Why do we react so quickly when talking with our partner/spouse?
It's the story we're telling ourselves. Tom Philp, LPC & CEO, explains how this "story" we tell ourselves impacts our relationships.
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What story do you tell yourself? Hi, I’m Tom Philp from Stonebridge Couples Therapy. That seems like a strange question, but let me give you a couple examples and explain.
So, I’m driving down the road the other day and this car out of nowhere comes speeding by me, really startled me, really scared me and I wasn't expecting it. So, the first thing that happened when that feeling came up for me, is I started telling myself a story about that feeling and what I was telling myself is: “this big old jerk. he's going to hurt himself. he's going to hurt somebody else. he has no business going that fast.”
You might have a different story, you might say, “Oh. Well, maybe he's late for a dentist appointment. I’ve been there, I’m in a hurry trying to get somewhere, to work or wherever and I understand that”, but nonetheless, what's happening is this feeling's coming up for us it's a trigger for us and then we tell ourselves a story about that feeling.
Let me give you another example you might be able to relate to. So, sometimes you'll be in a conversation with your partner and everything will be fine in that conversation and then, somehow something shifts, somehow something changes, somehow something's a little bit different and you go from “this is a fine conversation”, to all of a sudden “this is feeling a little bit uneasy”. I’m starting to feel tense, I’m starting to notice a shift in my emotional life and at that moment, when that happens you begin to tell yourself a story.
Maybe the story you tell yourself is that, “if I soften here, if I’m not protecting myself, my partner won't care.” Maybe the story you're telling yourself is, “my partner doesn't want to hear me because they don't care about me. Maybe you're telling yourself a story about rejection or abandonment. All kinds of stories can come up when we have our feelings, because we get triggered, we're human beings, that's what we do. We don't have any interaction without having some kind of feeling.
So, let me challenge you on this. Start to take a stance and understand more thoroughly the kinds of stories you're telling yourself. What I mean by that is, begin to question the stories you tell yourself when you have those feelings come up for you. Don't always assume the story you're telling yourself is accurate, because oftentimes it's not.
What happens is, we often project our stories onto others as if it's true about them, as if that's their intention and oftentimes, we're really wrong. Sometimes we can get it right, but sometimes it's really wrong.
So, the more we can challenge ourselves “why do I think that? why did that story come to my mind? what's happening there when I have that feeling and I get triggered that's causing me to tell that story?”
Be sure and check out our website www.stonebridgecouples.com/freegift. We've got lots of e-books that are free to download. We'll see you next time, thanks for watching.
- Tom Philp, LPC & CEO Stonebridge Couples Therapy