I was listening to a fantastic audiobook yesterday and the author, Steve Chandler, was speaking (writing) about the power of your mind. He discussed the “17 Lies That Are Holding You Back”.
Chandler writes about the idea that whether you see a stick that looks like a snake or you see an actual snake, it actually makes no difference. In both cases your mind does the same. It is a flight response and your body will jump. Even if you really are only looking at a stick, your mind-body-reaction will be the same. He rightly says “perception is reality”.
The reason for this is that our mind is constantly active in interpreting the sounds, smells and sights around us. We are a meaning making machine.
While I was listening to this audiobook and Chandler’s voice I thought, these same principles can be applied to our relationships.
When your spouse says something to you, you are left trying to make meaning out of their words.
Now listen to this: If you only think their words are a criticism or if they are actually trying to criticise you – you will react the same. It makes no difference to your reaction.
If you just think your spouse is scolding you, or whether their intent is to scold you, you will react in the same way. It is like your body jumps, the same reaction as the sight of a stick or snake.
Your perception becomes your reality and that in turn, forms your reaction.
And herein lies a big danger in every relationship. A harmless comment can escalate into a big argument, just because you thought your spouse was mean to you.
A classic example
He comes home from work and looks into the pot simmering on the stove. He asks “what are the green bits in there?”
And her reaction, because she thinks he wants to criticise her and she is already stressed about something else, is: “If you don’t like what I am cooking, why don’t you go home to your mum!”
You can imagine how the rest of the evening could hypothetically turn out.
What you could do
The challenge is that you can’t stop your brain from reacting with fight or flight. It is in our genetics. You may think some comments are an attack and you react accordingly either running away (slamming doors in your wake) or hold against it and a nasty argument ensues.
How about you stop right there and take a deep breath and run the comment you just heard through a filter of Love and Understanding?
Try to understand where your partner is coming from. Are they stressed from their job, children or financial issues? Has anything happened during the day that might have upset them?
And first and foremost, assume that their comment is based on love.
If he wants to know what the greens in the simmering pan are – just tell him: beans or broccoli. He does not want to criticise your cooking, he just wants to know.
And if she wants to know why you haven’t booked the holiday destination yet – just tell her: you haven’t had the time to do so. You could even try thanking her for the reminder. This approach could change the trajectory of the conversation, perhaps even leading to whether it would be better that she offers her input – no harm done.
If you filter these comments through Love and Understanding and give your brain a moment longer than you usually would to process the meaning behind what was said, you will be able to respond better than just with the fight or flight mode.
I am more than happy to support you in quietening down your meaning making machine.
Just organise a free call so that we can have a chat.
And if you want to know more about the 17 Lies That Are Holding You Back, check out Steve Chandler – it’s a great read or audiobook.