The Four Traps of Communication – Rule Number 3 – No Defending

Rule #3 – No Defending

Child saying noTalking effectively about feelings is an exercise that will strengthen trust and intimacy in a relationship. While talking is important, listening is just as crucial. Talking about and listening to certain events and issues must be presented in a comfortable environment that is committed to certain communication rules and understandings.

The role of the talker is to describe what emotions you are feeling; such as frustrated, angry, hurt, fearful, etc. Attach the emotion to a person, event, and how this affects how you feel about the relationship and about how you feel about yourself. An example is, “I feel hurt when you don’t listen. It makes me feel like you don’t care about my thoughts, opinions, or about me. It makes me feel like I’m invisible, I don’t’ matter, and I’m small.”

Next, explore what this might remind you of from earlier times in your life or previous relationships. For instance, “It reminds me when my father yelled at me as a child and continued to ask me to explain myself. I grew so scared while he yelled that I couldn’t think; my mind went blank. He continued to yell and I continued to retreat.”

Subsequently, explain what you need to help make you feel comfortable. This enables your partner to understand, empathize, and attune to your needs. With continued support from your partner, a loving connection and safe reliance grow.

The role of the listener is to put your feelings and perceptions aside, be fully present, engaged, and attentive. The listener is curious, asks questions, provides reflective statements and acknowledges your spouse’s perception of the event or issue. Another role of the listener is to ensure the four taboos of communication are avoided. They include:

1. Criticism
2. Demanding
3. Defensiveness
4. Angry outburst

I discussed rule number one, criticism and rule number two, no demands. Criticism and making a demand is a self-interested act that is demeaning and leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The third rule is to avoid defensiveness.

What is Defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. It is a function to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. Defensiveness usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. The defense protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

The solution is to share your feelings about your inner world that was triggered during the event. Express how it makes you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited. At this point, it is the responsibility of the listener to keep in line with your role and put your feelings and perception aside. With practice, the process will become easier and your relationship will strengthen.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, call me at (424) 258-5416, email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com, or complete the contact form below and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and intimacy again.

 

 

 

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The Four Taboos of Communication: Rule #2 — No Demanding

Research has come a long way since the 1960’s when the book The Mirages of Marriage by Don Jackson and William Lederer expressed that distressed marriages lacked a contract based on rewards and positive feelings.  It was suggested that partners negotiate a contract based out of self-interest to arrive at the best deal. Therapy approaches also recommended couples to designate a day of thoughtful exchanges.

Couples therapists now recommend couples work together with mutual trust and with shared meaning and purpose. Psychologists suggest partners act nice to each other not out of self-interest but out of mutual interest.  Furthermore, professionals advise spouses to express emotions in a committed safe haven of trust, curiosity, and validation.

The ingredients for not only loving but being in love with your partner resides with good conflict-resolution skills and daily emotional connections; where calmly talking, listening, cuddling and saying, “I love you” with sincerity persists.  Cuddling is important because it secretes oxytocin, the chemical that creates bonding and a great sex life.

The components to creating a healthy, happy relationship may sound overwhelming. It’s really quite simple.  It starts with some basic communication rules.  The guidelines include staying away from the four taboos of communication.

1.    Criticism

2.    Demanding

3.    Defensiveness

4.    Angry outburst

I discussed the menaces of criticism and how it leads to a hostile environment causing distance, distrust, and defensiveness.  The second communication pitfall to avoid is making a demand.

What is a demand?

A demand is a forceful request based on self-interest.  The act of a demand is being domineering, controlling, and forceful.  Similar to criticism, demanding something of your spouse is not constructive and does not have the mutual interest of the relationship in mind.

Demanding actions of your significant other commonly results in a passive-aggressive partner.  Passive-aggressive behavior is a defense mechanism to punish you for your demands.  Relationships that resort to demanding and retorting passive-aggressive behavior turn into a vicious cycle of retaliation, intense anger, and distance.

The solution is to pause before speaking when a demand enters your mind.  You may ask for a time-out and express that you can reconvene in an hour or whatever particular timeframe you need to speak calmly and express what triggered the demand.   Give yourself plenty of nurturing time to think and assess what soft spot was hit that brought forth this demand.

When you are ready, ask respectfully to your partner when is a good time to talk.  When a time is set, make sure the setting is comfortable with no distractions.  Share your perception and feelings of the event and what feelings about yourself and the relationship come forward.  The more you express your inner world in a committed safe haven of curiosity, understanding, and empathy, the closer you become.

If your communication is falling into traps of demands and passive-aggressiveness, call me at (424) 258-5416 or email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s begin a course of action so that you may build trust and understanding again.

 

The Four Traps of Communication

Communication is key to unlocking a growing, adaptable relationship with trust, closeness, and intimacy. When communication goes array, at least one of the four taboos of interaction has taken place. The relationship becomes stuck in a rut and trust and affection is broken. He runs away and avoids conflict and she latches on with more force and power. The relationship is headed into a cat and mouse chase, separation, withdrawal, affair(s), or therapy.

While seeing a therapist, the four communication pitfalls can be addressed and the relationship can become close and intimate again.

The four pitfalls in communication include:

  1. Criticism
  2. Demanding
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Angry outburst

What is criticism?

Criticism is unconsciously belittling another. It is assessing and disapproving of another. Without awareness, you feel superior and your spouse feels condemned.

Sure, criticism can be rationalized as helpful advice, constructive feedback, or behavior modification, yet any perception of ‘improving’ another is based on an agenda to change and a need to be right. Judging and blaming preface criticism which all lead to distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The relationship stalls and doesn’t improve.

Criticism involves looking at your partner as an extension of you. Rejecting and forbidding your partner to be a separate, autonomous person is pathological and unhealthy. With an agenda to change and a need to be right, your self-esteem rises and your partners’ confidence deflates. Most often criticism continues because giving up your position would feel like you have to give up a portion of yourself, which can feel all consuming, dominating, and threatening.

The solution is not to criticize. Instead, talk from a feeling perspective about your inner world, about the event and the behavior that triggers such disapproval.

What is demanding?

Demanding is acting domineering, controlling, and ridiculing. Similar to criticism, being demanding is not constructive and does not benefit the receiver.

Demanding results most often in your partner becoming passive-aggressive and punishing you for your demands. It’s a vicious cycle of retaliation with intense anger and pushing away.

The solution is to pause when a demanding thought enters your brain and count from one to ten. Give yourself time to think before speaking and assess what soft spot was hit that brought forth this demand. Talk to your partner when you are calm and clear in your understanding of your inner world.

What is defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. Most often it functions to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. The defensive behavior usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. Defensiveness is vented with anger and protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

Defensiveness may also result in withdrawal. Similar to anger, isolation is used to protect you from feeling pain, shame, guilt, and fear. Withdrawal produces distance and disconnection.

The solution is to share your feelings about your internal psyche that was stirred-up during the particular event. Express how it made you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited.

What is uncontrolled anger?

Uncontrolled anger is vented with raised voices, yells of derogatory names, and can lead to physical violence – throwing dishes, grabbing and shaking, pushing, and beating. If an interaction has reached the point of vented anger, it is time to stop, take a break and reconvene when you have calmed down and can talk with a normal tone all the while staying away from criticizing, demanding, and defensiveness.

It is important to stay away from the four taboos of communication to develop an evolving, growing relationship with trust, closeness, and intimacy. Following the rules of communication couples can learn to understand, empathize, and attune respectfully to each other’s triggers.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, give me a call (424) 258-5416 or email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s begin a course of action so that you may find each other again.

8 Healthy Coping Skills for Strong Emotions

Emotions can be overwhelming. They can make us feel crazy and out of control. They can ruin our relationships and cause tremendous havoc.

There is a better way. Emotions don’t have to rule our world. We can learn to control our emotional state. It begins with understanding what emotions are, where they originate, how they affect us, and healthy ways we can manage them.

What are emotions?

Emotions are not our enemy. They are assets to tap into, nurture and put to good use. Emotions are physiological, cognitive, and behavioral responses to a personally significant event (http://www.apa.org/research/action/glossary.aspx). They are complex patterns of change that protect us from danger, ignite feelings of love, and indicate internal calm. Emotions provide valuable information. All we have to do is stop, notice and listen.

How do emotions function?

Emotions affect our body, mind and behavior. Emotions influence how we communicate and influence others. Emotions manage and motivate action. Emotions bring life and vigor to our thoughts and actions (http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/emotion_function.html).

Emotions Assess for Safety

When danger arises, we automatically react with flight, fight or freeze. We flee when we see an exit or an escape. We fight when trapped. We freeze when we have exhausted our efforts to fight or flee

Emotions Influence Memory

Emotions are attached to memories. When current events trigger unresolved past reminiscences, feelings are compiled.   We not only respond to the current event but also the past.

This behavior is typical. Our reaction is signaling that we have past trauma or abuse. We are responding to all the thoughts and feelings aroused by our history ignited in the present.

Knowing this helps to understand our current emotional intensity. With understanding, compassion is possible. We can soothe our thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion is number one for coping with intense emotions.

8 Coping-Skills to Manage Emotions

  1. Self-CompassiHelp to Manage Emotionson

Self-compassion is a matter of relating. When we can relate, understand, and feel the difficulties of another, we can translate the same experience to our self.

Compassion is not about pity. It is a desire to help from a place of kindness and understanding. It is the ability to recognize without judgment or ridicule when others fail, make mistakes, and show imperfections. Compassion recognizes that we all have faults, make slip-ups, and possess limitations. It is part of our shared human experience.

Self-compassion is taking the same attitude toward others and giving it to our self. Just as we listen and empathize with our friend who lost their job, relative who had surgery or stranger homeless on the street, we can transfer those same nurturing thoughts and feelings to our self.

  1. Nurture

We can get out of our head by nurturing and socializing with others. Problems are distracted when we tend to children, friends, and relatives. By occupying our minds and lending a hand to someone else, we help ourselves. What could be more rewarding than that?

Developing and maintaining social alliances lowers stress. When we interact with those we care for, Oxytocin is released.   Oxytocin is a hormone that naturally calms.

Sharing our feelings with those we trust can help to normalize and validate emotions while helping to get out of isolation and see other perspectives.

  1. Notice the Breath

Becoming aware of our breathing helps assess our feelings. For example, when we breathe shallowly we may be feeling anxious. When we are breathing deeply into our abdomen, we may notice we are feeling calm or restful. Observing our breath at the moment gives us indicators as to how we feel.

We have control to deepen and slow down our breath. Paying attention to the location of our full inhale and exhale gives the opportunity to change our state of mind. We can choose to take a deep breath and breathe in our abdomen. Abdomen breathing calms a racing pulse and scattered mind.

Observing the muscles especially around the shoulders, neck and jaw may also give us a gauge into how we are feeling. If our muscles feel tight, we can choose to move around, stretch, and relax any tight areas.

Using our imagination to visualize the tension flowing out with our breath as we relax any tense muscles can have a tremendous effect on our mood.

  1. Visualize

Sometimes when we are flooded with feelings, it can be difficult to manage. It may be helpful to think of a calming visualization when we are calm. Thus, we have a tool from our toolbox we can resort to in times of stress.

Here is an idea, try putting emotional pain in a treasure chest. We can bury our treasure chest of emotions for the time being and come back to them when we have time to give them our full attention. It is important to make time for our feelings. They need acknowledgment, validation, and nurture just like a crying child. By tending to our emotions, we are caring for our self.

  1. Take a Break 

Sometimes we just need to pause for a moment. There are times when it is not appropriate or convenient to express intense emotions. During these incidences, it is best to excuse our self for a few minutes.

Try saying, “I need a moment to get my thoughts together. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” Make sure to return at the time indicated. Following through with your word ensures trust and reliability.

Taking the time to calm down and compose our thoughts and feelings, gives us a moment to think clearly.   We can then determine the best approach for expressing our self and finding solutions that are agreeable to all.

  1. Write

Writing can be extremely useful. Studies showed that survivors of traumatic events lowered their distress levels significantly by journaling.

Transforming thoughts and feelings ruminating in our mind to paper helps to stop the spiral. When we are in the thick of things, our thoughts manifest and continue in a downward twist. Externalizing them in a journal gives us the opportunity to clarify what we are thinking and feeling. It is valuable to practice self-compassion and validation when writing.

Closing our journal can also be symbolic. We are physically putting away our distressing feelings and letting go from the upsetting event.

  1. Speak Up

It is important to speak up when an issue is bothersome. Otherwise, we build up resentment. Built up anger causes us to lash out and nitpick at the tiniest of incidences.

It is most effective to think about the problem and clarify our position. It is at times like these to step away, breathe, and formulate a plan of action. We are then able to voice our concerns with an even tone and clarity.

Changes in our relationships are a process. It takes time to adjust to a new way of thinking and behaving. Impulsive confrontation never results in positive outcomes. With practice, talking about what bothers us becomes easy.

  1. Feelings are Temporary 

Emotions are like waves in the ocean. They are always moving and changing. It may be helpful to remind our self that we have not always felt this way. This too shall pass.

Think of previous times when intense emotions were felt. Remember that they eventually faded. Knowing they are temporary can help to begin the process to feeling better.

It may be useful to use a visualization of the ocean. Associate each wave with an emotion. Watch how each emotion moves through the continuum of the water, builds with momentum, crashes on the shore, and then washes away into the sand and current.

Taking time to acknowledge what we are feeling and understanding intense emotions are temporary can help calm a turbulent sea.

Managing our emotions becomes easy with practice. If we recognize the full range of feelings from fear, anger, sadness, and depression to happiness, inspiration, peace, and love, we can use them to protect our self and balance negative experiences. We can make the most of our emotions by opening our mind and utilizing healthy ways to manage them. Choosing what techniques work best for us in the situation is optimal.   We can learn to stabilize an out of control state of mind.

Exercise for Thought

Getting to know our emotions helps us to decide how we want to act rather than act. We can learn more about our feelings by keeping an emotion diary. Choose without judgment the strongest, longest lasting or most difficult or painful feelings. Describe the prompting event and the response in body, mind, and behavior.

6 Tips to Improve Communication With Difficult People

Dialog between man and woman

Image source: (Fotolia)

Some people are just downright difficult. No matter what you say or do, it feels like there is no way out. Emotions overrun rational thoughts. Conversations turn into heated arguments, and nothing solves. It’s times like these that old patterns of communication need a make-over.

We learn our communication style by our environment and upbringing. If we come from households where our thoughts were not valued, listened, or supported; we learned not to talk. If we were dismissed, ignored, or criticized by cultural gender norms, we learned to remain silent. We adapted to suppress our thoughts and feelings to survive. As adults, we are now confronted with shame, anger, and denial of our thoughts and feelings.

When we retreat from communicating directly due to cultural norms, gender norms, or social norms we deny ourselves. We disallow access to our authentic self and to deeply connected relationships. Our fear of not being liked, avoidance of conflict or perfectionism keeps us isolated. We don’t give our relationships a chance. We hide from who we are, what we think, and what we feel. In turn, we treat ourselves with the same criticism and suppression as our childhood environment.
There is another way. We don’t have to run and hide. We can speak openly, honestly, and directly. It is not difficult. With practice communicating our needs and wants becomes second nature.

Learning skills to be assertive opens up courageous possibilities to be vulnerable. Exposing our real selves involves taking risks. The benefits outweigh discomforts. A richness of meaningful experiences of love, a sense of belonging, trust, joy, and creativity evolve naturally.

With assertiveness, we learn to stand-up for ourselves and not violate the rights of another person. It is a direct and honest expression of our feelings and opinions. We act, think and feel supporting our rights and the rights of others as equally valued, expressed, and respected.

Test Your Assertiveness

1. Do you find yourself saying “yes” to requests when you really want to say “no?”
Yes      No
2. Is it hard for you to make a decision?
Yes      No
3. Are you unable to express your discontent with a friend or partner, even if you think it is justified?
Yes      No
4. Is it difficult for you to ask for help or assistance?
Yes      No
5. Is it hard for you to express an opinion that is different from other people’s opinions?
Yes      No
6. Is it hard for you to share something positive about yourself?
Yes      No
7. Do you not speak up at work, a class, or meeting, even when you know the answer to a question or have a solution?
Yes      No
8. Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment?
Yes      No

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of the questions, you might have difficulty using assertive communication.

6 Tips to Communicate Assertively Using the Acronym, P A S A R R

1. Pause.

Quiet the mind for a moment to check in and listen internally. Noticing our thoughts gives us the opportunity to assess what we desire. Paying attention to our first intentions positions us to listen to our intuitive voice and bash any defeating self-talk. Being aware of how we feel and what we want to say enables us to stay true to ourselves. With consistent practice, reflection and self-validation the process will take less time.

2. Acknowledge the Truth.

Mirroring body language and giving credit where deserved credit helps deflate a heated moment. Agreeing with a kernel of truth in the complaint also provides time for internal reflection. For example, your boss says, “Your work is always screwed-up.” Ask, “In what way did I screw up?” If she says, “You just are a screw-up,” agree with one discreet example (if it is accurate), but correct her overgeneralization.

3. Stay True to Self.

Using clear and definite “I statements” validating our thoughts and feelings keep the conversation focused on the behavior not the person. While beginning a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” then go on to briefly describe the other person’s behavior.

4. Ask for a Request. Following what we noticed in the other’s person behavior with how their actions affected us kept the focus on cause and effect of behavior, not the person. Then make a request. For example, “When you are late and do not call, I feel afraid that something happened to you. I feel angry that I am waiting. I feel irritated that you don’t value my time. I would prefer it if you call to let me know if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late. Can you do that for me?”

5. Repeat.

Encouraging others reflection ensures mutual understanding. We are practicing self-validation and asking for what we want.

6. Repair.

If the steps above have not helped, continue to ask questions. Inquiring about others thoughts and feelings shows curiosity and their thoughts and feelings matter equally to yours, and a mutual solution is desired. During this phase paying attention to our non-verbal cues such as tone and volume of voice, eye-contact, and body position enables us to be in control of our self. It is also important to ensure we stay true to ourselves, saying “No” when needed to provide healthy boundaries, and validating our thoughts and feelings.

Using assertive techniques is a skill. It improves with practice. With time communicating our desires becomes easy. Following these steps as a guideline to stop before a heated argument, reflecting and staying honest to ourselves and others, and maintaining healthy boundaries allocates opportunity for a joint resolution, self-value, and increased confidence. Knowing that we took a risk to stand-up for ourselves demonstrates that we matter, that our thoughts and feelings are valuable, and we are worth defending.

In love and dignity, speak the truth – as we think, feel, and know it – and it shall set us free.
~ Melody Beattie

Step Ten of Alcoholics Anonymous — A Life Journey

Responsibility: No single drop of water thinks it is responsible for the floodStep 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Steps one through nine provide tools to awaken internal realizations and relational manifestations.  They offer help to accept the past and heal what is possible.  The first nine measures give guidance for honesty, faith, hope, courage, and humility for responsible lives.

Step ten is based on the principle of responsibility.  Being responsible is using our authority to make independent decisions for our actions and for our failures to take action.  We are accountable for our actions and their consequences.

The tenth step uses the basis of responsibility and applies it to daily life as an ever evolving journey.  Throughout the stages of life, we are in a in a constant state of transition, emerging, evolving, and becoming.  We are continually discovering and making sense of our existence.  As we repeatedly question ourselves, others and the world, it is important to continue looking within and practice being accountable for our behaviors especially when we are wrong.  Paying attention to our varying degrees of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors helps improve conscientious decisions-making.  Keeping abreast to our internal being and being true to ourselves and others maintains balance and happiness as we progress in our lifespan.

To help encourage awareness make time each day to practice stillness.  Stillness is slowing down from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Set up a quiet sanctuary for your practice.  Maintain a personal ritual in a quiet place where you can focus internally.  It’s a time to just notice and listen in the moment.  This is not a time for judgment or ridicule.  Just allow thoughts to surface and pay attention to where the feeling is sensed in the body.

The concept is simple, yet can feel difficult to perform.  To assist, you might create a place dedicated solely for the purpose of reflection.  Form a tranquil space with pillows, blankets, and memorabilia that are personally special.  Wear comfortable clothing.

Nature is another sanctuary.  Ensure there are no external distractions such as electronic devices or interruptions.  Take the time to focus internally and scan your body and listen to your inner being.

Begin by taking several slow, deep breaths.  Start your practice remaining silent for five minutes and as your meditation muscles strengthen, add more time.  Increase in one to five minute intervals each week until you reach thirty or forty-five minutes, or as much as feels right for you.

In the beginning taking time for mindfulness may seem like a waste of time. Allow for the process to transpire and you will reap many benefits. You will have more clarity and decisiveness.  With less wandering of the mind, you are able to make quick, precise decisions.   You are more centered, well-balanced and connected with your core and inner being.  Having greater connection to your body and mind provides more awareness.  Being aware supplies consciousness to peace and confidence in your authenticity.

Stillness is your sacred time to connect to your spiritual power and to reflect inward.  It is a valuable time solely for you.  With practice, you will adopt, habituate and notice positive changes in all areas of your life.

Now that you are more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and actions, challenge yourself to experience fearful situations and remain there knowing you can manage your emotions and take responsibility for your behavior.  Each person has unique thoughts, emotions, and urges.  They are a natural part of life.   Distinctive thoughts and feelings are not right or wrong.  Labeling them good or bad/right or wrong is passing judgment.  Acceptance is a state of non judgment.  Reassure yourself, that your thoughts and feelings matter and are of value.  They equate just as much as everyone else’s.

The more in tune you are with your thoughts and feelings, the more you can create a safe place for you to express them in a healthy way.  This means stating your wants and desires.  If you are not getting want you want, it is your responsibility to express your needs.  People are not mind-readers.  The only way to have a healthy discussion is to communicate openly and honestly.  Allow the other person to speak, express their thoughts, desires, and feelings; and then do the same.  Use respectful dialogue.  Establish ground rules such as no name calling, blaming, yelling, or stonewalling. If the conversation elevates to such a level, take a time out with a specific day/ time to reconvene and continue the discussion.  Ensure you return at the established day/ time.  This builds trust.  With practice, responsible responses will habituate and become easier over time.

Having an awakening to your internal psyche creates more options and alternatives. Exposure to communication brings deeper connection and better relationships.  We are our choices.  Thus instead of using alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, and relationships to restrain what you think and feel, you have the capacity to notice, acknowledge and choose how you manage your internal workings.   Your relationships will show the improvement.

Step 10 encourages you to notice and allow whatever thoughts and emotions you are thinking or feeling to surface.  By observing your interior consciousness you are awakening to a richer life of happiness, joy, and serenity as well as managing your own life for safety and protection.  Having thoughts and emotions are normal and healthy.   Allowing them to surface doesn’t mean you have to act on them.  It’s being in charge, building a relationship with your fears and distress, and strengthening your confidence to know you can handle difficult experiences.

Responsibility Sure Glad the hole isn't at our end.

Forgiveness – A Crucial Component of Step 9 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.Forgiveness is a process and a choice.  It is the opportunity to untie the bindings of your pain from the past.   As part of the course of action, forgiveness involves confronting your fears and compassion to allow yourself time to physically and emotionally heal.  Exposing yourself to persons, surroundings, or objects that you fear offers the opening to have a corrective experience.  You are able to reorganize your memories and repair those recollections.

For example, as a child you may have experienced being attacked by a Rottweiler.  You were not physically hurt but the immediate threat startled you.  As a result you froze.  This is a natural fear response.   The terror was never discussed by your family or friends.  Thus the thoughts and emotions were not processed and disorganized memories formed.  Avoiding the discussion of the incident caused your fears to worsen.  Unprocessed feelings transform to generalized fears and all or nothing thinking.  Consequently you became fearful of all dogs and avoidant of the neighborhood where the attack occurred.

By exposing yourself to another Rottweiler that doesn’t attack gives the opportunity for a remedial and healing experience.  Difficult memories are allowed to surface.  The thoughts and emotions that were once suppressed can now be processed.   Processing gives way to reorganizing your memories.  You learn that not all Rottweilers show aggression.  You broaden your capacity for more knowledge and understanding.  All Rottweilers don’t attack.  There are some aggressive dogs and others that are very loving.  Black and white thinking transforms to accepting that Rottweillers and all animals have trustworthy and safe parts and some that are not.  For example, a cat that was once abused as a kitten associates touch as a threat.  Thus when you pet him, he bites.  As long as you don’t pet the cat, he is kind and playful.  Animals and experiences are complex and make up many parts not just good or bad.

The same is true for people.  Most parents, loved ones, and friends do not intentionally try to hurt you.  The hurtful behavior that was endeared was taught and passed down from their parents.  As a child, you have no choice but to tolerate the emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.  You are completely dependent upon your caretakers for safety and protection in whatever capacity they can.  Thus you learn to protect yourself, suppress your emotions, and tolerate abuse.  The abuse continues until you learn that as an adult you have a choice on what to tolerate.  You can now tune into your emotions and express them in a healthy manner.  As an adult you can courageously choose and confront those in your cycle of abuse.  You can choose to forgive.

The persons on your list from Step four are participants of the cycle of abuse.   By respectfully approaching those on your list, you may be able to have an open discussion, grasp a better understanding from their perspective, explain yours, and possibly heal old wounds.  All participants must be willing to have an open mind and to listen and speak compassionately from the heart.  It is possible to heal hurt with positive, respectful dialogue.  As you both come to a new understanding, unresolved emotions are replaced with restored, transformative memories to a place of forgiveness and healing.