Learning to stay connected to yourself in the face of demands can be thought about at three levels. The first level is naming it.
Your body reacts to the perception of a demand immediately. Typical body reactions include one or more of the following: tightness in the chest, hands making a fist, leaning back or forward, mental fogginess, clenching of the jaw, etc. Verbal reactions take the form of defending, explaining, attacking, apologizing, or withdrawing by changing the topic.
When you have enough self-awareness to watch and name these reactions rather than believe them or continue to act from them, you can reconnect with your ability to choose and respond.
Naming your reactions internally might sound something like this:"I'm tensing up. I want to defend myself and show this person how wrong they are to demand this of me. I'm reacting and that's okay."
Level two involves jumping out of old patterns and reactions. Give yourself permission to literally step to the side and let the energy move past you. For example, you perceive your partner demanding an answer to this question, "Why don't you kiss me the way you use to?!" A part of you knows that, in this moment, trying to answer this question is the last thing that will create connection.
Instead of answering, you prepare to jump out of the pattern. If you are quite triggered you may need some emergency actions to give yourself time to settle before trying to make the jump. Here are some possible emergency measures:
-Repeat the question or demand back to the speaker: "You really want to know why."
- Ask for more information:"When did you notice a change in my kisses?"
-Affirm, "This is really important to you."
-Ask for time, "Give me a minute to think."
When you have had enough time to let your reaction settle, you can choose to offer empathy or honest expression.
Move to the side of your partner so you are both looking the same direction. This lowers the possiblity of a power struggle. Empathy might sound like this, "I'm guessing it's painful for you wanting more closeness and affection and not knowing how to find that again. Is that right?"
Honest expression might sound like this, "I feel nervous because I want to hear you and I don't think answering your question will help. Would you be willing to share what you are feeling when you ask that question?"
Level three, is holding your ground in your new response to demand energy. You do this by repeating levels one and two. There is a good chance that your partner won't immediately jump out of the reactive pattern with you. They may react to your empathy or honest expression with increased anger and demand energy. This reaction does NOT mean you have failed. On the contrary, a pattern behavior often escalates just before it dissolves. Your job is to hold the wheel steady like a captain on a stormy sea. Connection is your true north.
This week practice level one. Each time you perceive a demand: "What's happening in my body? What tenses? How does my posture change? Are there sensations of heat or flushing, tingles, acid stomach, or headache?"
click here for a list of feelings and universal needs