There are times in our life where simply put we “must be right.” What I mean by this is that compromise is not an option, we have something to prove, and that our sense of self is on the line. In these moments, it takes a human amount of strength to pull back and realize that perhaps… just maybe there is something deeper going on.
Let’s look at an example with a client. A lovely young woman describes her utter horror of the idea that her ex might show up to a party with another woman (read: woman the ex had an affair with). The client explains in no uncertain terms that she would cause a scene if this happened. She knows that she feels betrayed because her ex was bringing someone else to a party and that is totally unacceptable.
From the outside this looks somewhat silly. The ex is allowed to bring whomever he wants even if it is someone she doesn’t like. The client is not stupid, she knows that this angry reaction doesn’t match what it is she wants to portray. She wants to come across as calm, rational, and adult enough to handle the situation even if internally she is raging with fury. However, what is happening is deeper.
Her natural response to make it clear to the rest of the world that she has been betrayed and will not stand for being treated poorly again. This response is anchored to the abuse that she suffered as a child. The client feels, rightly so, that she must shout out to the world (in this case a party of mutual friends) that she was hurt and will not allow for more emotional injury to occur. From the 5 year old victim inside her, standing up for herself is a beautiful and powerful step to take in her moving along in her life.
The problem comes in that this reckoning is about something that happened long ago and not the present situation. She wants to protect the little girl that was not protected so many years ago. She has the right but it is manifesting itself in a place that doesn’t help her heal or move forward.
So what is a person to do when they cross-apply pain from the past into current situations? Well, it isn’t easy but looking at what is real, what your triggers are, getting support from friends, talking through scenarios and differing approaches, all the while allowing yourself the real feelings you have are all important to consider. This is not about dampening the emotions, it is about dealing with the event in as calm a way as possible and then removing yourself from the situation to process what is happening to you.
Once you know your hot spots, triggers, or what I call “justice issues” it becomes easier to see that they may not apply to all the situations that you feel a slight. You can set up a plan of attack for dealing with those concerns, explore the deeper feelings and meanings behind them, and begin then to change your patterns.
Again, this is not an easy process. However taking control of your life rather than being reactive to it will drastically change your view of yourself and those around you. You can handle your emotions even if they are intense it just takes a bit of effort to look more fully into what is going on that creates them.