We are emotional beings who can sometimes be rational.
Some of you might not agree with that statement, but it is true. When things happen that trigger our emotional side, we cease to be rational human beings anymore. We become our emotions and they define our actions. We become reactive, rather than responsive. It’s like our brains stop working.
Someone was bitchy, vicious, or wicked to you and you don’t understand why. Let me explain.
We all have defense mechanisms that kick in when we are triggered by something and those triggers are different for all of us. Most of the time those triggers land us in a place where we feel ashamed.
We are feeling unworthy. We are feeling incomplete. We are feeling imperfect. And we are feeling ashamed.
Our defense mechanisms kick in to protect us from that feeling.
If you were to look up “defense mechanisms” on the web, you would probably come up with a list of a dozen or more.
I am going to simplify things for you, instead, and share with you Brené Brown’s take on defense mechanisms, or as she calls them “shields.”
- We move away. This is when we run or escape from our true feelings. We hide out. We keep secrets. We pretend it didn’t happen. We bottle up.
- We move toward. This is when we people-please. We pretend that what was said or done didn’t bother us in the least, and we shimmy up to the person and try to look good in their eyes.
- We move against. This is when we take out the boxing gloves and go at them swinging. We don’t care if we go down too, but we are going to do whatever it takes to take them down. We want them to feel the same shame we do.
Does this sound familiar to you? Can you think of times when you have done any of these three? Depending on the context, I guarantee that you have done all three at some point in your life.
So has the person who hurt you.
When someone hurts us, it is probably not them doing the hurting, but their ego. There is shame lurking under the surface and they don’t know how to deal with it rationally, so one of their defense mechanisms kicks in and does it for them.
The put up a wall, they play the martyr, or they take you down verbally, or even physically.
Now, you have a choice. You can let their shame trigger your shame and your defense mechanisms, or you can open your heart and find some compassion.
And when I say compassion, I don’t mean acceptance. I am not saying for you to roll over and take it. I am saying to look at it from a wider perspective.
Their intent was to protect themselves and in doing so they did hurt you.
Sometimes we try to take down other people, so that we can feel better about ourselves. And most likely, we don’t even understand why we did what we did. That’s the problem with our ego--it reacts emotionally, not rationally.
So ask yourself these questions:
- Is something bigger going on that I don’t understand? Do I want or need to understand?
- Is this relationship important enough to me that I want to address this behavior with this person? How can I do so?
- How would I like them to behave in the future? Can I make a request of them?
- What consequences could I enforce if their behavior doesn’t change despite my request?
The fact of the matter is that hurting people hurt others.
Despite your hurt, you can break the cycle, but it takes awareness and courage.