Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Emotional Flashbacks

Visualize the following: You're out to dinner with your partner. The ambiance is warm and inviting, the food is delicious, the company charming. The meal ends and you both walk out of the restaurant arm in arm, laughing and talking. Abruptly the conversation changes and you find yourself in the midst of an argument. What happened?

When we enter into relationships we don't arrive empty handed. We bring to the table both expectations and baggage. Expectations come to us during our childhood. We observe the interactions of our family of origin. We watch as our caretakers address conflict and resolution in their relationship. We watch as our siblings react to one another. If our family of origin is dysfunctional, they may not interact appropriately with each other or their environment. We may be too young to understand that we are being given misinformation about personal interactions.

As we become older and widen our field of interpersonal relationships, we learn through experience how those outside our family of origin behave. We may not initially understand the differences between these two groups and may suffer emotional distress as a result of our lack of experience. Over many years we may accumulate a collection of wounds due to our inability to properly decipher our environment. As time passes some of the deeper wounds may become triggers, areas where we are especially sensitive and harbor strong feelings of shame or fear. Triggers bring back old emotionally charged feelings from past suffering, making it difficult for us to interpret today's actions appropriately. We may feel as if a new person is perpetrating the same deed as has happened before. This is what we term, baggage.

How do we cope in a new relationship when we have both expectations and baggage? We must become aware of ourselves. We must decide to investigate our inner being, to look into our motivations and examine our beliefs. This takes time and effort. We embark on this journey to give ourselves the gift of knowledge... knowledge of ourselves. We uncover our fears and shame and look at them squarely without self deception. When we do this, we enable ourselves to accept our inner being as we are, with all our flaws and defense mechanisms. Through using our tools and practicing self care along this journey, we give ourselves the gift of acceptance.

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