Respond directly to the fear

Is someone putting you down or judging you? Are they challenging you or trying to control you? Is your child talking back? Is your coworker or friend picking a fight? In the heat of the moment, it is hard not to take such attacks personally. But in fact, it has nothing to do with you.

Rather, it may be that what you are saying or doing is triggering their fear. Or it might be stimulating a feeling that scares them. So they unconsciously do something to stop you from continuing- so they no longer have to feel the fear.

I see this all the time in sharing circles. One person starts expressing a strong feeling. It triggers a feeling in someone else and who does something (usually unconsciously) to get the person expressing to stop. It might be some intellectual feedback or a confrontation. It is like they're saying, "Please stop, if you go any further, I am going to have to feel something that I do not want to feel."

So if you understand it is just their fear talking (AKA defense mechanism), you do not have to interpret it as a personal attack. Rather, you can respond directly to their fear. Depending on the situation, you can ask them how what you are saying/doing is affecting them. Or you may just want to back off or approach it differently. If it is your child, student, or client, you might even help them understand their fear.

Either way, responding to their fear and not the personal attack, circumvents the cycle of hurt feelings, fights, power struggles, and misunderstandings.

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