Being Present: Avoiding the Reactivity Trap

Here’s a concept that I’ve been finding really helpful of late.  It’s called “The Shelf,” and it’s the place where I can rest my “baggage” when I find that my buttons are getting pushed by something.  The best example I can think of is when I’m trying –  REALLY trying – to listen to something that my partner is explaining, and I find myself getting triggered.  The idea is that I go, ‘Aha!  I’m about to fall into the “reactivity trap.” I need to take “my stuff” and put it on the shelf, so I can be truly present here.’  It’s an active decision to not pay any attention to my own internal triggering.  Maybe later I can take it down and explain my side of things.  Or maybe I can just leave it up there  . . . ?

 Mike Misgen, LPC

8 Responses - click here to join the conversation to “Being Present: Avoiding the Reactivity Trap”

  1. Mary Simon says:

    I like the idea, Mike! The trick for me is to be conscious enough to notice that I’m reactive before it takes me over. I guess that’s the value of slowing things down by using the Dialogue structure.

  2. Mike Misgen says:

    Wow! That actually reads better than it did when i was writing it. Like with all my skills, I have my good days and my less-good days. It can be so easy to reach up and take my reactivity down off the shelf for just a moment, which of course leads to another moment, and so on. The good news is that I find that with practice I return to skillful more quickly than ever.

  3. Suzanne Mariner says:

    I appreciate the shelf idea, as I find it helps me to set aside my focus on planning a potential retort, and just, as you say, “be present.”

  4. I really like “The Shelf” as one very concrete step I can take (and teach my couples) about controlling my reactivity so I can be more present to my partner. It creates a great visual image that I can do a mental rehearsal with. Other ideas are cultivating compassion, both for myself and for my partner, and using Whole-Brain activities to create a better balance within myself. I look forward to sharing these ideas at the upcoming Magic of Connection Workshop.

  5. John Mariner says:

    The Shelf brings to my mind Terry Real’s work on ‘second consciousness’. A way to check our headlong dive into reactivity even if it is to give us just ten seconds to consider how we want to respond rather than react to the stimulus that is in our face. Just shelve it, please!

  6. Nestor St. Charles says:

    I recommend that as someone begins to speak to you that you take a moment to focus on your breathing – very brief meditation – then listen. It helps to distract from the trigger.

  7. Another slightly different approach is to acknowledge that you have been triggered, and then listen. It’s much easier to put it aside for the moment after it’s been at least acknowledged.

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