A Life Changing Insight


A huge part of making committed relationships work for the long term is managing our emotional reactions to situations that we perceive as challenging.

Today’s post will focus on some important insights that will help you to make the most of your relationship opportunities.

All relationships function as a ‘mirror’

One of the most empowering and humbling realizations that I have ever had was when I finally really got that all relationships function as mirrors.

In other words, when I am upset with my beloved wife, Julia, it is more often than not, due to something in me that her attitude, speech, or behavior has ‘triggered’.

When I allow this to happen, I have temporarily left in the ‘land of conscious choice’ and entered the land of ‘reactionary responding’.

We all, myself included, have emotional scars that we have not completely resolved.  This can lead to us reacting instead of responding to circumstances.

An example from my own life will hopefully provide more clarity.

When I was a child I had several undiagnosed learning disabilities including an undiagnosed auditory discrimination problem that prevented me from learning to read well.

My Mother was very focused on her children’s ‘academic performance’, partly because she believed that it reflected on her, both as a parent and as a person.

A direct result of my ‘less than hoped for’ academic performance in school was that my Mother often called me “stupid” and made other derogatory comments about me.

To make matters worse, she often made these comments in in front of other family members and even my friends.

Add to this that my younger sister did very well in school and  that I was often compared to her and my view of myself became even more negative and disempowering.

When I was about 8 years old my mother remarried.

Her second husband was a gifted educator and he saw to it that I got the professional help that I needed.

He had me tested.

The examiners discovered that I had an auditory discrimination problem along with some other learning disabilities that made learning in a regular class room very challenging.

They also discovered that I was actually very gifted in many ways.  For example, I had exceptional spatial awareness and was off the charts with regard to creativity.

I began seeing a speech therapist and was moved to the front of the class.

I began to do better in school, but clearly needed more individual assistance.

At no small expense, I was enrolled in a private school that specialized in helping children with learning disabilities get back on track.

When I finally got the right instruction and support, I quickly over came my auditory discrimination problem and learned to better manage my other learning disabilities.

Within one year my reading skills were at or beyond ‘grade level’ and many other academic skills followed suit.

Although I still struggled some with what is now called ‘ADHD’, I became a good student!

Now here’s the point.

Even though I know that I am very bright, I sometimes still over react emotionally when I believe that I am being treated as if I were ‘stupid’ or ‘incompetent’.


Because the emotional trauma from repeatedly being called “stupid”, having to attend a ‘special school’, and all the commotion and discussion between my Mom and Step Dad about my academic performance left a deep emotional scar.

How is all of this relevant to you?

As I shared at the onset of this post, we all have emotional scars that we have not completely resolved.

All of us.

Reacting verses Responding to Circumstances

Consistently acting from the perspective that we are in conscious choice is quite a dance.

It requires us to be simultaneously fully present with both our internal and external environments.

In order to remain in conscious choice we must be able to respond rather than react to circumstances posed by people and situations that we encounter.

When we react to something a person says or some other life circumstance I call this being ‘triggered’.

When we are ‘triggered’ we are not acting from a place on conscious choice.  Rather, we are acting from a place of unconscious emotional trauma.

What to do?

The first thing that I recommend is to give yourself full permission to be imperfect.

We are all ‘works in progress’.

Second, I recommend journaling about topics that you find ‘difficult’ to talk about.  You can begin by making a list that you can add to as new topics come up.

This way you are not caught completely off guard when these topics come up.

For example, my family had a very strange and emotionally laden perspective around money.

So, when this topic comes up I take a few deep breaths, get myself ‘grounded’, and share that this is a difficult topic for me.

This approach allows me to fully own my issues around money.

It also alerts my wife, or whoever I am having a discourse with, the opportunity to be empathetic and give me some space and support.

Guys generally don’t like to show their vulnerable side.

We have been conditioned to believe that we always need to be seen as ‘strong’, ‘always in control’, and have ‘all of the answers’.

I have found that when I am just straight forward and honest and openly share my fears and concerns, that, almost without exception, people step up and support me.

In other words, develop the habit of being with ‘what is’.

You can’t hide your feelings and fears.  When we try to hide ‘what is’ we come across as insincere and, even, dishonest.


All of us have unresolved emotional issues that can be triggered and cause us to react rather than respond to circumstances.

Give yourself full permission to be imperfect.

In order to be in fully empowered choice we need to learn to respond rather than react to circumstances.

Being open, honest and direct about our fears and concerns regarding a ‘difficult topic’ tends to enlist the support of others.

Being open, honest, and direct also allows us to maintain our ‘internal integrity’.

In the long run, we all just feel better about things when we know that we have been open and direct.

Strive remain in choice; but realize that a fully empowered self-directed life is a journey and not a destination.

You have everything that you need to succeed.  Just keep plugging away.

I sincerely hope that you found this post inspiring and useful.

I invite you to support our community by posting a comment or question on my blog.

I am here if you need me.

See you next week.

Live, connect, love and prosper

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Comment by Terry
April 15, 2014 @ 11:06 am

My Fiancé forwarded this article to me
I am glad that she cared enough to do so.
I am a student if conscious relationship building but still miss the boat sometimes.
Your message was clear and articulate. I reflected on how I have reacted to triggers.
Thanks for the help.

Comment by stephen light
April 23, 2014 @ 1:44 am

Hey Ron

I love this. I always find the crucial moment between the trigger and choice to be challenging. Reacting is so much easier than choosing to respond. And whats worse is the world is just a mirror – its all my stuff.

Love & Courage

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