How often do we respond to criticism or accusations by becoming ‘reactive’ and lashing out at our critics?  It seems as if this is a natural reaction to a perceived affront or attack. 

It is a response that we wear like a bullet-proof vest except that it doesn’t protect us against our feelings at all. It is like the counter-attack of a wounded animal. It is meant to strike back at the source of our pain.

Do we feel ‘better’ after we attack those who we perceive as ‘attacking’ us? Hardly.  We may feel completely justified in our response, yet the result is that we are shaken by both experiences–the ‘attack’ and the ‘response’.

We suffer because we experience the mental as well as the physical reactions to confrontation. The stronger the ‘threat’ the more vigorous the response. 

Yet what determines how and how strongly we react?  It originates from our own mind, our own thoughts, our own feelings of guilt, perhaps.  We may secretlyl agree with our attacker–we should or could have done something different.

Perhaps we should have been more ‘sensitive’ at a time when we were not. Perhaps we were too preoccupied with our own thoughts and situation to have done something more compassionate and loving.

We somehow ‘hurt’ the other person first–then they reacted in order to hurt us.  Although our actions may have been unintentional, their’s was intentional.  There are karmic differences, but in each case the perception of ‘hurt’ came from within the individual themselves.

There are situations in which we can fend off an ‘attack’ by ignoring it, excusing the attacker as being insecure or too defensive themselves. There are times in which we realize that we might very well learn something from their response.  Perhaps we can learn to be more sensitive to others.

One of the most powerful defenses against an attack is to agree with the attacker. This may actually confuse and distress them. We can apologize for our unintentional actions. We can apologize to the extent that the attacker is made to feel that they are, perhaps, too sensitive or ‘needy’ and should re-evaluate their own responses as well.

Perhaps the next time we are ‘attacked’ we can take a breath and not respond immediately. Perhaps we can allow the initial reactivity to slowly drain away. Perhaps we can put ourselves in the place of the other before we react to them.Perhaps we can break the cycle of escalating emotions before it begins. 

None of this is easy–our defensive nature is genetically programmed for survival. Yet we might find that the path of compassion is ultimately healing for all involved.

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