It’s just one of those things that is easier said than done. We know it’s a healthier way to approach relationships and to be able to have important conversations, so why do we sometimes react emotionally? And how can we begin to do it differently?
What we do know is that our brains are wired for survival, and if we have enough early experiences where the moment didn’t feel emotionally safe. Therefore, we become defensive, protecting ourselves from the fear that our self-concept is what is being attacked, even when it may not be. Our brains work with categories, and we can be triggered by anything, say, that sounds like a criticism.
The other culprit is self-esteem. If ours has been hammered over the years, we become very sensitive to the idea of not being, well, perfect…even if rationally we know better. So, here comes defensiveness to the rescue, telling the other “No that’s not true!” instead of truly listening to what they are trying to say. It may very well be true, or maybe we just need to tweak some behaviors or apologize for being human and forgetful.
So, understanding the deeper clinical reasons is very useful because there needs to be healing done there via coaching or therapy. Then, to change the existing default reactions, we need to simply focus and practice, and get closer and closer to actually being more detached in the moment so we don’t react. So we can separate out what others feel about us, why that’s valid, and what we feel about ourselves.