I used to be a pretty reactive person. I could go from calm to crazed in about two seconds and I was fierce. If I didn’t like what my husband was saying or doing, I would let him know with no regard for his feelings. Biting my tongue was never an option. Being right and being heard seemed necessary for my ego. It was too uncomfortable to recognize this part of myself, so I just focused on the parts about me that I liked and talked myself into believing that I didn’t need to be accountable for my reactive behavior.
Recognizing the Reactive Force Within
“Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in in others.” -Etty Hillesum
It’s really hard for me to be accountable for the parts of my personality that are reactive. Letting in constructive criticism is not one of my favorite practices. For years, I was not really hearing my husband the way he needed. What I was hearing him say, was that I was mean and unapproachable. Too hurt to care about understanding his feelings more in depth, I ignored his complaints. What he was really saying was that he didn’t know how to bring up the things about me that were hurting him. I was quick to react from a place of negative emotion without any thought to his feelings.
My Reactive Behavior is about Me, not about You
“How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours.” -Wayne Dyer
Our external reactions have everything to do with what is happening internally for us. We could be reacting from something we haven’t resolved yet, something we are still healing from, or something we need to let go of. My constant reactions to my own fears and struggles gave my husband the feeling that he could never make me happy or do anything right. Looking back, I can see how he would feel this way. I never really shared my struggles or internal world with him the way I could have. I marched up the mountain at my own pace and didn’t pause to look back. It appeared like I didn’t need any help or support. And when I was feeling fearful or nervous, I never really knew how to verbalize it.
Communication is Critical
“True communication goes beyond talking and listening; it’s about understanding.” -Gerald Campbell
I have not been the best about communicating with my husband about what goes on in my heart. Some days I feel like an emotional roller coaster on the inside and I have to own that. Therefore, letting my husband know where I am emotionally is critical to our relationship. If I’m having a bad day, I have to communicate that. If I’m tired or overwhelmed, I have to speak up, otherwise I will react from that place and it’s not fair to him.
Breathe and Respond
“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” -Rumi
It’s so easy to react to all of the emotions swirling around inside of us. I want to get better at responding to what is actually happening in the moment. Listening to my husband, and understanding how he is feeling, is what is important in the moment. I have to pause and breathe. My husband is on my side. As hard as it is to admit, life is not always about me.
Surrender to the Pain
“Breathe. You’re going to be okay. This pain you feel is going to pass. Maybe not this moment or today or tomorrow, but sometime soon. The hurt will fade. Don’t give up before things get better. You may be wounded, but you aren’t broken. You can and will heal.” -Unknown
I’ve had to really dig deep and sink into some serious self awareness. My reactionary behavior was a result of a lot of unhealed pain and trauma in my life. I’m learning to face my fears and feel the pain, instead of inflict it upon others. It is okay to listen and check in with my feelings and respond later. It is my responsibility to manage my own feelings and I can’t expect anyone else to do that. I have to own my story.