Because managing that balance has an impact far more than it may seem.
In addition to impacting your health and immunity, stress lowers your emotional and psychological capacity.
Your capacity to perform well, to think clearly, and to handle pressure, conflict, and your hot buttons.
When we’re more prone to being reactive, our relationships usually suffer as a result.
That applies not only to you, but the others in your life as well.
We often wish we had lives and relationships free of conflicts. But that’s not realistic, nor does it necessarily serve us.
(At least in the case of healthy conflict. A major exception to this, of course, is physical or psychological abuse–in which case, leave immediately, cut off all contact, and get professional support.)
The biggest opportunities for growth aren’t in frictionless environments. They show up in these uncomfortable moments, with other people in our lives.
And with all the mounting pressures of a seemingly interminable pandemic, many have noticed people around them—or even themselves—seeming more on edge, or acting out more often.
When dealing with difficult people, or situations, the ideal objective is to remain as calm as possible. To remain in the adult functional state, which I’ve discussed here before. And to use NVC.
And the less rested and regulated your nervous system is, the harder these goals become…
You’re more prone to becoming upset, losing control of yourself, and moving from a state of independence to co-dependence…
Saying, “I got upset because of what YOU did,” and pointing the finger at them for pushing your buttons.
It’s easy to blame others when they act out, however irrational it may seem, and enact cycles of drama.
But the real inner work allows you to stay connected, calm, and compassionate, even when you’re stressed out.
There’s a metaphor in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy…
When a fish bites on a hook, they get dragged in random directions and have to keep fighting against the pull.
For a fish to swim safely in a lake, they don’t need to eliminate all the hooks from the water.
They just need to learn to recognize those hooks, and navigate around them.
The same goes for the hooks in our own lives.
Growth is about getting better at noticing triggers, and not letting them pull you in directions you don’t want to go…
Toward arguments, fights, or negativity.
When someone casts a hook in the water (often unconsciously) by doing something that appears disrespectful or hurtful, you’re not justified in biting and getting angry as a result. That only ends up making you wrong as well.
Think about it: You are having a good day. Someone says or does something, and it ruins your day or your mood. Do you want your emotions to be completely dependent on someone else’s behavior? That sounds like a horrible way to live.
In the space between stimulus and response, there’s always a choice.
The deciding factor in whether or not you get upset, or bite, is whether or not you take it personally.
What allows us to remain non-reactive is having empathy for others.
Which means holding space for their perspective, and seeing the vast invisible background of details behind their current emotions or actions.
And what supports our capacity for empathy is that skill of not taking things personally.
Because most of the time it’s not about you–even when someone is trying to make it about you!
If your reflex is to blame, or make words and situations about you, you’re not able to see another clearly, and feel for their position.
You’re swimming through life biting on every hook you find, and holding the fisher at fault.
But when you step back and observe, you stop wasting energy in feeding unnecessary conflict, which inevitably tarnishes, or breaks, our connections.
And you realize that: Everybody is right – from their own point of view. Maybe not yours, but theirs. And if you can let go of defending yourself or being understood… and instead understand their point of view, the tense energy often immediately dissipates, like magic.
One of the most useful perspectives I’ve gained from years of personal development is seeing everything as a lesson…
In this paradigm, every conflict, challenge, and upset becomes a teacher, which you can ask, “What’s the message? What am I supposed to learn?”
When I watch a hook lowering, asking myself these questions creates more space.
It’s as if the moment slows to bullet time in the Matrix, and I’m more able to carefully choose how to respond.
If I choose compassionate awareness, I’m rewarded with harmony, and retaining focus for creative work.
Stay tuned for next weeks post!