I lost my temper — again.
The inner monologue goes something like this: “Holy shit! What did I just say?! I did it again…my loved one triggered something inside me and I lost my temper.”
Noooo, dear lover — you didn’t lose it. You couldn’t lose that fucker in a “Where’s Waldo” cartoon if you tried.
You tomahawked it at your loved one’s head — hard. You blew up like a bomb (again) and left shrieking shrapnel all over the goddamn living room. Bits of temporal blood, guts, and gore stuck everywhere. You can’t even see your loved one through all the dripping, gnarly words. It was an articulated attack of viciousness. Extra strength Pine-Sol won’t clean their pitted soul easily.
Self-recrimination sets in: “I’m such a loser. I’m an unlovable wart on the ass of an ass. They are for sure gonna leave me now…I just know it. I would leave me if I could. Why can’t I ever learn? FUCK!!! I hate myself. I’m the world’s worst partner…no, the worst partner in the universe! Yeah…I’m a total pile of doo-doo. I’m the kind of caca a coprophagic canine wouldn’t even consume on its most wretchedly, ravenous day.”
Well, dear lover, once you’ve wallowed sufficiently enough to be covered head to toe in a plethora of pity, you get to work on it. You lean into the flywheel and start that heavy shit moving. (Hard work and the patience of a demi-god is required.)
You get therapized, analyzed, and read every self-help book as fast as Amazon can get them to your overflowing mailbox (with Prime free delivery of course).
You try woo-woo energy work, ask for advice from your hairstylist, gossip and cry with your BFF, and pick up some interesting tools along the way that your parents forgot to teach you. (“Thanks, mom and dad – way to go…I’ll send you the bill from my $150/hour shrink!”)
You finally track that shitty reaction to its origin, back that little fucker into a corner pointing at it with a long, drawn-out “Youuuuuu….!” and then stab your finger into its chest as you emphatically tell it to “GO AWAY! Fuck off and die why don’t you?! Why the hell can’t I get over this shit once and for all?!!! GodDAMN IT! I’m TIRED.”
“…so damn tired.”
*Episode of existential exhaustion*
Alllll-riiiight dear lover…get back to work! Whining is for pussies and you want to be the arbiter of your own fate, dontcha?
Lean back into the flywheel and spin that great, psychological disk until your back is aching, your tears have run dry, and your palms and pits are wet with sweat. Trust me, lover, it’s worth the effort.
You will never feel so free as when that wheel begins to spin on its own and you finally have real control over your life. You’re gonna love it! Life will no longer happen to you…you get to create whatever reality you want. It FUCKIN’ ROCKS!!
*Shift to the present — your new reality*
Guess what? That trigger shit never goes away. Love never gets neat enough to put on a shelf, you don’t suddenly become the relationship guru dispensing penny advice to all and sundry and your past never stops interfering with your present.
*Choking sounds* “WHA-A-AT?! I thought it was gonna be easy after I leaned into that flywheel! I feel cheated!” you gasp.
Get over yourself. No matter what we do, as soon as we are triggered, our brain is so damn fast it will take us to the past in a split microsecond. (Who knew we were such amazing time travelers!?) All we can do is choose a different reaction.
We begin by learning to identify the onset of a rapid heartbeat, nausea in our gut, or the choking feeling in our throat which indicates a trigger is on its way up from the depths of our psyche. Bodies never lie, dear lover…never. This is our chance to choose an alternate response. It’s a message from our future selves, if we listen.
Learn to recognize those body signals and follow it up with two synchronized, learned actions. (Notice I said action — not REaction.)
First, and frankly, most important — ZIP IT. Just shut the fuck up for a moment. Whatever verbal vitriol you have bubbling behind your uvula can wait until you’ve had a chance to examine it and then, if you must, consciously choose whether or not to unleash the unholy harangue from hell upon your unsuspecting loved one.
Trust me, lover, a few seconds won’t make a bit of difference if you continue on your original anger track. It will do equal damage whether you decide to prematurely upchuck your past onto your present or if you choose to wait and, after a cursory examination, opt for eventual relational annihilation vis-a-vis your flapping jaws. The big difference is you are taking responsibility with the second choice.
Let’s assume for the moment that you (wisely) choose to take a breather and zip it. Second would be to acknowledge your trigger and then ask yourself this one important question as you are looking into the eyes of the one you love: “Who do I want to be right now?”
If your answer is, “A screaming, salivating orc from the pits of Mordor,” or “An arrogant, self-important know-it-all who is always right,” then, by all means, let ‘er rip and consequences be damned — again.
However, if you can look at your loved one and decide that you want to be someone who calmly, compassionately, maturely expresses how you feel about the trigger you just experienced at their unwitting hands, then you can choose to be just that.
It’s a choice, folks, and no — it’s not easy.
If you do your inner work, track your patterns, stories, sorrows, and pains back to their origins and wrap that kid in a huge, heartfelt hug, engage in primal scream therapy, or whatever else it is that floats your metaphysical boat — then you will have the beginnings of a practice of owning your shit and a chance to speak your truth like a rockstar.
Notice I said “practice.” No one is born knowing this stuff and practice is the path to sustainable behavior. More than anything, dear lover, be kind to yourself as you start down the road towards personal accountability. No one ever grows without failure. Think about it, if you’re in a heavenly state, why in the world would you change anything?! It is our screw-ups that create the opportunity for change.
So while you practice catching your body’s signals and your reactions, make sure you allow yourself to chuckle at your mistakes.
After all, laughter is the best medicine, dear lover!
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul.
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