My daughter had a fight with her friend. She yelled, 'I'm angry at you because of what you did!" My daughter felt righteous and that it was his fault. She thought she'd been treated badly and wanted him to acknowledge what he did and apologize. This all feels very familiar and how most arguments go. My daughter was attached to her story of being 'right' and felt justified blaming him. When we are upset we have a hard time seeing that we have a part in each argument; yet we see their faults so clearly. When we do this we create a dynamic of a victim-enemy image mind set and we don't feel better. This is how we co-create our suffering. When we focus on the other as the cause of how we are feeling, we disempower ourselves and miss the real cause which is within: our thoughts after something inside us gets activated.
The victim-enemy image mindset is so common we think it is 'real', that there is no other way to view what is happening. That our thoughts of blame and judgement are true. Even more challenging is that it usually makes the situation worse. When the friend felt this angry energy coming AT him, he got defensive and argued back. He has his own version of what happened and is equally attached to his own 'right' story. In this scenario, there is no understanding or curiosity. No one is looking within. No one is getting their needs met.
So how do we get unstuck from this common argument dynamic?
The key is to fully experience the energy of our emotions. When we are able to feel angry or irritated or hopeless, the heat and tension, the sensations in our stomach, the tightness in our fists, we experience a pressure release valve. My daughter vented about this situation for about 20 minutes. I'd validate or mirror her feelings back to her. "It makes sense you'd feel frustrated." or "So were you feeling angry and confused?
The practice is to stay, stay, stay in the word of wise Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron. Stay in the uncomfortable emotion. Be with the energy, sensation and wisdom. Cry, express, move. It is important to know the emotions are yours and NOT caused by the other person. The biological miracle is that when we do experience them, hear their wisdom of pointing us to our values, they melt away and we are able to move on.
Once my daughter experienced her frustration and irritation, supported by being validated and mirrored, she felt relief. She felt seen and heard, the values she was yearning for and was able to go along with the rest of her day with a re-centered attitude.