Grace in the Space
I got back into therapy this year and have found a counselor who I really respect and get a lot from. Through this journey with her, I’ve been working mostly on self-improvement and trying to let go of things that don’t serve me well. One of those exercises has been identifying patterns so I can stop destructive behavior, and during that exercise I realized what is probably my worst quality – my knee jerk reaction trigger. They say you cannot fix something if you don’t first acknowledge you have a problem, so here we go: My name is Kathie Scalf and I have a problem with immediately giving a reaction to everything. I’m also proud to say I’ve made a lot of strides in this department and have found what I’m calling, “the grace in the space.”
It’s difficult for me not to immediately respond to a stimuli. This quality is wonderful for my work ethic; I immediately respond to emails, texts, and always answer or return phone calls, which is practically unheard of in the alcohol industry. However, that same anxiety I get from not addressing an email right away, even on the weekend, is the same feeling that overwhelms me when I get triggered by something hurtful… but on steroids. If I see something, or hear something that makes me uneasy, I want to confront it right away, and I’ve learned the hard way 9 times out of 10, that does not end well.
I’m a big advocate for confrontation; when its executed correctly it can make you a highly efficient and accountable human. But its sometimes hard for me to remember that most people’s brains don’t operate in the same way as mine, and they perceive any type of confrontation as being aggression. I also have a bad habit when I’m very hurt by someone I care about, to want to immediately fire off a response to what’s triggered me with the same, if not an elevated energy, and one thing that never helps a fire is adding an accelerant.
People respond to energy, and if you want to improve a situation you need to emit the energy you want to receive. If someone hurts me and I respond by yelling, saying something hurtful, or becoming frantic, that is what they’re going to return back, which is only going to make me more anxious and upset. Instead, I’m learning not everything needs an immediate response; in fact, if I step away and take a beat to calm down, most of the time the things that are upsetting me don’t require any response at all!
I have found so much grace and peace in the space I put between myself and a triggering situation. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting down my phone and taking a walk, sometimes it takes a few days, but I have found if I just give myself some time and space to sit with a situation, the trigger loses it’s effectiveness and I avoid wasting my valuable time and energy on something that I could have just walked away from. And one neat thing I’ve discovered is that what’s done in the dark always comes to light, and karma doesn’t need my help hurrying things along.
Several months ago I found out something about the person who hurt me most that would have been very destructive to their life if I made it known. I immediately wanted to broadcast it, to tell on them to their loved ones, as if it would vindicate me in the wrongs they committed against me so long ago. After days of being talked down from the ledge by my mother, I ultimately decided not to do it. I was given the gift of being able to release myself from this person years ago, and while this revelation might have felt good in the moment, all it was going to do was drag me back into a situation I have worked so hard to get out of. And it turns out I didn’t have to – I heard through the grapevine the whole situation was revealed on its own. Funny how that works out.
I’ve also found a lot of clarity about who I am and the person I want to be by taking the space to remove myself from a trigger and really ask myself what it is that’s bothering me about the situation. For example, I recently saw a group picture of some former friends of mine. These were very close friendships I held for many years that have one by one ended without any closure, and one of which is a wound that’s still pretty raw. When I saw this photo it ran all over me; for one thing, I was the person who even brought the group together initially, so I have no doubt I was a topic of conversation. That immediately puts me in a mental disposition to defend myself. It also was upsetting because I’ve never gotten a reason why these people no longer wanted to be my friend; eventually one day over the years since I moved, our relationships came to a stop. And being so close to these people, it also was triggering because I know the things they’ve all said about each other, and yet there they sat thick as thieves while I’m the bad guy – at least that’s what my brain was telling me. However, instead of blasting out a group message finally asking what their problem is, or posting a vague Instagram story, I sat back, took a breath and asked myself why was this really bothering me? Truth be told, I’ve not noticed their absence in my life at all; why would it bother me that I’m absent from that photo? These people are virtually strangers to me now; we’ve all changed, or maybe just I have changed and that’s ok. If I met them right now, we would have nothing in common and would never be friends; our lifestyles are completely different and incompatible. They don’t want the life I have and I don’t want theirs. Our goals and ambitions no longer align and for that reason alone, its ok to let it go in peace. That moment of breathwork and walking was a major opportunity instead of opening a can of bad energy to get clearer on my personal values and ambitions.
Be a confrontational person; confront your own demons and don’t be afraid to confront an issue head on. Just don’t be a reactionary person! It’s very possible – and productive – to confront a situation from a level head after working it through in your own mind first. Take the time to ask yourself if your interference is even necessary and will this add value to your life or subtract from it? Does this even affect you? Normally by the time you get done answering all these questions, you won’t care as much about the initial hurt. There’s a lot of grace in the space between a trigger and a reaction, and the more space you put between it, the more grace you’ll find.