Yesterday Bloody Good Bloke jumped into the driver’s seat of my car with very wet, salty togs on.
I (mildly) snapped at him.
He (mildly) snapped back at me.
I asked him why he was angry with me. He said nothing was wrong.
We drove home and forgot about it.
A few hours later, we got back in the car, and I found I was sitting on a very wet, salty seat. I snapped again, less mildly.
He snapped back, also less mildly.
We proceeded to work our way into an argument where he felt that I was making a big deal out of something small, and I felt he wasn’t taking my request seriously enough as I’d previously asked him not to sit in my car with super wet togs.
BGB is a bit of a bushman, very easy going and doesn’t worry too much about many of his possessions. I like to take good care of my things – I don’t mind them being messy (my car looks more like a mobile beach than a car lately!) – but I don’t like them getting damaged when it can easily be prevented.
Nothing dries in Byron Bay because it’s so humid and tropical here, and I was worried my car was going to stay damp and start smelling mouldy, like our clothes that are currently still damp after hanging on the washing line inside for 3 days.
BGB didn’t really see what the issue was.
We paused our minor argument to laugh at ourselves, and also to choose a block of Whittaker’s chocolate, our sole reason for the excessive late night trip to the supermarket.
Chocolate in hand, we resumed our argument…
…though now it had become more of a reasoned discussion. Eventually we came upon the real source of the problem – would you believe, it wasn’t about the wet seat?!
The crux was that I felt that I wasn’t being heard or taken seriously.
I felt that if BGB had just said “Shit sorry, I thought the towel would stop the seat getting wet”, I would have let it go, no big deal, we have those kinds of conversations all the time in both directions.
But when I feel like I’m not being seen/ heard/ understood (even in relation to something so minor), Neville kicks off and tries to make my perspective clear in progressively escalating ways.
“THIS MATTERS!” Neville shouts from his pedestal in my head, stomping around grumpily.
I’m coming to notice that most times Neville makes a mountain out of a molehill, it’s because he feels I haven’t been seen/ heard/ understood, and he’s trying to make his point known. Like the small tantrummy child he is.
This morning I had two 1:1 clients one after the other who had also recently had meltdowns with their partners for completely different reasons.
They had both been hurt or frustrated by something their partner had done, had expressed it, and both partners had swept it under the carpet and pretended like it wasn’t a big deal, without acknowledging or trying to understand their perspective.
As a result, both of my clients had had meltdowns with their partners –
one including many tears and withdrawing, the other with a weekend of sniping and passive aggression.
Both clients wanted to spend our coaching sessions working out how they could handle their emotions with more presence, and stop themselves from getting into an overblown meltdown/ spin-out situation in future.
Which we did, but we also discussed more effective ways of communicating with our partners that when we’re hurt or upset about something, so that they can understand that we just need them to try to acknowledge our perspective without making light of it.
The gist of it: when we don’t feel heard, seen, or understood, our mind and emotions will inevitably whip things into a huge storm.
When you think about it, it’s a rather intelligent strategy of the mind. If the message isn’t getting across, the mind just makes it louder and louder until our partner/ parent/ friend has no choice but to acknowledge it.
As I often say to my clients – if you ignore a child’s needs, they’ll scream louder. If you ignore your emotions, they’ll scream louder. And, as it turns out, if you ignore your partners’ needs, they’ll scream louder!
I’m coming to recognise that while I can regulate my emotions and let go of unhelpful thoughts approximately 10,000 times more easily than I was able to pre-Bloody Good Life skills,
I still have a tiny tantrummy child living in me that needs validation and attention too.
If you or your partner/ friend/ family member find yourself acting out in ways that feel childish or tantrummy – ask yourself, do you (or they) have some needs that aren’t been acknowledged, validated, or heard?
Is there a way you could express your needs in a way that helps your partner/ friend/ family member understand how important they are to you (rather than shutting down or snapping back)?
Have a think – how could you make your partner/ friends/ family feel underwood and heard, even if you don’t agree with their perspective?