Part 2: Finding a Different Way

Pixabay: 947051. Free for commercial use; No attribution required

I want to prepare meals with Bubba without getting defensive and having a tiff. But what if defensive is ok?

Bubba and I have relationship patterns that sometimes scuff up against each other. It can result in momentary relationship glitches. Or derail a day.

Some are random and rare; others, predictable and more frequent.

In A Wretched Mess, I wrote about a common kitchen scuffle we experience: Bubba offers to help me cook, and I resist it, experiencing his help not as help, but as a statement I’m doing it wrong.

Bubba wants to enjoy making meals with me. My getting snippy takes away the fun, so he leaves the kitchen, usually with disapproval.  His leaving means we’re not doing it together, plus we’re both upset. It all feels crappy.

Bubba and I tried to figure out what was going on so we could stop it. That was our goal: stop my reaction from happening.  We tried. Many times; many ways.

I want to be candid: we failed.

And I’m embracing that failure, because in failure, I’m accepting reality.

The reality is, stopping is never going to happen.

I am always going to have a reaction.  It’s my physiology.

I brake for animals and pull my hand away from a hot stove. I don’t tell myself I need to stop doing that. After reacting, I catch my breath from the shock of the moment and—assuming no burns or dead dogs—I move on. I don’t torture myself for my physiological response.

I accept my physiology. As it is.

It’s the choice I make after braking or pulling away that’s relevant. If I swear at others or embrace guilt or drench myself with self-criticism—that was stupid to brake—I suffer.

When Bubba does something in the kitchen that triggers my physiological reaction, my response is what it is. It’s not good or bad. And if it’s neither good nor bad, I don’t have to exert energy trying to change or eliminate it. I can simply note and accept the feeling; not just acknowledge it to myself, but also out loud to Bubba.

Hey, I suddenly feel activated; I don’t know why. But if you’re picking up energy, you’re right. It’s there.

There’s something powerful about acknowledging reality as it is. It keeps us from falling into a state of cognitive dissonance, that feeling that comes when someone says everything’s fine as they slam the door in your face.

Bubba gets alarmed when I act as if I’m not reacting—plastic smile—or when I chirpily deny my reaction.

When, however, I tell Bubba I’m having a reaction, he actually feels better; it reassures him that his experience of reality isn’t crazy.  The floor beneath him stays solid.

I accept what is without finding me wrong. Bubba accepts what is without finding me wrong.

In this space of accepting what is, self-criticism seems less likely to arise; if I’m not doing anything wrong, what is there to criticize? And when it does arise, it has less power and authority than when I deny my physiological reaction.

Tension isn’t completely gone, but acceptance opens up space. Space in which we can see both the reaction and the reaction-to-the-reaction, as two separate things.

In that space, it’s possible to interrupt our automatic patterns; to potentially avoid  pushing the same old buttons.

My reaction isn’t a flaw that needs to be fixed. It’s something I can meet with acceptance.

 

Continued from Part 1: A Wretched Mess

 

Photo source: 947051 on Pixabay


 

10 thoughts on “Part 2: Finding a Different Way

  1. How does Bubba accept your reaction? If you both acknowledge your reaction, that means something IS wrong. Does that not bring you back to the start where you get agitated with him and him getting upset about trying to help you and getting his head bitten off?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I asked him.

      He prefers my telling him I’m feeling anxious to my pretending I don’t. Because he can (usually correctly) feel my anxiety, my telling him I’m NOT anxious makes him question his ability to assess the situation, which makes him anxious. When I tell him I’m anxious, that’s consistent with what he senses; that reassures him. Because of that, he’s less likely to react negatively to my anxiety.

      In other words, you commented that we go back to the start where he gets “upset” about my anxiety. In fact, my acknowledging my anxiety eliminates/reduces the liklihood he’ll get upset, and his not getting upset reduces the liklihood I’ll continue to feel anxious/bite his head off.

      Not easy to explain, but…it works for us!

      Thanks for your question.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your reasoning. I also find my reactions to be so automatic that I despair of avoiding them. He has learned to not take it personally and not escalate. By refusing to engage in an exchange, I get room to breathe and think and things get back on track. Part of it is that he is a “quick” thinker and I am a “slow” thinker. This causes dissonance in our relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The “not taking it personally” concept, when I can apply it, often helps me in these situations tooI figure you know about Don Miguel Ruiz and his book The Four Agreements? Not taking it personally is one of the agreements.

      Cool for you guys to have successfully navigated similar stuff to what I wrote about. Those automatic ones are frustrating. And, yes, I also felt despair. For me, approaching it with acceptance, counteracts the despair.

      I’ll pay more attention to the concepts of “quick” and “slow” thinking. I’ve heard some stuff, but haven’t dug into it.

      Thanks for offering that. And for sharing your own experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Meditation Quote: Freedom of Mind – Walk the Goats

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