Making up stories

When people interact in a way that precipitates a negative response in us, the most common coping strategy is to create a story for ourselves which somehow explains their behaviour.

The story appears to be helpful because it gives us some semblance of control. Of course, the control isn’t real. The story too, then influences our next interaction, usually not in a good way.

The problem is – everything is happening in our own heads. And I certainly know that for me, my reactions and interpretations of what is actually happening is decidedly diminished when I am feeling threatened or belittled. So the very story that I have made up is substantially less reliable than normal precisely because I am battling feelings of rejection.

It is an urge that is almost impossible to resist. The only way out of it is truth-telling and vulnerability. When you can do that, the storm passes remarkably quickly. Once the storm has passed you can get on to dealing with what is actually important.

Too often relationships are broken over issues that are almost inconsequential. When you find yourself reacting very strongly to something – ask yourself what is actually true. More often than not, we react strongly to things because we have an insecurity and the overreaction is a self-protection mechanism. If we can just tease out what belongs to me from what the other has actually done, we can then have a conversation with the one whom we perceive to have caused us harm. More often than not, the harm they caused is not intentional and the relationship can be restored.

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