Most of us have some sort of belief about ourselves that is negative. A belief that we are stupid, not good enough, a bad person, ugly, that we don’t belong.
These negative beliefs about ourselves comes from an interaction between yourself and someone else, especially from people in our family system, where something happened and you were told that you were “blank” in some form or another. Not good enough, not lovable, not smart, not worthy of love, not important.
We could either have learnt these beliefs directly, like your parents could have told you you were stupid, or indirectly; if your mother did not give you love and affection, which might result in a belief that you are not important.
So we carry these mistaken beliefs into adulthood and into every social encounter we have. Our mistaken beliefs about ourselves govern how we interact. It is governed by fear and shame. Fear of being found out, shame of being wrong, different, unlovable, not good enough.
We believe that if everyone knew that we weren’t good enough, we would be rejected and ultimately be alone. As social beings we want to be to belong, so we end up trying to hide these parts of ourselves that we think are broken. In doing so, we put on a mask to hide that we are not good enough. A mask could be to do everything perfect in order to hide that we are not good enough. Or we can become an overachiever in order to hide that we are not smart enough. And sometimes, or mask is literally to hide and avoid.
Our masks will react and change in response to different people and different situations. And they are always a response to a trigger. A trigger is when we get an emotional response to a situation or a person that might expose our mistaken beliefs to the world.
When our strategies fail, when our masks fails, we will put on an armour and we will defend and attack. If someone points out your flaws (like a family member or a loved one), we easily go into arguing, defending ourselves and pointing out the flaws in the other person.
So how can we learn to be a better YOU in relationship? Instead of giving into your triggers, going into masks, defend and attack, you can learn to differentiate between situations and people that remind you of your past, and what is actually happening in this situation. You can learn to recognize your triggers and your mistaken beliefs. To do this, we need to take full emotional responsibility. We must take responsibility for our triggers, and our own response, and not project that onto others. In order to do so, we must learn to recognize our mistaken beliefs. That way, it is easier to recognize why we are triggered. So next time you are triggered by someone, think about why you are feeling triggered, and what you believe about yourself in that moment. In doing so, we can have more compassion for ourselves and others, and we can avoid the trigger, attack, defend dance.