Be aware, be very aware

February 25, 2017 by Blog No Comments

Be aware, be very aware

I clearly need to get out more as I have found myself writing a blog about a ‘parking rage’ incident I was unwittingly involved in this week, while taking my two new rescue cats to the vet, which got me thinking about the fundamental intentions of coaching; helping people raise AWARENESS of what they might be doing or not doing which is stopping them living the life they want.  Supporting them to take RESPONSIBILITY for their behaviour and encouraging them to make better life CHOICES.

shutterstock_181519442As I was posting said kitties back into the car, which was parked on the pavement outside the vet, a gentleman pulling out of the side road adjacent to the vet blocked me in and wound down his window.  As I approached him, assuming he wanted to speak to me he averted his eyes from me and beckoned forcefully to a Traffic Warden I hadn’t noticed was a short distance behind me.  Raising his voice and now very purposefully avoiding my gaze he instructed the Traffic Warden to give me a parking ticket for parking illegally and dangerously obstructing the road.  As the Traffic Warden approached, he explained calmly that I was actually legally parked and he wasn’t going to give me a ticket to which the gentleman responded with a torrent of unprintable words and gestures and proceeded to screech off in his car still shouting and gesturing as he went.

I have no problem being in the wrong and when I make a mistake will own my behaviour and apologise but his reaction caused me to reflect on the incident.  I know that response was all about him and not about me but I felt sad that so many people I encounter in life go straight to a place of anger, straight into fight or flight survival emotions rather than pausing and allowing the slower, thinking part of the brain to catch up to allow them to see the bigger picture and view the situation with curiosity.

Our brains are trying to keep us safe from emotional and physical threat, they’re not trying to make us happy.  Happiness is something we need to consciously choose.  Our emotional threat response is much stronger and quicker than our response to pleasure and opportunity because it’s trying to keep us alive; if you’d heard a hissing noise while walking through the jungle your unconscious emotional threat response will kick in and tell you to get out the way.  If you’d waited for your conscious thought to catch up and assess the level of danger it could have been too late.

In all likelihood most of us are not encountering too many wild snakes in our day to day lives but our brain will still be on alert for threat to our emotional or physical wellbeing.  The good news is we have a window of opportunity where we can pause, take a breath and centre ourselves and consciously choose how we respond to the information presented to us via our senses, rather than allowing our unconscious automatic response to respond for us.  Two thirds of our behaviour is run by instinct or habit.  The window of change is approximately 0.5 of a second and by approximately 0.3 of a second your body has already formed the shape of the old habit.  But pausing and centring allows us to interrupt our old pattern of behaviour and choose to behave in a way that serves us and those around us.

Thoughts cause emotions and emotions cause thoughts so a flash of anger – which in this gentleman’s case might have been observing people regularly parking in this space and believing it created a danger to other road-users – had caused him to create a story to back up that belief, that it was illegal and therefore I should be punished.  But we can choose our thoughts to keep us in a resourceful emotional state and we can choose to manage our emotions so we’re using our rational thinking brains together with our emotional brains to create the brilliance that human beings are capable of.

Be kind

I have no idea what is going on in that gentleman’s life – maybe he’d just had some terrible news or maybe he was in poor health and it saddens me that he chose to react to the situation in a way that negatively impacted everyone concerned including himself.  When you’re in survival emotions such as fear, shame, anger, sadness or disgust you increase cortisol (stress hormone) in your body which narrows your thinking, lowers your immunity and raises your blood pressure.

Drama TriangleThe Karpman Drama Triangle (Stephen Karpman) models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the destructive and shifting roles people play.  It was originally based on the Transactional Analysis model as proposed by Eric Berne in 1950’s.  He defined three roles in the conflict; Persecutor, Rescuer (the one up positions) and Victim (one down position).  Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and referred to them as being the three aspects, or faces of drama.

If you are unaware, The Drama Triangle will arise in a conflict situation and you will unconsciously step into one of those three roles and unconsciously bring other people with you into it.  You will be, at some level, getting your unconsciousness needs met.

The Victim‘s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight.  The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and also a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim’s negative feelings.

The Rescuer‘s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he/she doesn’t go to the rescue. Yet his/her rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When he/she focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role can also be pivotal as their actual primary interest may be an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.

The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.

The gentleman who I encountered yesterday had adopted a Persecutor role and if I’d allowed my emotional brain to control my reaction it would likely have taken a Victim stance but when I chose to take a breath and allow conscious, rational thought to choose my reaction rather than my survival emotions I made a choice not to step into the Drama Triangle in response to Persecutor behaviour.  I made a choice to keep myself in a state of curiosity and possibility rather than being consumed by fear or shame which would have narrowed my thinking, lowered my immunity and increased my blood pressure.

  • What sorts of situations drop you into the Drama Triangle and what unconscious needs are being met for you in that type of situation?
  • How does that behaviour serve you?
  • What would you like to have happen instead?
  • What’s important about that outcome and what is the first thing you need to do before you can have that outcome?

Be aware and take responsibility for making the right choices for you and those around you.

With love

Sarah x