After attending a conference for Marriage and Family Therapists, one of the sessions I attended was about Therapists being faced with defining moments in an ethical practice. The concept of defining moments has stuck with me since then, and I have began to see how many defining moments every individual has whether it be in his or her relationship, work, or everyday life.
A DEFINING MOMENT IS DEFINED AS:
a point at which the essential nature or character of a person is revealed or identified. Defining moments can be big or small…
When thinking about our everyday lives, there are several moments we are faced with that could be considered defining moments. But, do we consider them as defining moments? For example, let us say you are in traffic and are abruptly cut off, how do you respond? Is it a defining moment when you decide to scream and road rage at the person who cut you off? Perhaps it is. After all, it is unknown if that same person who cut you off could end up being the same person you sit next to in an important business meeting. You may now have the label of a road rager versus the successful business person you want to appear as. During this meeting you may be filled with remorse at how you reacted to that situation just moments before the meeting.
When I think about defining moments, I also think about how many defining moments individuals are faced with in their relationships. When conflict is brewing, how is it handled? When feelings are hurt, how is it communicated? It is natural for many people to want to immediately react with their knee jerk reaction. The knee jerk reaction is deeply embedded and is how we have learned to react with our emotions throughout life.
The problem with knee jerk reactions is they are often met with increased conflict.
Relationships can be faced with emotional reactivity where the people involved are filled with regret after an argument or conflict. Maybe you are filled with regret for yelling when you were angry, swearing or saying things you did not mean when fighting, or withdrawing from your partner when you knew he or she needed you. These are just a few examples of defining moments. As a partner in a relationship you have the opportunity to define how you want to be in these moments.
The first step in defining how you want to be in a relationship is to begin to notice automatic knee jerk reactions. Becoming aware of how you naturally react can be helpful in noticing the many moments you naturally just react versus considerately respond. After becoming aware of the automatic knee jerk reactions, it is important to be curious as to what is triggering the reaction. Maybe you feel threatened, inferior, afraid, or alone and the knee jerk reaction is to protect yourself by becoming defensive. The defining moment can then be for you to communicate how you feel and why in a calm manner versus immediately yelling. Reducing emotional reactivity in a relationship can be one of the most challenging aspects of being in a relationship. I am here to help you learn strategies for effective communication with your partner so your days are filled with more defining moments you are proud of.