How many times have we been hurt by something; an emotional barb skewered straight through our heart? It happens to all of us. It happens a lot. The more we have to do with people, the more likely it is that someone will say something that hurts our feelings, or offends us or upsets us.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” - C.S Lewis
As C.S Lewis says, to love is to be vulnerable and unless you’re going to avoid all contact with everyone and everything you’re basically asking for it.
The trick is not in the avoidance of pain, but in what you do with that pain. Brené Brown talks about how it is our own ‘stuff’ that is the root cause of most of the pain we experience in relationships. She talks about how we tell ourselves a story - something happens, even small or practically insignificant and we are so quick to draw our conclusions, our own narratives about what this means. However, the danger is that we often don’t investigate the legitimacy of these ‘stories’. We jump to conclusions and fabricate the middle bits. Brené says that we are neurologically hardwired to make these stories and furthermore we are given a biochemical hit for coming up with it quickly - regardless of its truth or without investigating its legitimacy.
To put it more plainly, someone might do something as simple as sighing and we instantly use our imagination to tell ourselves what we believe that is about 'she just sighed because she actually hates me, I’m boring, that went so badly and now everything is ruined’. We buy this story from ourselves and not only does it affect our own interpretation of the current situation, it has a knock on effect on those we encounter for the rest of the day AND our future encounters with that person. I know it’s happened with me; I have taken offence to something my husband has said and then my son asks for a milo and I say “No. You can clean your room first - I’m sick of having to tell you a thousand times to clean your room”. If it wasn’t for the interaction with my husband five minutes earlier my response might have been “Yes, after you clean your room…” but instead of processing that hurt, I’m projecting it onto the next person. I don’t really want to do that so it’s imperative I learn how to take a minute to see what my problem really is. Brené says it’s important that we actually take the time to notice the narratives we have on repeat. The stories we repeatedly tell ourselves about our own self worth, about how people see us and the stories that unmask our own particular inner narratives.
Being able to clarify, to have uncomfortable conversations and investigate the truth in our narratives is a key element in ‘rising strong’. We must be able to first recognise that we have been triggered and secondly investigate the story we are selling ourselves about it. Asking ourselves ‘What are the actual facts here? What do I need to know to find out the whole picture? What is missing? What am I just making up?” will be a key factor in being able to have our future stories become healthier and our relationships based more on reality than our own projection of our insecurities and inner shame. For me this could be a game changer. My inner narratives have always included “I’m not good enough” and then I’m prickly around anything that says I’m not appreciated or I’m taken for granted, and I instantly go from zero to a hundred when someone challenges me on how much I care or how much what I do matters. I try really hard so to have that unnoticed can really hurt me quite easily. In changing my own narrative around that and placing my own importance and value on wha I do I am not so tied up in the opinions of others, and thus I am less easily triggered. #stillworkingonit
Have you ever noticed your narrative? See if you can catch yourself the next time someone says something and you feel a reaction taking place. Ask yourself what meaning you’re attaching to it and what that means to you personally. See if you can identify a pattern. Perhaps you need to identify the stories you are already telling in order to start telling a new one.