At some point in time you may have noticed that the way someone treated you, how they spoke to you or what they said, brought up feelings and thoughts not directly related to the event and conversation at hand. Even though your response appears related to the person you are dealing with or communicating with, often these two things are not related. Despite the response not being congruent or relevant to what is taking place, these two things can get entangled and mixed up. Sound familiar? If not (or if so), you may have heard the words, “I am processing,” or “I’m not sure how I feel,” from someone you are communicating with in some capacity. Or you may have someone just lash out at you or ignore you and not communicate anything regarding what has come up for them or what is going on in your relationship. Honestly, not everyone is in tune to themselves, their feelings or even aware that something is coming up for them or being triggered. And maybe they don’t know how to do this kind of work (that’s where I can in, too, and throughout this whole process). It is important to give people the benefit of the doubt because when this happens to us (whether we are the upset one or not), it can be quite challenging to process, communicate about, and then move forward from in the relationship.
Before I create a deeper understanding around the behaviors and communication, I would like to share something about human behavior, generally speaking. More often than not, people assume things in our words and behaviors and may be reacting to those assumptions. This is the basics of the field of social psychology which says that people respond to people based upon how they feel someone is treating them or acting (this is perception mixed with observation, “our stuff,” and some reality.)
In the simplest terms, here is what is most likely going on.
Often, when people are talking with one another, their own stuff- feelings, resentments, thoughts, vulnerabilities, insecurities, and so forth (both conscious and unconscious) may come up for them. (And it may take place on a sensory or memory level, so as to remind people of something. We will try not to go that deep here today. ) It may cause them to feel a certain way or think a specific thought and then react based upon that because their stuff is getting in the way and getting tangled or entwined. Sometimes people can get stuck and not respond when this happens because they are blocked or are trying to sort out their feelings and what it going on for them. Remember, this is their own process and stuff. Maybe they were reminded of something negative (consciously or unconsciously), otherwise triggered, or are having a defensive response to the discussion. They have the choice to work through it themselves or deal with it all how they will.
This is not your responsibility to fix! Also, it is not personal to you that it came up for them while engaging with you. The only thing personal is that you were the one that the issue came up with. The rest is them. I notice this happen with colleagues and acquaintances, as well as close loved ones. We are all trying (or not) to work out our stuff with those of us that we interact with. It is often unavoidable. Or we are trying to avoid working out our stuff directly by not having to go through confrontation or painful conversations and experiences. As a result, this stuff comes out indirectly when we are interacting with others or after having interacted.
Although we may want to be trees and exist independently, we regularly influence and impact one another, for the negative and the positive, both consciously and unconsciously. Short of being in isolation, there is virtually no way to not have this happen at some point in time, even if neither individual is aware of it. And, you this may sound out there, but this isn’t all bad. I promise. And this too shall pass.
Having these experiences allows a lot of room for growth and learning about ourselves and others too. Often, we can move past things or a little past them after having gone through these experiences. This can improve and strengthen relationships. It can be helpful to be aware of this process, so that we can process our thoughts and feelings in the most healthy way and with causing as minimal damage as possible to others and ourselves. Much love to you on your journey.