by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
I know when I've been in an argument with someone, I feel devastated. I withdraw. I avert my eyes when I meet the other person again and am not sure whether I can trust them. The sky once full of sunlight has now been filled with dark clouds as my self-image starts to plummet and my mind race to figure out what to do, why it happened, what to blame.... Not everyone reacts to an argument the way I do, but just about everyone reacts in some way to the disagreeableness of disagreeing. Here are 5 ways to undo an argument:
1. Stop and explore what you are feeling. Everything in you is unconsciously trying to push the uncomfortableness of your feelings out of your awareness. We do this differently: some withdraw, others yell, fix, eat, drink, work, watch TV. Our ways of escape are as individual as we are. Do the opposite and be curious about what you are experiencing. Breathe deeply….we tend to stop breathing when we are in turmoil.
2. Notice where the stress and turmoil is registering in your body. Focus your attention there for a while. Notice the feelings grow in intensity. Observe them without labeling them bad. Allow them to be there without rejecting yourself. Consider them and at the same time hold in your awareness your own goodness as God’s handiwork. Remember a time of joy and peace in your life.
3. Picture yourself telling Jesus about what happened. How does he react? Relive the situation but this time with Jesus present during the argument. What is different about how you feel about yourself? About the other person?
4. Write down the thoughts that are running through your head regarding the argument, the other person, yourself. Write a letter to yourself about what happened. Write a letter to the other person about what you desire to unfold between you going forward.
5. Identify one thing you can do going forward. Can you ask the other to do one thing differently that would make a difference for you? Would it be helpful for you to talk to a spiritual friend or guide about this experience with Jesus and what you are beginning to see about yourself or about the other? Have you become aware of something you need to resolve in your life in order to have the interior freedom to strengthen your marriage? Is it safe to sit down with the other and talk about what happened? How will you go about doing what you have decided is important for you.
Arguments can’t be undone, but the power of the argument to devastate the future of a relationship can. This is a daily, sometimes hourly, exercise that we carry out because we love…we love ourselves, we love the other, we care about the relationship. And so does God.