We all have a leading edge. Typically, this is the place where what we know goes out the window and our behavior goes sideways in an attempt to deal with the situation. When this happens, we often get rigid and self protective. Here are some examples:
Individual: you may start to sweat, experience an increased heart rate and have a hard time thinking. Behaviorally, you might start to get louder, speed up your talking, or shut down and leave (literally or emotionally).
Family: your child starts yelling, “talking back”, throwing things, or hiding.
Marriage: your partner shuts down and withdraws or turns up the heat with criticism.
These are all indications we have reached a limit of some kind. Unfortunately, this is also the place where we encounter shame, guilt, and a negative view of ourselves. None of us are proud of what we do in these moments. This can lead to being very harsh (with ourselves and others). What we really need is help. Curiosity can move us from protective stances to expanding our leading edge. Start by pausing and describing what’s happening with as little judgement as possible. Then, explore what it’s like for you or your loved one, focusing on the trigger, emotion, and thoughts that came alive. Try to extend how long you stay with your experience by noticing more and more each time. The goal is to slowly increase your tolerance for discomfort by engaging with what’s happening to you or your loved one.
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* The information provided is for self-enrichment and not intended to replace any necessary mental health treatment.
Jonathan Dixon, LMFT
Jonathan Dixon is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Virginia who has offered mental health services at Alpha Omega Clinic’s Fairfax office since 2013. He is an active member of the Association of Marriage & Family Therapy.