Have Relationships You can be Proud of

Part 1:  Truth:  painful or not.
Relationships have this nasty way of exposing truths about ourselves that we were not aware of.  Often these truths are uncomfortable (if you’re lucky) and sometimes just plain painful to face. 
What makes a painful truth unpalatable?  I’ve been thinking about it the last week as relationships and circumstances made me see some uncomfortable truths about myself.  I’ve come to the place in my life where it is easier to be surprised by my failings.  Yet, when I least expect it, I learn something new about the way I relate and sometimes, I’m not pleased with how I’ve been doing the relationship thing.  From experience, we can experience truth as painful in two distinct yet different ways:
  • You see the big picture: You suddenly see the pattern of how you’ve hurt your relationships; usually it was unintentional.  This is the hardest for me to digest in my own life:  I hate seeing people hurt, especially those I love deeply.  That I caused them hurt…ouch.  Not necessarily a bad thing to see the big picture.
  • You see the distorted picture:  Through the years, you developed distorted pictures of the world, other people, relationships and yourself.  For example, you may belief that if you make a mistake you deserve to suffer severe consequences.  Sounds kooky, but most of us have similar unconscious distorted picture.  We call them lifetraps.  When a lifetrap gets triggered, the painful truth about yourself will be much more painful and harder to face than if a truth was not linked to a lifetrap.  Usually not a healthy way to face a painful truth about yourself.  In fact, not even a truth. 
For example:  you have a minor fender bender that is not your fault. 
With a punitiveness lifetrap, you will automatically furious and punish yourself and the person who caused the accident in a way that is way out of proportion to the actual incident.  You may think something like: “You stupid, you were not attentive enough and that’s why it happened!” - Even if you were adequately attentive.  You will do something that is in line with the distorted view you have of yourself, other people, relationships and the world in line with your lifetrap. This is because the punitiveness lifetrap refers to the belief that people should be harshly punished for making mistakes.  If you have this lifetrap, you will find it difficult to forgive mistakes in yourself or in others.  You probably find it hard to consider that making mistakes happened because of extenuating circumstances, or you don’t allow for human imperfection, or you may find it hard to empathise with the feelings of others.
If you do not have the punitive lifetrap, you would also be irritated and angry at the inconvenience.  The difference is that you will see the big picture, not the distorted picture.  Your emotions will be in balance with the situation.  It would be a healthier response. 
Coping Responses
There are different ways to respond to the distorted and painful revelations of lifetraps.  It depends on your genetic make-up and you probably have a dominant response, although these responses are also determined by the specific situation, person or lifetrap involved.  These responses are called coping responses. 
  • Surrender
If you are a surrenderer, you give in to the message of the lifetrap.  Punitiveness lifetrap says you and others must be harshly punished for allowing the small accident to happen.  You feel depressed, anxious or angry and the feeling remains as you believe you are powerless to change the message of the lifetrap.
  • Avoid
If you are an avoider, you find the painful message of the lifetrap too painful to tolerate.  Therefore you will find a way to distract yourself from the painful message of the lifetrap.  You will suppress the emotions that the lifetrap triggered.  You might avoid looking at the bump on your car because it will trigger the punitiveness lifetrap.  Maybe you avoid the discomfort of your punitiveness beliefs by some retail therapy, or a chocolate treat, or maybe some internet porn?  Either way, you will do your best to avoid thinking about the accident because of all the painful messages attached to it.
  • Overcompensate
If you overcompensate, you will try your best to disprove the painful message of the lifetrap.   This response style is also called counterattacking, meaning that you counter the painful lifetrap message by attacking it.  If you are an overcompensator, you might scream at the driver of the other vehicle.  It is less painful to scream at others that to accept that you have to punished severely for making a mistake.  The tendency to blame others or make excuses in order to counterattack the lifetrap message about yourself is a hallmark of the overcompensator. 

Some truths about lifetraps and our responses to them:
  1. Lifetraps are distorted pictures of reality;
  2. Lifetraps are formed when our core needs were not met as we grew up;
  3. Lifetraps can range from being very strong to relatively weak;
  4. Strong lifetraps will be triggered more often and our responses to these lifetraps will be strong;
  5. Lifetraps causes unhealthy responses to neutral situations;
  6. Lifetraps make negating life and its challenges very hard;
  7. Lifetraps usually causes unresolved conflict in relationships;
  8. Lifetraps make you ask:  “Why do I behave the way I do?” and
  9. Everyone has lifetraps. 
But there's plenty of hope
Let’s end on a positive note:  When understood, lifetraps can be weakened.  Its effect on your relationships can be minimised and you and your spouse, friends and children will grow much closer.  Relationships can be healthy, but only if lifetraps that cause dysfunctional patterns are faced. 

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