How Old Are You Feeling Right Now?

3 Mar

“How old are you feeling right now?” It’s a question I often ask my clients, especially when a couple is in the midst of an argument in my office. Why? Because oftentimes, we don’t realize that, in the middle of conflict, we revert right back to our childhood.

It may sound a bit psychodynamic, but when two people are arguing, they often don’t realize that they’re behaving like the child or adolescent they “thought” they had said good-bye to years ago.

For example, let’s imagine a wife who’s accusing her husband of not trying hard enough to connect in the marriage. If he reacts in a defensive way that further escalates the argument, I might ask him, “how old are you feeling right now?”tantrum

If he has enough insight, he may be able to connect this moment to a time in the past when his Mother used to accuse him of not trying in school. When he was seven years-old, he might react defensively and have a tantrum. And, here we are, forty years later, watching the same reaction.

Has this ever happened to you? You can bet I’ve experienced it! I’ll often catch myself having an “adult tantrum” about something that triggers something from my past. And, there I am–six years old again, “kicking and screaming” because I didn’t get my way!

When it comes to conflict resolution, we all have baggage we bring from our past. But, the best part of being a grown-up is that we can choose how we react to our instincts. If your instinct is to run away from a problem, like you did when you were ten years-old, you may be tempted to do it again. BUT, now that you’re a grown-up, it’s time to reconsider a better way of resolving your problems.





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