“It’s OK to not be OK.”
As we continue in our journey of learning to be OK when others are not OK, let’s take a closer look at Sandy. Specifically, why she became so reactive and what she and
Bill can do differently next time so there is less relational damage.
While Sandy may have never connected the dots in her own mind, the reactivity she exhibited at Bill’s withdrawal had been a reactive pattern in her life for a long time. It is likely that this panicky response is all she’s never known… so to her it’s normal. Remember the book title from some time ago; “Normal” is a setting on your dryer!” Her reaction, while common, is not within an acceptable range that promotes healthy relationships.
Simply stated, Sandy became triggered as Bill “separated” from her. Separation sensitivity is common to Pleasers and Vacillators who are proximity seekers. With abandonment or intermittent connection in their early childhoods, they long for adult relationships to be consistently, close and predictable. Here they feel safe. If a primary attachment figure like Bill drifts away, averts their gaze or fails to give the proper attention, old fears rush to the surface and their brains become flooded with a hail storm of unpleasant emotions. When this happens, the left brain shuts down resulting in a loss of logic, lucidity and language. At this moment a frightened little child is driving the bus and a collision is inevitable.
With the right education, Sandy can begin to learn more about herself and her negative reactivity patterns which repeat themselves over and over again. When triggered, Sandy needs to become aware of what is happening within her mind, tell herself, and Bill, she is getting triggered by his withdrawal and ask him for help to regulate the impending stampede. If she is unsuccessful and displays anger (which is common when we are learning something new) Bill should say, “You look agitated and alarmed! Something must have triggered you. What do you think happened?”
When couples learn their triggers and how to manage them more healthfully, any couple can learn to be less reactive thus making it possible to be OK when others are not OK.
More next week.
Thanks for listening,