‘make an attack or assault in return for a similar attack’
You speak coldly to me, I speak coldly back.
You withhold love, I will withhold more.
Your eyes wander around while I’m talking, I stop talking and stop responding.
You are short, angry, abrupt, distant…I give you daggers with my eyes, sharp words with my voice, cross my arms and turn my back in an act of separation and defiance.
At the very least, I will match what you put out, but most times I will strive for the advantage. This means that you must hurt more than I. This means I get my strength when you are weaker. This means I am hungry for you to fall. It may sound dramatic, but in the heat of the moment, I want my eyes to slowly lower to meet where you are fallen on the ground, begging for me to forgive your wrongs.
What drives me? What is my fuel? Anger. Power. Greed. On the outside, all of these and more. It is a power play.
On the inside though, a different story is swirling and spiraling.
Inside I am scared. Scared what it means when you treat me in a way that I perceive to be disrespectful, hurtful, and worst of all, indifferent.
Fear is my real driver.
My team is my ego. We work together to protect ourselves. We are number one. Nothing is as important as us. Our survival is critical.
Any sign of distance from your part and my ego is on alert. I get notified that someone is trying to make us feel unimportant, unworthy, unloved. Alarms go off.
Science tells me that my thinking, rational brain has turned off and my stress response has taken over. And so my heart rate quickens, my muscles tighten, pupils dilate, and I am focused and ready for battle.
Winning feels so good.
But it’s tiring. This whole charade requires so much recovery.
When the dust settles, everything looks and feels different.
A sobering look at what transpired.
There are casualties. Many of them.
My body is tired, the emotional battle takes a mental and physical toll. I want to sleep for days.
Your face tells part of your story. You look worn, sunken, your eyes are weary, you have seen things in this war that you hadn’t imagined possible. I can see the images in your eyes and as they replay I am in shock of my own actions.
I feel regret, confusion, remorse, and guilt.
I decide to review the footage, maybe I can determine where it all went wrong…
As I play it back in slow motion I see things more clearly.
I see the gaps. The spaces where I could have chosen differently.
But hindsight is always clearer. How can I choose differently in the moment, in the present, in the moment that counts?
The answer comes to me: ‘slow down, sit, practice’
And then I get it. The external battle only has such extreme impacts when I have already lost the internal battle.
It isn’t you that is threatening me. The true threat is the voice in my head that interprets your actions and puts me on alert. But I can choose whether to pay attention to this voice or not. I can notice more and engage less. I can mold it, soften it, give it less airtime.
I realize that the voice that took over is the one that craves love and worthiness. It is the one that thinks love must be earned, worked for, performed for, achieved, and then held onto for dear life. This voice does not know what my heart and soul does, that we are born as love and it can never be taken from us.
So I will sit. Everyday I will sit and watch the voices. I will watch their show. I will be curious about their patterns and see all their usual ways and tricks. I will be more the driver and less the passive passenger.
The voice is sure to grab my attention again. Your actions will once again trigger me, and the voice will roar into my mind. This time, I will see it, smile and say “I love you, good-bye”. A wise teacher taught me that line, it has compassion and release, what a beautiful way to let the voice go. And, if this time, I give into the voice, if I end up back on the battle field, and find myself feeling shame and regret….well I will look at those self-judgments and also say “I love you, good-bye”.
Make love, not war right? It all starts inside me.