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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Retrain the Knee-Jerk Reactions

Any pattern repeated often enough-whether physical, mental, or even emotional-can become second nature. In sports, this can make for a winning game. In the world of emergency medical response, it can spell the difference between life and death. But in relationships, it can lead to trouble.

Many people have developed certain knee-jerk reactions. Sometimes they originate in childhood, at the hands of difficult parents, in light of traumatic relationships with other children, or in response to certain teachers. At other times, they grow out of adult experiences. They may have nothing to do with your history with your mate, or they may actually reflect past history with her. In any case, knee jerk reactions have a nasty habit of either doing an injustice to an innocent person on the receiving end , or perpetuating destructive patterns with someone who played a part in your learned response.

Look for glib insults. Take not of quick jabs to the gut. Beware of instant steam. These are red flags of knee-jerk reactions. They happen predictably and instantly to certain stimuli-particular comments, actions, or situations.

Whether you identify a knee-jerk reaction in yourself or your mate, don't let it go. Point it out and talk about it. Get to the bottom of it, and make or accept the necessary apologies to clear the air. Give it enough attention so that you can no longer react in that way without thought. You might find it helpful to agree on a signal when the reaction crops up again-something that can remind you that you both know what is really happening and are moving beyond it together. Then look for new, positive responses to replace the knee-jerk reactions.---Richard Carlson, Ph.D.


Myne Whitman said...

Nice one. Thinking before we speak is essential.

Lady A said...

@Myne, which is something I need to work on, lol!