Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. It also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future
How do you use mindfulness as a tool to managing your own reactivity in relationship conflict?
It can be hard to maintain a sense of presence and awareness of your thoughts, body sensations and feelings when you’re irritated or frustrated. When you’re feeling wounded by your partner, there’s a part of you that naturally wants to hurt back. You’re often not just responding to just that situation but perhaps a history of similar incidents that caused hurt and perhaps never adequately got addressed.
Mindfulness increases your awareness of what you are experiencing and reminds you that if you can take some space to catch your habituated thoughts and feelings about your partner, you can slow down your reactivity towards them.
This can help you make better choices on a moment-to-moment basis on how you want to act in your daily life. When you bring your focus of attention to the present moment on purpose, you’re far less likely to build a case against your partner or blow up around their perceived faults and shortcomings.
Here’s a great mindfulness practice you can try now:
- Track back to an incident where you felt triggered by your partner and you could feel the conversation escalating into a heated argument.
- In your imagination see yourself as thoughts and feelings were cooking inside of you. Really notice yourself. Were you feeling anger? Frustrated? Were you tired? Stressed? Just see or sense into your emotions or body sensations at the time as if you are watching a replay of a film, where you can press the pause button at any time.
- Now take a few long, slow breaths and see and feel these emotions as an observer, without reacting to them, without getting caught up in judgements or overwhelm.
- As you observe yourself, take a moment to feel compassion for yourself and your partner, both good people, caught up in the pain of this conflict together.
- Think about how you would have liked to respond to this incident if you hadn’t slipped into reaction mode.
- Remember, this is not necessarily about resolving the conflict, but simply catching your own behaviour pattern and exercising an awareness of the thoughts and feelings in the moment.
- As you catch these thoughts and feelings in the moment you may also notice choices available to you in that moment.
We can cultivate incredible love, compassion, patience and good humour around our pets, why not around our partners?
Mindfulness practice on a daily basis allows you to become more centred and calm, so you can talk things out instead of spiralling into a screaming match. When you’re on the defensive with your partner, criticising or reacting to every word they say, you can miss what’s really going on for them. You can miss their experience, what their trigger or hurt was and what they are really asking of us?
As you cultivate an atmosphere of curiosity, openness and empathy in our communication you can develop greater insight, and compassion towards ourselves and those you love.
About the Author:
Shushann Movsessian has been working as a Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs counsellor, psychotherapist and coach with couples, individuals and young people for the past 20 years. She has been using mindfulness practices in couple communication as a way of de-escalating couple conflict and deepening understanding. She is passionate about communication that nurtures wellness and deepens understanding in relationships. Join her on Facebook for regular tips and inspiration.
photo credit: AlicePopkorn
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