Are you caught in a vicious circle?

People look out for themselves. We first look out for our own interests, as in what's in it for me? This is our automatic, animalistic, reflexive, hair-trigger response; it's usually not done out of conscious choice. But what's worse? It's antagonistic nature causes others to get triggered as well.

Antagonism is defined as active hostility or opposition.

Antagonism is what comes naturally to us, and it requires us being on opposite sides. It's us vs them. You've probably seen this behavior before in humans.

When we are on opposite sides, survival mode takes over. Someone takes a position, and the other takes the opposite position, creating opposition by definition. This opposition creates a tug-of-war, and it generates an inertia which has us continue down along a path that takes us right down the drain. We can't seem to stop ourselves.

Are you caught in a vicious circle?

The more we do it the more we do it.

A few years ago I had a fairly serious injury. I had, among other things, a herniated disc in my spine. The disc was pressing on the spinal cord which was in turn causing my sciatic nerve to get pinched. The pinching was causing inflammation in the nerve – which caused a tremendous amount of pain. The sciatic nerve passes through a gap between the vertebrae out of the spinal column, and down your leg, but since the pinching caused the nerve to become inflamed, it wasn't fitting through the gap. And, the more it got pinched, the more inflamed it would get, and the more inflamed it would get, the more it would get pinched. And around it went.

It's what we call a Vicious Circle.

Are you caught in a vicious circle?
I have since, thankfully, resolved that particular vicious circle and I'm back to being pain-free.

But the same principle holds true for our arguments. The more you argue, the more you trigger the other person to argue, and the more they trigger you to argue, and around you go – down the drain.

Let me show you an example of what I'm talking about.

If someone says: You were late. You get triggered.

Now the fact is this: either you were late or you weren't late. But either way, you will feel the need to oppose it. You will deny it. Most likely, in order to protect yourself from the attack (the perceived attack of being accused of being late), you're going to argue that you weren't late. Which is then going to make the other person argue that you were late. And off you go...

This argument is basically: You were late, No I wasn't. Yes, you were, No, I was not.

What's going on here? It's insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

The bottom line with these types of arguments is: When our defenses get triggered we feel like we have to, we are compelled to, our instinct makes us try to prove that we're right (and/or they're wrong).

But, it's a complete waste of time! It's a waste of time because being right doesn't make a difference. You're still arguing in circles.

When you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result, it's a trap! Just like the Chinese finger trap, the harder you fight the more trapped you get.

Are you caught in a vicious circle?

Don't worry. There is a way out... the only way out is to relax. However, there is no relaxing in survival mode! So, what you have to do is get out of survival mode....

Instead of arguing around in circles, the next time you find yourself fighting to be right about something, relax, and try focusing on listening to what the other person is saying. Set aside your knee-jerk reaction to defend yourself, and just listen to them. Let them say everything they have to say, until they are done saying it. It's true you might find it to be uncomfortable, but you will live through it. Really.

What's in it for you? They'll be more willing to listen to what you have to say, meaning you are more likely to be heard when it's your turn to talk. And isn't that what you really need anyway, to be heard and understood?

Try it, and let me know how it goes...

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The Path to Partnership

Are you caught in a vicious circle?

Caren Field (MA, LLPC) is an individual and couples counselor and author of 7 Steps on the Path to Partnership, a free eBook. She teaches people exactly how human nature and going into survival mode kills relationships. Her on-line courses The Partnership Q&A Call Program and The Path to Partnership Bootcamp are designed to show people how to get out of their own way so they can create healthy and happy partnerships with the people that matter most to them.

​Like The Path to Partnership on Facebook
Follow @Path2Partnershp on Twitter


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Most Helpful Guy

  • Damn this is quite the revelation. Its weird cause you know when this happening but it really is something primal that just compels you to keep adding fuel to the fire. Good Take. Knowing that you can mitigate a situation is much more effective than pointlessly arguing an invalid point. Hard to resist but big payoff when your aware.

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Most Helpful Girl

  • This helps a lot. I hate myself sometimes because I always want to oppose what others want me to do in order to protect myself. Even when I'm about to do something, someone tells me to do it, then I suddenly don't want to do it anymore because I don't want them to think I'm a pushover. Then they'll think I'm just a bad girl, when I'm really not. I'm just scared.

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What Guys Said 5

  • Yes it's a waste of time but doesn't it make us weaker (If we don't counter)? in my opinion people will persist more often then.

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  • Yes, life is a vicious circle.

    How many times have I been born? How many times have I died?

    Which gasoline should I buy?

    'Round and 'round it goes...

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  • Around here people help each other out we look out for ourselves but also for other people. Its what a community does, I've given rides to blind men, older people who couldn't get home, I've seen coworkers give rides to complete strangers heck I've even caught a ride home from both of my bosses. I've even had a complete stranger buy a months worth of groceries for my family when I was younger that same guy bought us Christmas dinner ingredients as well. Its small things like that around here that just bring us closer together as a community and the families in it closer together. But for other people in other places what you say makes sense don't put yourself first see things from the other persons perspective before you make a rash decision.

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    • You are referring to the human spirit and I'm referring to the human animal. We all have both. If we can get a handle on the animal part we can let out spirits shine!

  • @Caren-Field Very interesting, thanks for sharing it with us..."the more we do it the more we do it" is a great way to think about it

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  • wow.. this can help me break the bs circle!! THANKS FOR THIS!

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What Girls Said 2

  • Our egos are jealous gods

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  • This is really good stuff. You make it easy to understand why we do the nutsy things we do. Thank you for writing this.

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