BLOG: How to Turn Breakdowns Into Breakthroughs
The Storm Has Passed
OK the storm has passed. The fight is over. NOW what?
You may want to forget about the fight that just happened, however, as they say, those who do not learn from history are DOOMED TO REPEAT THEMSELVES.
A teacher once told me “Experience can be expensive. Just make sure you get what you paid for.”
Meaning when you have a challenging life (or relationship) experience, be sure you learn the lesson of that experience.
So HOW do you lean into the lessons? How do you turn the breakdowns into breakthroughs, transmute upset into intimacy and even turn a fight into some fun?
Experience Can Be Expensive
Avoid Getting Emotionally Hijacked
Often in arguments we get “emotionally hijacked.”
It’s sometimes startling how fast we can “lose it” and lose sight of how we really want to behave towards our beloved.
We get so caught up in the moment and emotions and we get “hooked” into a pattern of behavior and reacting that is so old and so familiar, that we don’t even realize we are doing it.
UNTIL… we LOOK for it.
You can unhook from being emotionally hijacked by looking for the PATTERNS in your upsets.
If you want to be able to see a repeat argument coming and be able to head it off at the pass, then here is what you need to do.
When you do have a conflict, right after your argument has ended, ask yourself…
“How is this familiar? What is the pattern?”
And, “What would I name this pattern?”
Look For Patterns In Your Upsets
Name Your Arguments
One way to notice a pattern is to Name Your Arguments.
So, when it comes up again, you can acknowledge the pattern rather than thinking this issue is about the here and now.
This will help you to avoid getting caught up in the drama of a moment.
Naming your arguments is like saying…
Here we are again, We’ve been here before. We have a pretty good idea of what DOESN’T work. We have some idea of what might help… Let’s do that.”
Or if you don’t actually know what will help, then say… “Let’s try something new this time.”
Once you’ve named your most common repeat arguments, you’ve then got access to a new, almost observer-like perspective rather than being so “in it” that you don’t even realize you’re in it – like a fish in water oblivious to the water it swims in.
Be The Observer — Heal Childhood Wounds
When you Name Your Arguments you become more equipped to be the observer of the lessons available out of your dynamic.
You can see the patterned upsets starting and know what they are about (that PREDATED your partner).
You can begin to head those upsets off at the pass or even retire them completely.
You can heal the wounds from your childhood that your relationship dynamic is so perfect at bringing to the surface. The core idea in Imago Therapy (the practice created by my relationship heroes Harville Hendricks and Hellen Hunt), is that you choose your partner based on the unhealed wounds of your childhood so you have a chance to heal them – the things you’re upset about with your partner are NO ACCIDENT.
Retire Those Repeat Arguments
That’s why I often say “The problem is NOT the problem. The problem is you THINK the problem is a problem. The ‘problem’ is actually the PATH.”
You can heal those old wounds and then RETIRE those repeat arguments.
Imagine what would it feel like if an argument you USED to have suddenly reared it’s ugly head, and you realized that even though you used to have that argument ALL THE FRIGGIN’ TIME, it had now been months or even years since you had it.
What if you could say “Oh! that one was sooooo 2014. Let’s not bring that back now.”
Some of Raj and my Named Arguments are:
1) “I can’t get a word in edgewise” (They don’t call me Gaby for nothing!).
2) “Oger Bitch Syndrome/I’m Your #1 Fan” (That’s when Raj acts like I’m his enemy and pushes me away when I’m really on his side).
3) “RPB/CJD Moments” (That’s when either I’m being a “Righteous Pompous Bitch” or Raj is being a “Critical Judgemental Dick”).
4) “Cranky Monster” (That’s when Raj or I are just using unnecessary roughness, being rude, short, or annoyed).
These conflicts, upsets and bad habits were there long before our relationship started. These are dynamics that were around since we were little kids. And now we act them out as an unconscious cry for help to to heal something.
After practicing Naming Our Arguments, Raj can ask me with some humor…
“Are you having a “RPB Moment?”
Or I can say to him “I’m your #1 fan!” when he is glaring at me with nasty eyes or pushing me away like I’m against him.
It reminds us that we are NOT fighting over something in the now.
The current conflict or tension is just a trigger of the past wound.
So first unhook from thinking it is about the current conflict and then after you have moved back into a more emotionally stable and loving place, then LOOK for the pattern.
Be sure you get what you paid for from that tough experience! Lean into the lesson. Turn the breakdown into a breakthrough and transmute that upset into intimacy – Name Your Argument!
And Remember…Keep the Fights Clean & the Sex Dirty and Save Being Nasty for Your Sex Life!
1. After your next argument, on your own or with your partner, ask yourself and each other.. "What are the patterns here? How is this familiar from childhood? What is the core trigger?" and then Name Your Arguments. Bonus points for making it fun and using props.
2. Next time one of these arguments come up - presence the name of the argument and say something like "Oh we are having THAT one again." Say the name. Say how it is familiar and what is triggers from childhood so you can both get that it is NOT about the now, but about the wound that desperately wants to be healed.
Your Ally in Aiming for Awesome,
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