As we grow and transform it can feel so difficult to alter our old auto-responses and behavioral patterns. We know how we’d like to show up and respond, but, in the moment, we still can’t seem to shift those old neural pathways. If you’re struggling to be the new you within old relationships, know that you’re not alone. Here’s a a simple practice that will create more space in your relationships and give you the leverage you need to transform old patterns and behaviors. If you’re like me, this practice will also help if you want to know how to stop lashing out at your family members.
Well, who are we kidding, let’s be real – this is how to stop lashing out at your mother.
Beating the Power of Habit
Our interactions with our family and friends can be boiled down to habit. Especially if this is someone you’ve known for many years, it can feel almost impossible to relate to them in any other way than you have in the past. This makes it easy to fall into spells of guilt, shame, and frustration when you’re not able to show up as the full and authentic self that has come forth from your increasing growth, healing, and transformation.
However frustrating this process might be, we can find ample reasons to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves through the science of habit.
According to Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, there are three phases of a habit loop. First is the cue or trigger. This tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let the behavior unfold. The second is the routine, or the habit itself. And last is the reward.
Using my relationship with my mother as an example, I would say the cue or trigger is… my mother ???? The moment I’m in her presence or she calls, I tense up. And if the opportunity arises, I lash out. The reward? Not getting hurt and a false sense of safety.
While my mother does have what many would classify as “toxic” ways – I’ve even categorized them as such myself – I know that if I allow myself to react out of character and integrity every time I encounter her, she remains in control and I become a victim of these patterns.
The Challenge: Softening Our Edges with a Mindful Pause
In Dr. Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, Tara shares this simple practice to bring greater presence to our relationships and behavioral patterns.
The practice is mind-blowingly simple: PAUSE.
When you feel you’ve been triggered, pause and become present with all the emotions and sensations in your body. You can name the feelings and sensations mentally or out loud. Your task during this pause is simply to be aware of what’s going on in your body.
You may then use the space you’ve created to create a new path, act out the old, or do nothing at all. It’s up to you.
What matters is that in this precious pause, you recover your power to choose what comes next.
No longer victim to age-old habits, you’re free to relate to the world and everyone in it exactly how you would like to. AKA you can finally stop lashing out!
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To make this practice even more effective, remember to be gentle with yourself. Implement the PAUSE with your relationship with yourself as well! If you end up lashing out when you wanted to calmly step away, be fully accepting and generous with yourself. The quickest way to shift any negative or lower emotion is simply to be present with it and allow yourself to fully experience it.
And once you’ve fully felt what came up, ask: what other options are available to me here? Must I continue to berate and judge myself?
This week’s intention: I am present with everything within me. I give myself permission to experience and feel the full spectrum of who I am. In every moment, I have choice and power.