Our settlement date wasn’t actually scheduled until mid-September but the owners allowed us to ‘rent back’ from them for two weeks so the kids could enroll in school. It was a dream come true for me. We had a house in the country (on a cul-de-sac in a tiny neighborhood) and children in the rooms. I walked from room to room, relishing in the fact that there was space for all of us, playroom, bathrooms, laundry, kitchen and dining rooms… I saw us here. I imagined our first Christmas tree, birthday parties, and social events. I was filled with excitement for everything to come. My dream of love and family had come true. It wasn’t perfect but it was mine and I allowed myself to be happy.

I’ve been remiss in omitting memories of a very important friendship that I developed shortly after marrying Hubby. Michele was the mom of another boy who was a classmate with Francis and very graciously agreed to keep him while Hubby and I honeymooned in Spain. Afterward, we formed a great bond, forged on our sons, our time as single mothers, and our new relationships with men who loved – or at least accepted our children. Shortly after I married Hubby, she also remarried. When I discovered I was preggo with Erin, she announced she was also expecting; our due dates were a week apart. She delivered 6 weeks early but now we each had three children – two of whom where the same age – and our husbands, although NOT the same age, had the same birthday. It seemed destined for us to be allies. We talked almost every day. In many ways she was my barometer of normal. She was clearly my sounding board and allowed me to vent on any subject at any time. I’m not sure I would have survived the life I lived without her.

In any regard, our move happened with the whole of Hubby’s family as helpers. They showed up ‘en mass’ to assist in unpacking and to satisfy their curiosity about our new digs. It was such a great home for family, for big families to gather. The house stood on an entire acre, tucked in at 1:00 on a circle at the end of a small street. There were only six neighbors and we didn’t meet them all at once, rather one at a time although no one was really similar to us in age or station. No matter, it was such a far cry from the crowded, noisy, and unsettled part of the city we came from that the absence of sound was its own music to our ears.

When the contract to the house was accepted, Hubby darted to the home improvement store and purchased a chain saw. It was a boy toy by any definition but in fact, it was logical for the acre of trees that we had acquired. The day his family arrived seemed to be a good day to demonstrate that toy even though we didn’t exactly OWN the house (or the trees) quite yet. There was one – out by the sandbox – that was overshadowed by larger trees, unable to thrive in its location and sure to be a problem as time went by and so – they (Hubby and the brothers) decided that tree needed to be removed.

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with Hubby’s tree removal knowledge, as far as I knew it was extremely limited. There were no ladders, no ropes, no professionals. I corralled all the women and children into the house for prosperity sake as the men fired up the chain saw and pumped their biceps. The testosterone level was almost measurable as the sound of the saw meeting the tree permeated the house in a noticeable tone. And then… the sound changed. In less time than it took my heart to engage a single beat there was an audible “oh shit” and a tree came crashing over the roof to expose its crown against the window of our new dining room. Suddenly, we noticed an absence of sound. I ran outside to see this ‘little’ tree (about 6 inches in diameter and 25 feet tall) laying across the roof of our new home. Nothing appeared broken or significantly damaged thankfully. My heart was sitting in my throat and something was trying to pass through my vocal chords but it wouldn’t move. I wanted to laugh and part of me was attempting to cry – everything was fine but it scared me. It took some time for me to understand that I was reacting to the ‘accidental’ nature of this event. That something dangerous was happening and the outcome could have been disastrous. It was a chain saw and a little tree but it was a big deal for me. I didn’t communicate this message, instead I was bitchy about doing something irresponsibly before we actually owned the property – about taking unnecessary risks.

It was a trigger I didn’t realize I had.