While co-creating a programme to detox relationships last year, our group committed to record instances where we reacted with resistance to experiences or interactions, including negative thoughts about ourselves. We took this approach from a couple of great books by the Arbinger Institute which had informed our leadership journey:
The Anatomy of Peace and Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.
Some of the benefits of this little exercise might be just what you need if you struggle with being more reactive than usual under the constrained life we have all been leading for almost a year now.
Here’s what I experienced in just a few weeks of doing this exercise and regularly checking in with my partner around our triggers and reactions:
I became more conscious of the situations and behaviours which habitually trigger me.
And I became more conscious of the thought patterns and emotions which sparked my resistance.
So if you are more edgy than is healthy for your relationships, if you eat or drink more than is good for your health, or if you simply want to live a more conscious life, then the practice I will share at the end of this blog might be just for you.
But let’s first get back to the benefits of doing this with a small group: Beyond the increased self-awareness and intimacy in my relationship by way of sharing what we usually keep to ourselves, the sharing in our little group of five was a transformational experience. When everyone disclosed their patterns, some of which we were ashamed of, we noticed so many similarities below the surface of difference.
Shared humanity is liberating and takes relationships to deeper levels, because it creates compassion and empathy.
That’s why we extended the originally planned one week into a month of noticing and sharing.
But even doing it on your own can be transformative.
Here’s the benefit I noticed: Coming with curiosity and an explorer’s mind created a shift in our experiences. The pause between a thought or emotion and our reactions expanded. Our sense of agency increased. We were more often able to choose our responses to our triggers.
I personally started asking more often for what I need instead of getting irritated about things that only I knew bothered me.
You can take toxicity out of your relationships with this simple practice of noticing your reactions.
And it also works if you have a tendency of self-shaming, i.e. a toxic relationship to yourself.
Are you up for the experiment?
Then at the end of the day, go back to situations which triggered you, taking notes on the following questions:
How did I react?
What thoughts and emotions led to this reaction?
How did I get out of it?
What underlying beliefs am I becoming aware of?
I will start building my self-awareness muscle again today. Will you join me?