"Inhale, then–yup, yup– HOLD it!"

When you’re in a situation with a fair amount of intractable conflict, it can be helpful to step back and see what you’re contributing to it. ‘Course, we always like to think there’s nothing WE’RE possibly doing wrong. After all, we live each day believing we’re doing our utmost, acting from of place of earnest intentions, trying not to do harm or be harmed.

But just like in a romantic relationship that’s not working, it’s always a two-way street when there are issues. One person might seem on the outside to be contributing to most of the problems by being aggressive, ornery and just generally a jerk, but —- ahhhh —- never underestimate the power of the passive-aggressive! They’re fighting their battles too, just less visibly….

So here’s my question for you. Are you getting a hit of energy off of being negative about your issues with the other woman?

Read this post on the Happiness Project for more insights on this idea

If you notice that you are, would you be willing to experiment with some different behavior, such as biting your tongue when you feel inclined to gossip or make the other person wrong?
Would you be willing to watch your own thoughts and behavior more closely so you can see what kind of energy you’re feeding into your mental hopper?

Can you be honest enough with yourself to see this dynamic at play?

No one likes seeing this stuff inside themselves… but when you do and you face it, suddenly, other possibilities reveal themselves. Irony in action!

Would love to hear about your experiences. Talk to us!!

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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  1. Rebecca Lincoln says:

    Hey, this is great. I just went to a 3 hour class about exploring our judgmental self. One of the things the facilitator said struck me as true. She said that she believes that we truly must be committed to stopping ourselves before we judge someone. If we truly commit ourselves to not judge, then we would have an evolutionary leap. I thought, you know, she might be right about that. What would our relationships be like, if we just stop judging each other? How might it change our relationships with our “other” mother?

  2. It is extremely uncomfortable to admit we personally contribute to a hostile, negative relationship. I am able to recognize when I get sucked into that trap, but my question becomes, how do you release or find an outlet for the anger that is healthy for everyone, including yourself? I freely admit to being angry in my situation, for many reasons, and I don’t see it ever changing for the better, because the current situation benefits others with a lack of responsibility.
    Even after an honest assessment of my feelings and actions, yes, I see some things that need to change, but I am left wondering what to do with the anger left in my hands.

  3. I once participated in a global, virtual, workshop on making connections. I agreed to notice when I was “connecting” with people by being negative, and to intentionally connect only by being positive. I was stunned how often I was negative in my attempts to connect. What I learned from the workshop was that I wasn’t really making a connection – I was getting into a negative feedback loop. I would say something negative, the person I was talking to would agree or tell their negative story, and we’d go back and forth propping ourselves up with martyrdom or self-indignation. I found that connecting through the positive was so much more satisfying.
    I’m not suggesting that we should be Pollyannaish about life and ignore our struggles and challenges. I am suggesting that I felt more hopeful when I saw myself and those around me as heroes rather than villains. I was able to move on faster when I looked at what my resources were rather than how someone else was holding me back.

  4. It can amaze me to see how my attitude can completely defuse a situation or turn it into something really ugly. I’ve really been learning that as a parent especially.

  5. Rebecca, yes, it does seem like making that decision, consciously, is one of the first steps. When we *decide* something in a concrete way, we usually set change in motion.
    Good rhetorical questions you’re asking!

  6. Smirking Cat, I know exactly what you mean! It’s one thing to *see* what we’re doing, however unhelpful it might be, but diffusing those negative feelings is another thing altogether. Sometimes it just seems hopeless.
    Here are some of the things that have worked for me: exercise (I read somewhere that simply raising your heartrate for a sustained period of time helps you cleanse negative emotions from your system), journaling, talking to a helpful friend (not someone who’s just going to egg you on and fuel your indignance), therapy, art, breathing into the feeling (look into mindful meditation or the work of John Welwood). Anything that gets the energy moving around and aimed in a different direction! Let us know what you try… and what gets results for you.

  7. Jonathan, I love this description of your experiences. Wow, talk about some acute awareness on your part – to see that actually *most* of what you were doing was based on self-protective behavior. How did you go from that, to something more connecting?
    Sometimes I’m amazed when I pay close attention to my own words and actions. How often am I coming from a place of guardedness (just in case!) or pre-emptive, but supposedly “cloaked” self-righteousness? 🙂

  8. Sarah, the cool thing about what you said is how simple and easy it is sometimes to just switch into a more positive place. Often, when you just notice you’re being irritable and impatient, it’s enough of a prompt to make you take a deep breath and switch tacks. I’ve seen you do that with your own kids, like helping them just slow down and breathe and I think it’s so cool. Wish I’d done that with mine, but now they’re more likely to just roll their eyes at me! Thanks for writing.

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