I get the sense that – like me – you are triggered to feel like an embarrassed child when someone is giving you information – as if you feel somehow that you “should already know” it, so you feel inadequate, lectured or judged, etc… damn shit our parents inflict on us. I recognize it because it’s also been one of my own triggers. A conditioned response. In my case it was father – but now I recognize that my mother in turn, because of her conditioning, deferred to, enabled, and reinforced that critical-judgmental behavior. And the cycle continues unless we work at it, our kids work at it, and so on, until it hopefully fades into oblivion, and we live in a perfect society. (Dream on….)
But in a way, feeling completely equal to, and unthreatened by, the person who is ‘instructing’ us (sharing?) is what I think of as a learnable response – something worth playing with, trying on, practising… I practise it regularly myself by vividly imagining a person talking to me in a variety of ways that make me feel put down. I imagine his/her communication, while being aware of my physical/emotional tension, and making myself feel relaxed and unthreatened while he talks. I imagine his hostile or aggressive tone and body language. I make my shoulders relax, my breathing deepen, and let it be entirely ‘his’ thing. This little exercise, with all the things that typically caused my defences to rise, has helped tremendously. And when I forget, and react, it now takes me a very short time to get over it, and go back to a positive feeling toward the person.
I remember a sad day when I felt judged and criticized by my own brother, and didn’t speak to him for almost a year. He and I will never get that year back. If I had been able to analyze what he had said – without the conditioned defence – how different it would have been. And I have to admit that was not the only time I’ve had that kind of emotional reaction that needn’t have happened but for a lifetime of reinforced feelings of inferiority.
When I am suddenly feeling defensive, the first and most important thing I have to do is remember to pause. That pause is what gives me the time to relax, think objectively, and ‘un-trigger’ myself. The magic flows from there, and good stuff happens…