In a society where we’ve been taught to suppress & de-press our emotions, rather than feel them, I can’t help but wonder… … …
Will we ever get beyond emotional-bypassing each other?
Popularly known as Gas-lighting.
No one likes it when someone responds to their personal experience as though it isn’t real or doesn’t matter so…
Why do we all do it?
Also known as Gas-lighting.
Person A says, “what you said hurt me.”
Person B says, “that’s not my intention.”
Great. It doesn’t change the fact that one person is hurting and the other is getting ready to defend themselves, because no one likes to hear that they hurt someone else. When is it ever our intention? Sometimes yes, but when it is, rarely can we admit to it. It may be safe to say that 99% of the time we are not “intending” to hurt another, are we? But we do.
So then what?
Should the one who was impacted try to meet the intender?
(while unpleasantly activated from what the other did or said, mind you)
Is it the responsibility of the intender to meet the one they impacted?
(also unpleasantly activated because they feel in the wrong for hurting another when they didn’t mean to, mind you)
Whose responsibility is it to extend their hand to the other?
In my relationship therapy work, I have watched many fall victim to trying to sort out intention vs. impact scenarios, getting lost in the weeds.
“No you should.”
“I didn’t mean it, so you shouldn’t feel that.”
“Too late, I already do and you’re just making it worse by saying I shouldn’t feel this way.”
Aaaaaaah! It’s enough to make us all crazy!!!
It’s “easier” to sort out, however, in a session, where someone has created safe-space to navigate this stuff. Who is also trained with mediation and collaborative communication skills. But what of every day life? In our own homes. At work. In school. Where pretty much no place feels emotionally safe (because it’s steeped in emotional bypassing values & practices) as we walk through the world and go through our lives, then BAM!! An energetic, emotional sucker-punch just hit us out of no where. No one saw it. Not even the one who did it. But I feel it. You feel it. She feels it. They feel it. He feels it. We feel it. The realm in which we cannot see, but feel. How do we create space and time for that? We don’t. Not usually. If we do, usually not in healthy ways either.
We all have our coping mechanisms: Numb. Hide. Suppress. De-press. Explode. Implode. Medicate. Emotionally vomit on another. Emotionally discharge onto another. Or we direct it at the one who initiated the impact and an all-out emotionally charged brawl is on. Not to mention (but I will), so many arguments form out of an emotional discharge we received from another interaction that then we then discharge onto someone else—as the dominoes fall. The someone else? Usually a loved one whom we feel safe enough to fight with and well…you know where this goes. We’ve all been there.
At this point, I want to get everyone into a session and tell them to take a number (including myself) because we are missing each other left & right, and don’t mean to.
In an Emotionally Inept society…yes, we are all taught communication styles & behaviors that are soaked in emotional incompetency. Breathe. Okay, as we continue to learn & reinforce cutting-off connection to our Emotional Intelligence, we are left dumber than we’ve ever been when it comes to the realm of feelings & emotions, which rule our relating abilities, yikes! Culturally, we don’t teach any real, healthy emotional navigation tools & skills. Nor do we receive emotionally intelligent guidance from our elders because they were taught the same bypass bullshit we were. And so, we’re all floundering here in the ocean of emotion, simply trying to learn how to swim. Some of us looking to use each other as safety-jackets & life-boats.
As a Relationship Scientist, here’s what I see going on in the interactions. Let’s go back.
Person A says, “What you said hurt me.”
Person B says, “Well, that wasn’t my intention.”
Person B. When we hear that we hurt someone, it often translates as we are wrong/we did wrong. We really don’t like to be seen as wrong, let alone hear it. It’s humiliating. Even worse if we are confronted in front of others. So as Person B (and we’ve all been both), we go on to explain ourselves to defend our intention. “Can’t you see my intention??” Our words beg, “I didn’t mean it! I’m a good person!!!” —Now, also feeling hurt because we don’t feel seen—ouch!
Person A is now fuming. In the attempt to feel heard, we address how the other’s words, or actions impacted us. Instead, we end up listening, while Person B goes on about how no harm was meant, “So don’t take it that way and blah, blah, blah,” they plead. Person A then often responds from a higher emotional state. One that rose from being the one who felt hurt from the get-go and just sat through Person B’s explanation, which usually translates as a justification for their actions, mind you. So, the one who was hurt should just get over it, right? We don’t feel heard—ouch!
Emotional Bypass. Bypass. Gas-light after gas-light as the two struggle between who meets who first and whose feelings matter most & emotional needs are more valuable.
It becomes a battle between two very important emotional & social needs that are not being met in order to feel connection (love) again.
Person B: I need to feel seen. VS. Person A: I need to feel heard.
Intention vs. Impact
♥♥♥ Relationship Tip ♥♥♥
Dear Intender, when someone says you hurt them, instead of defaulting to a defense response (closed), try to become genuinely curious about their personal experience and impact of you, your words, or actions. See this as an opportunity for some solid self-reflection (which can be incredibly valuable information for us). You always get to decided to take it or leave it, but at least be open to hearing it and understanding the other’s experience of you. Be receptive. A solid starting point sounds like this:
“Oh my gosh, I had no idea. Can you tell me more about what you’re experiencing?”
“Wow, thanks for telling me. What do you need to feel supported right now?”
Dear Impacted, when sharing your experience with another, reference the specific words/actions that caused the hurt. Use “I” statements. This maintains responsibility for yourself, which drastically reduces the potential to be taken as a blame or attack. Be descriptive about the sensations you’re feeling in your experience, which invites empathy and a relatable context for the other. A good example:
“When I heard you say …, I felt them sting all throughout my body and now it’s taking all my effort to share this calmly.”
“I noticed after our conversation ended that I was feeling some tension, would you be willing to hear why?”
A good statement to start with a friend told me about recently was: