Pixie: Last night we talked about stepping into the attacker to see things from her perspective. Do you think verbal attacks are different than being physically attacked?
Michele: Well, I can think of at least one type of physical attack that is different than I've ever experienced verbally or emotionally where I went into the flow state like you talked about. I just pushed through something physical even though I felt like I was going to die. I was playing flag football and thought these big college girls were going to kill me. I just ran through them.
Pixie: Sorry, I'm smiling at the visual.
Michele: I’ve never had that level of experience under verbal attack.
Pixie: I experience that when I'm playing soccer. Sometimes there's no thinking - just physical reflex, somatic memory. Primal.
Michele: Right, that's what it was like. It scared me to find out that I was like that. I realized I could be a soldier. I thought that would be impossible until that moment.
Pixie: I think that happens when we're in a true state of crisis like an auto accident. In experiences like that, we may not feel the fear until later. Sometimes people tremble and get emotional with the drop in adenalin.
Michele: I think I'm good in a crisis. I have experienced that "in-a-crisis" feeling in verbal situations; just nothing close to that physical test.
Pixie: The stress response is somewhat different physically.
Michele: I think maybe it is the same, just much stronger and more primitive (as you point out) when one physically senses danger. For me, in that one case, it was like some part of my brain engaged that I'd never used before.
Pixie: Exactly. Under verbal attack, my chest can get tight, my stomach goes into knots and yet, I may not go into auto-pilot for survival because so much of it is in my mind.
Michele: I find that most people have a pretty low threshold for stress in verbal situations. They go into a stress response with very little stimulation.
Pixie: So how would you teach someone to step into the attack under verbal attack?
Michele: I learned it by practicing; so that’s the best advice I have - practice.
Pixie: We've both talked about “pausing” if we’re under verbal attack. That’s important.
Michele: Yes, I always wait a beat. I think when I started practicing I used to pause for a few seconds. Now, it’s usually just a beat because I have more practice.
Pixie: I talk about pausing in a difficult conversation and asking for Higher Guidance to put spiritual space between you and the other person.
Michele: The idea of silence is a good one. I like it. It says, “I'm not going to fight with you. I’m going to be smart.”
Pixie: I actually used to put my ex-husband on hold for a moment before engaging.
Michele: That's a great example. Under verbal attack, I pause and then choose from my menu of strategies.
The strategies include:
- be curious
- ask the person for help
- show vulnerability
- interrupt (if you are in a position to interrupt)
- check out gracefully from the situation
- do a “Check In” (a Check In is defined on our website)
Pixie: So a process for learning to step into a verbal attack rather than avoiding it or fighting back is:
- pick a strategy from your menu
- practice with intention
Michele: Next we’ll expand the idea of pausing.
Photo by Takemusu Aikido on Flickr.com
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