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Free to Be Your Best Self
Danielle’s ‘automatic response’ was pushing people away from her.
If someone innocently poked fun at Danielle, she immediately took it personally, as if the joker had a deep understanding of her flaws. She would lash out with cutting sarcasm, as if doing battle, because in her subconscious mind, she was doing battle.
That would typically make anyone else in the room uncomfortable, and walk on eggshells around her, which wasn't the outcome she wanted.
In her childhood, she was made fun of and belittled by her father. He wasn't exactly a reflective man, so didn't think about the impact his actions had on his daughter. He was doing a version of what he'd known as a child, carrying the legacy on. If he had ever examined his behavior, his thinking may have been, "well, it was what I grew up with and knew."
He was uncomfortable expressing love, so instead teased and belittled her. As a child, Danielle felt confused by him, not loved. So, her automatic response as an adult to being teased was 0-to-60 anger. Even though the person teasing her in the present had no such agenda, Danielle was responding to what happened in her past - not the present. It was her automatic response.
Looking at the origin of her response to being teased would free her to be able distinguish if someone was teasing her playfully, nothing more.
To separate the teasing of today from feelings of confusion and being unlovable as a child, we can look at what Terry Real calls "the adaptive child" versus the "wise adult."
We’ve seen how the “adaptive child” reacts, in a scripted way to the past. The “wise adult” in us can take a moment to distinguish, take a breath, and behave relationally in the present. We can notice there is no threat, but there is connection to expand upon, which enhances our relationships.
If you’d like to track your own automatic responses, keep a notepad with you, and note when you're in your "wise adult” and when you're in your "adaptive child,” and what you do when in one or the other.
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