Experience comes from within. We feel the thinking we identify with.
When this gets weaponized it sounds like, “It’s just your thinking.”
Or, “I’m sorry you're upset, but I’m not responsible for your feelings.”
There are a myriad of ways something can be said that is dismissive and condescending while also being delivered with an air of spiritual superiority and incredulity that the other person is upset.
I know because I have delivered many of those lines. I was the queen of logic. Keeping my calm while Angus would lose it. I didn't do it in a kind, compassionate way that would genuinely support cooler heads with prevailing. Instead, I was contemptuous, arrogant, and judgmental. I saw him as less than because he was losing his temper.
I didn’t know I was weaponizing spiritual understanding at the time. That was a term Angus coined later on in our relationship.
What I see now is that me sitting on my high horse was my coping mechanism to protect myself from feeling inadequate.
I had to be right and Angus had to be wrong in order to preserve my sense of self.
In the cloud of my delusion of superiority, there was no common ground. There was my logic. There was my side. There was my way. And seeing that Angus’ experience was a reflection of him identifying with his dysregulated thoughts might have been an accurate description of where his experience was coming from, but it was not compassionate or kind. It didn’t reflect my heart being open, nor did it engender closeness and intimacy in our relationship.
My judgment of Angus's temper was a sign of my emotional instability in the face of anger. In my lack of internal safety, I resorted to my defense of logic and superiority.
I do feel shame, I wish it were just guilt, but I feel shame that I lacked compassion for so much of our relationship. I wish I had been able to hear what was really important to Angus earlier so he didn't have to get so loud about it.
I’m not saying he was a saint. When we were fighting we were both under-resourced and caught up in our own suffering in ways that blinded us to the suffering of each other. But for my part, I can see that recognizing my arrogance would have been good for me as well as for Angus.
Understanding I was scared. Being able to feel my feelings of fear. That would have been healing. Instead of using logic to numb myself, I could have been curious as to what my actual experience was. I then might have shared how overwhelmed I was, how scared I was, and how difficult life felt rather than being judgmental.
And if I could have I would have. I just wasn’t safe enough within myself to feel my own pain and suffering. So I couldn’t share any of that with Angus, nor did I have space for him to share his suffering with me. My own emotional cup was full to overflowing, but all I knew to do was put a lid on it with the veneer of logic and competency stuck on top.
Then I brought spiritual understanding into the mix that told me experience comes from within. I twisted this to allow me to not judge myself for not feeling compassion or kindness for Angus’s upset because it wasn’t my responsibility.
Sitting on my spiritual high horse and feeling impervious was really a manifestation of freeze state of my nervous system. Too scared to feel my feelings, able to dissociate, but delusionally thinking I was zen.
Now when my heart is open and Angus is upset I am able to feel his pain and empathize with him even if I don’t agree with him.
I’m no longer numb.
I wish I had known how to find safety within myself sooner.
But better late than never, and I am grateful that I now have the strength to feel my own vulnerability, ineptitude, and inadequacy so I no longer need to weaponize spiritual understanding in order to try and protect myself and feel good enough. Of course, I'm not perfect. I have my current blind spots that get in the way of me being open-hearted, but I have made improvements in being more vulnerable.
What helps me is to notice the difference between the feeling of logic and compassion. If my heart doesn't feel open towards Angus, that is a cue to remind myself to come home within myself. A closed heart is an indicator that I am suffering and it is time to put the oxygen mask on myself.
Now I do my best to let my feelings guide me. Not the feeling of being comfortable, but the deeper feelings of open-heartedness. I let them be my guide to let me know what my state of mind is so I know how to take care of myself.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilders Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.