By Dr. Margaret Paul
March 16, 2009
How often have you become irritated or angry, given yourself up, started to argue or debate, teach or explain, or withdrew when someone was treating you badly - ordering you around, judging you, blaming you, or dumping their complaints or negativity on you? How often have you behaved in any of these protective, controlling ways when someone is unknowingly interrupting you when you are trying to focus on something or get something done? How do you end up feeling when you behave in any of these ways?
The chances are you end up feeling angry, hurt, anxious, depressed, or numbed out. It is easy to believe that these feelings are coming from the other person's behavior toward you, but this is not the case. Your unhappy feelings are coming from not taking loving care of yourself.
For example, Madison consulted with me because she was feeling depressed. She and Andrew had been married for 12 years. She loved Andrew and felt that they had a deep soul connection. Yet she was often unhappy around him.
"Andrew can be very critical. As soon as something doesn't go his way, he tends to take it out on me, finding some way to blame me for the situation. If I interrupt him at something, he gets extremely annoyed, but if I just get a little annoyed when he interrupts me, like he does lots of times when we are together in the evening and I'm writing in my journal, he gets really angry."
"How do you generally handle these situations?" I asked her.
"I've tried different things. Sometimes I try to get him to see what he is doing. Sometimes I just get quiet, and sometime I try to pacify him."
"How do you feel when you do these things?"
"Lousy. If I say anything it often leads to an argument, and if I don't I end up feeling badly. It seems like a no-win to me."
"Madison, when Andrew is critical or interrupts you when you are writing in your journal, how long does it take you before you realize that it is bothering you?"
"I realize it right away, but most of the time I don't do anything about it. I guess I hope that he will just stop if I don't respond. But he doesn’t seem to get the hint - he just goes right on being critical or talking at me."
"So by the time you say anything, you are irritated, is that right?"
"And then he reacts to your irritation?"
"Yes, and gets mad."
"What do you think would happen if you attended to your feelings and immediately said something, before you were irritated?"
"I think that would be much better. The few times I've done that, Andrew reacts well. When I'm able to say something like, "Honey, can you hold on a sec? I'm in the middle of something," he is fine."
"What do you think stops you from speaking your truth right away, so that you can say it without blame or judgment?"
"I think I'm not caring enough about how I feel. I'm immediately aware when I don't like something, but somehow I seem to discount my feelings until I'm irritated."
Madison decided to stop discounting her feelings and to practice speaking her truth immediately. She found that when she spoke her truth right away, she could do it without blame or judgment. Things between her and Andrew dramatically improved. Madison was surprised to discover that she had been being just as critical as Andrew. Once she started to speak up for herself from her loving Adult self rather than from her ego wounded self, her depression went away.
SharonPearson - Anderson - 04/04/2009 05:37 AM
This principle of backing up the time lapse as a means of peace has been so important to me... and I want to share that it really helps in dealing with children too. To respond to a need or a challenge BEFORE we get too far gone to be loving is LOVE! Blessings upon all of us as we learn to respond in the moment to be loving to the one feeling on the inside-- and then of course, on the outside!
Dr.Margaret - Berthoud - 04/04/2009 07:40 AM
Thanks Sharon. It is so empowering to be able to speak up in the moment. While it takes lots of practice, it is so worth the time it take to become conscious of ourselves in the moment!
Serenity - Ottawa - 07/22/2016 03:30 PM
I know this is an old thread but I am continuously reliving this pattern. Shutting up till I just can't take it anymore and then I leave. I have just left yet another relationship because after almost a year, I felt I couldn't address any of the issues that bothered me. They end up piling so high, I feel depressed and hopeless and then run away. Onlly to shake the 'etch a sketch' and repeat all of this again with a new man, new face. I'm so fed up with myself. I was SO hopeful about the last relationship. And yet I did it all again and now I find myself regretting leaving so much but he won't talk to me anymore. I left him twice alrady and he no longer trusts me. I'm so sad and disappointed in myself. I will never know if we could have ever worked through anything.
Dr.Margaret - Berthoud - 07/22/2016 04:30 PM
Serenity, instead of judging yourself, it would be helpful is you are kind and compassionate with yourself and explore more deeply what is stopping you from speaking up with an intent to learn from the very beginning of the relationship.
suziqzee - Charlotte - 10/24/2018 05:55 AM
Very helpful article that dovetails exactly with my post today on the Forum.
What do we do when people we love spiral into WS and the only conversation available is their pulling, their WS ruminations/blaming/anger? I've avoided seeing my two dear friends since their divorce and demonizing of each other. But even by email, this WS debris keeps floating my way... until I got so fed up that I told my friend Emily a truth she didn't wish to hear and likely damaged our friendship.
But it was already damaged by my now finding her company intolerable.
I wish I could shake her and Dave and say, "snap out of it." I spoke up with Dave the very first time he tried to complain about Emily, and told him I saw this as a dynamic, not one person right and the other wrong. He never spoke to me again.
Serenity - Ottawa - 10/24/2018 06:55 AM
Oh Suzi ... that sucks. It really is a dynamic, a dance between two. It is hard and painful to look at our part of the dance though sometimes isn't it?
I wrote in to Dr. M for Advice yesterday and she sent this link to read. And here I find myself in the thread .. saying the same thing in July/2016. This article was as powerful to me today as it was then .. EXCEPT .. I see that I am STILL doing the same thing. Because I didn't change my own behavior, that relationship ended and I started another and did THE EXACT SAME THING. Re-reading my own comments is really hitting home.
I really really needed to read all of this again today. Except for this time, I really am making changes thankfully.
Serenity - Ottawa - 10/24/2018 07:00 AM
Dr. M asked me to explore what is stopping me from speaking up .... so with a bit more awareness this time ... this is what stops me:
-I'm terrified of the others reactions (I'm afraid of violence, rejection, yelling and screaming)
-I don't want the relationship to end
-I don't trust myself and my feelings to know what is right for me (as in, I'm making a bit deal out of nothing, if I was nicer it wouldn't bother me)
suziqzee - Charlotte - 10/24/2018 07:37 AM
Serenity. thank you for sharing. I think all of us on IBV find what you have found-- profound insight doesn't translate into immediately different behavior. We have been hard wired one way and it's sloooow moving to rewire the brain.
Looking back, I bet you do see some progress since 2016? for ex, how you handled your pharmacist friend recently and your job situation?
Well-- Dave has withdrawn from our friendship but Emily did think this over and write me back, telling me she is glad I challenged her and will mull this over. She also is going to let me shift the subject when she is in obsessive rumination. So there-- I told my truth and salvaged a valuable friendship, rather than losing it because I just couldn't take her negativity any longer.
It feels like if I build on this, ie keep speaking my truth pleasantly and with love and find it actually improves the relationship, I might get more comfortable with it. Do you think the same?
Serenity - Ottawa - 10/24/2018 08:02 AM
You are so right! I guess I have started to make some changes. Slowly but surely. Those reasons for not speaking up are still VERY powerful for me .. I find them so hard and painful to bear but I'm taking (almost) every opportunity that comes up to practice. I let one slide yesterday and found myself feeling resentful and angry ... I knew right away that I did something to 'get along' .. but felt the resentment immediately. I am happy with my progress so far, so I have to accept that I won't always do it perfectly.
Good news about your friend Emily though. Losing friends is heartbreaking when they mean a lot to you. Dr. M says we have to be willing to lose others, and not ourselves. So a powerful message you sent to yourself as well as them. :-)
Serenity - Ottawa - 10/24/2018 08:04 AM
OH .. and I definitely thing as we do it more and more, with love ... it will either improve the relationship .. or end it. Both of which are what is really in our highest good anyhow.
suziqzee - Charlotte - 10/24/2018 08:28 AM
I can't thank you, Serenity, and Dr M and IBV enough. This kind of daily discussion is what I need to slowly rewire my brain. It's worth the effort, isn't it?
Serenity - Ottawa - 10/24/2018 02:13 PM
Very difficult but 100% worth it!
suziqzee - Charlotte - 10/29/2018 10:06 AM
Serenity, I lost a friendship recently after telling her the truth that I didn't care for the company of her closest friends. I was feeling ill after being in their company-- mean people whose only convo is vicious gossip. I said I'd be fine going to parties at her home if they were there, but getting together in a small gathering for dinner with these women or going away for a weekend with them wasn't appealing. She took it well and said she understood.
However, she has dropped out of my life since then. Nancy is terrified of these toxic women and told me she didn't want to create conflict with them. I guess having to say she had plan with me and they weren't welcome to join felt too much for her. She does not pick up the phone, has been unavailable for all invitations so i have taken the hint.
I've had some pain about that but overall my IC is so glad I spoke up for myself.
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