WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET DERAILED - A strategy for getting free of the vicious cycle.

I. Unpack the details of the conflict

1. What happened? What was said or done that triggered you? (your subjective experience)

2. What is your opinion of the other person right now for what they did or said (their negative quality). What do you/would you prefer to think of them?

3. What are you feeling, emotionally? (the emotional state felt in your body)

4. What do you think they're thinking of you? (fill in the blank: "To do what they did, it's as if they think I'm _________________________")

5. How is the situation making you feel and think about yourself? (a fear-based, "less than" definition of you)

6. By contrast, what do you prefer to feel/believe about yourself? (the desire of your heart, your truth)

7. What do you ultimately want the other person to think of you (the face you want to show them when you return to deal with the issue)

II. Clarify your Goals and your Relationship Vision

Why are you in this relationship? Do you want it? If you do, and you want to get somewhere -- to put things behind you and "move on"-- you need to know where you're going and you need to have a very strong desire to get there! Here are some ideas. Develop your own vision from these suggestions:

1. To be able to resolve conflicts -- to effectively move from uncertainty to stability -- with creative win-win solutions.

2. If this is an intimate relationship, to be happy and to make your partner happy; to feel validated and to validate your partner, to become each other's "best cheer leader" (Ernie Larsen).

3. To grow -- to increase understanding, wisdom, confidence, love, trust -- as a result of the conflict so you're both a little smarter next time.

4. To keep things in perspective, to view the relationship as it relates to the whole - "a complex, never ending, always changing tapestry", a "continuous dance of energy"(Margaret Wheatley) and to see this incident as but a small part of that tapestry.

5. To expand the perspective further and see that this relationship is part of a bigger whole, an orderly universe, and to appreciate that the laws of homeostasis and growth are working for you.

6. To overcome the negatives, the "shadow self"(see below*) such as:

  1. the need to be right - at the cost of being loving
  2. the crushing negative generalizations and patterns about yourselves
  3. resentments that need to be forgiven and healed

III. Process

Now, do it! Access your inner resources (reboot your brain and spirit) to re-align to your healthy self so you're not so beside yourself.

1. Comfort the Heart (put hands on heart and hold on). Breathe 4 abdominal breaths as if into the pain in your heart, reeling yourself in and disengaging from the disruptive situation for a time -- until you can reboot -- and can then return to deal with the issue with more presence of mind.

2. Stand up tall. Hold the head up. Breathe 4 more abdominal breaths raising the eyes upward on the inbreath and imagine being suspended by a skyhook attached to the very top of the head.

3. Feel the feet solid on the floor. With the next 4 abdominal breaths, lower your eyes on the exhale and sense down in to your body slowly all the way down to your feet. Stand so that your body weight is equally distributed on each foot.

4. Visualize standing on new tracks under you. Holding your arms straight down by your sides, raise them up, fingers straight and visualize standing on tracks that go on out straight forward in front of you.

5. Look at your situation with new eyes, with a fresh view of things. Be:

  1. Centered: Visualize a straight line connecting your head and your heart and draw yourself into alignment with that line.
  2. Grounded: Feel your feet on the ground and your whole body held to the earth by gravity and yield to that pull.
  3. And Present: Observe your environment from the "observation deck"right behind your eyes and be with whatever you are experiencing without judgment or qualification or plans or analysis.

6. Tell yourself that:

  1. I'm ok. I'm a good person and want the best,
  2. things are getting back to normal,
  3. this chaos will pass ("this too shall pass"),
  4. it's all good. Things always come back into order in life when...
  5. I trust the process

7. Smile. Go forward now, confident on a new track.

IV. With warm-heartedness and more confidence, share what you've learned with your partner

1. Rewind the video of what happened and replay it with a new version of what you'd do differently.

2. Dialogue (vs. debate) using "I" statements and active listening skills.

The Healthy Self (centered, grounded and present)

Standing tall on your confidence base

Able to process reactions - the negative "shadow" thoughts and emotions, turning anger into effective action and anxiety into courage and positive energy

Able to communicate with a win-win mindset and a balance of kindness and honesty

Able to find peace of mind, wisdom and gratitude

Happy and content (and sometimes actually joyful) with the intrinsic rewards of life

The Shadow Self (the "beside yourself" self)

The self below your confidence base:
Reactive, doubtful, well defended, with
a strong need to win or be right, thus, prone to
thinking errors and negative (shadow) emotions
(all or nothing thinking, over-generalizing, blaming,
personalizing, jumping to conclusions, forcing,
magnification or minimization, justification/emotional
reasoning, labeling, etc), seeking solace and reward in
external things (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, gun
obsession, shopping, food, work, video games, gambling,
etc.) and, thus, prone to addiction.

Joel Turgesen, MA, LPC