As I wrote last week, our “edge” is that relationally-dysfunctional move we do in times of stress or conflict—when we are reactive rather than mindful. Last week I spoke about defensiveness and acting passive-aggressive (http://lisamerlobooth.com/5-common-edges-part/. Below are the remaining three most common edges:
1. Rage: Raging shows up as any or all of the following: bullying, blowing up, intimidation (via words, energy or actions), name calling, swearing, throwing objects, hitting a wall, etc. Often people who rage scare the people in their lives with their anger and then get angry when others say they’re scared. Rage burns out love and connection. It also kills communication because, quite simply, you’re not safe to communicate with.
Rage often is taught from childhood (although not always). If you grew up with it, I recommend doing trauma work. Regardless of whether or not rage was a part of growing up, to change it you have to first and foremost stop believing that rage and intimidation are okay. Once you commit to stop the rage, the next step is to learn to pause, s-l-o-w d-o-w-n and breathe before you respond. Finally, get very skilled at taking time outs; very few things are worth your raging. You have to learn to slow down your knee-jerk move of blowing up. Meditation, yoga and, as a last resort, medication will help you to slow down enough to control your reactivity. Try them.
2. Control: Control is about getting others to do something. It can show up as micro-managing others, directing others or dominating others to do things you want them to do. The problem with control is nobody likes to be controlled. People who have this edge often believe that there is only one “right” way to do things—their way. Control and perfectionism often go together and being with someone with this edge can feel as if you can’t do anything right.
Control is often about anxiety. The person with this edge will often try to micro-manage the world in an effort to manage his/her anxiety. S/he tries to manage the world so the thing s/he is anxious about happening doesn’t happen. Instead, the work regarding control is to manage your anxiety and get your eyes off the world and other people. You have to take a deep breath, calm your worries down and let yourself know that filling the dishwasher the “wrong” way or having your husband go to the party with “those” pants or [fill in the blank] will . . . be . . . okay.
3. Being Right: The problem with always having to be right is that it makes everyone else always wrong. When it comes to relationships, always being wrong is certainly a downer. Being right is about naming facts, showing “proof,” stating your case and arguing your case. The person who has this edge finds it very difficult to let go of the details. The more they get lost in the “right” details, the more frustrated the other person becomes. In their quest to be right, this person will often lose the main point of the conversation. For example, if someone says you were rude at the coffee shop on Friday, you say you were at the coffee shop on Thursday, not Friday; the main point of you being rude gets lost.
Working this edge requires learning to let go of the details and instead focusing on the main message. It requires that you stop trying to critique the message and instead try to understand what the main message is. Working this edge also requires that you practice humility. The truth is that, sometimes, even when you’re “right,” it may be in the best interest of your relationship to stop proving yourself and instead start “hearing” the other person. As my mentor, Terry Real, used to say, “You can be right or you can be married. You can’t be both.” So . . . breathe, slow down and listen to the message, not the minute details of how it’s delivered.
Challenge: When it comes to edges, know what yours is and work it. Recognize when it shows up, with whom, how and what it feels like when you’re acting it out. Catch yourself in the moment, breathe, pull back and try a new move. Pat yourself on the back when you’re successful.