I work at a public library and I spent today at a staff retreat. Our facilitator was this amazing woman I used to know at our local Unity Church. I really needed her message today - that we react in one quarter (1/4!!!) second to things that push our triggers. Yes!! I feel that. Quite often in fact (especially with those closest to me). Do you? That heat, tightness in your chest, the feeling in your throat, and before you know your mouth opens and not proud things come out. Or maybe you just draw back into your shell and put on a smile and suck it up. I do that too, especially at work. Either way, it's awful.
So, how not to react? How not to get triggered so much? Ris (our facilitator) says step 1 is knowing it happens to us. Self-awareness can buy us a few more seconds and that might just let reason (or even patience) sneak in.
She also taught us that we only even know 1/3 of the information in a given situation with another human. We don't know the other person's 1/3 nor do we know the 1/3 that life has dealt all of us. Simply, we think we know what's going on but we don't even know as much as we think. None of us walk in another person's shoes, and sometimes we don't even bother to try and see another viewpoint (why should we when we already know everything??).
So tonight the opportunity to catch myself a few extra seconds before reacting just landed in my lap. I came home after the birth education class I teach and went to Facebook, just for a second. I saw a great stat about VBAC safety compared to amniocentesis safety and reposted it on a group I belong to. Seconds later a woman that I used to know from Unity (weird coincidence - or maybe the universe giving me a little nudge), posted a comment. She clearly was so hurt by my link. Apparently she's had a c-section and felt very judged.
Well, crap. This wasn't my intention. I take care of mothers, try to help them feel better about their births, try to be that kind woman that actually DOES NOT judge, but someone really hurt this woman. I could feel that 1/4 second reaction flash through me. It was physically painful. I felt tears well up. I am passionate about women's rights, about safety for mothers, about not beating up anyone. I took a deep breath, a little shocked by my own pain at her comment, and started very slowly composing a comment to clarify. I started thinking about how it feels to be a mother who has been traumatized and now feel guilty (this was a guess based on what she said in her comment). I felt my hurt fade and my compassion grow.
I posted a comment, but then decided to message her personally. This is not something I would normally do, not necessarily caring so much about someone else's viewpoint in general, but in particular when I'm feeling hurt. This felt like a gift. Maybe to her, certainly to myself, the chance to reach out and gain understanding - to at least let her know I didn't intend to hurt and that I truly want to understand rather than judge. I often feel a need to be right, to argue until someone gives in (sadly, I think I'm pretty skilled at this). But I didn't feel this tonight. I don't want to be right if it means hurting. I wanted her to know I respected her experience and viewpoint.
I have no idea how she will respond, if she will read my words and get my intention. I clearly hit that trigger in her too, right? But it feels really good to try to reach out and handle a confrontation differently.
I think I need to send Ris a thank you too. And I need to keep practicing this particular gift daily. Thank you for reading this long post!