Orient Thoughts Toward Radical Acceptance & Compassion

Even In Conflict, We Can
Orient Our Next Thoughts 

When you find yourself in a ‘hot conflict’ with your partner your ‘First Thoughts’ are defensive in nature.
Adrenaline is a hormone the body releases to prepare for ‘fighting or fleeing.’  We feel defensive because adrenaline flows when when we feel threatened.


Typical ‘First Thoughts’ in conflict:
  • I didn’t do it?
  • What’s wrong with him/her?
  • Why is this such a big deal?
  • If s/he would only listen to me.
  • S/he doesn’t care about me.
  • You’re not letting me talk.
  • Let me out of here!
Typical first feelings in conflict are fear, anger, irritation, powerlessness, or numbness.

Having strong feelings makes it hard to think straight.  We’ often speak from a reflexive defensiveness.  Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote above says it most simply.  We can select our thoughts and it is a power we can cultivate… with practice

In this week’s blogpost I offer three ways to shift defensive thinking toward connecting, responsible and compassionate thinking.

First-   Let it be O.K. that your first thoughts have elements of anger, fear, or hurt.  Whatever the feelings they are there for reasons of survival.  Observe the feeling, and the thought that goes with it.  Witness it like you would watch a video.  You are affected by it, but you are not it.  Notice the sensations in your body that accompany the initial thoughts and feelings.  Notice the sensations of perhaps a hot face, or tense stomach.  Log it.  Note it.  Accept that you have whatever thoughts or feelings for the first two seconds.


Second-  After acknowledging your feelings of anger, fear or defensiveness.  Bring your attention to what your partner wants you to understand.  Ask yourself what is true about what your partner is upset about.  Be interested in what it is.  Be curious.  Engage it.  Acknowledge whatever is being said.  Acknowledge what is true.


Third-  You’ve now established a right to express yourself.  Since you’ve engaged your partner’s issue first he or she will be more likely to be open to hearing your experience.  Now there’s less need for you to speak with an edge, and there’s more receptiveness to your message.


Seek first to understand others before seeking understanding for yourself.

Seek first to comfort others before seeing comfort for yourself.


Click HERE to download my writing on ‘Sweeping My Side Of The Street.’