Reactivity: The Enemy of Relationships

I got this funny story from Linda, a friend of mine in Chicago.  We have had some great talks about the love styles and Linda used an experience that happened recently to illustrate a point we think is very important in our journey of growth.  I asked her permission to share it because it’s a great opening for this months first newsletter.  Normally Milan would be writing the May newsletters but I (Kay) am writing this month as Milan is super busy finishing his part of the manuscript for the parenting book.  If you have any great stories to share about how you have applied what you learned from our book, How WE Love, to your kids let us know.

Here is Linda’s story.

Here is an interesting Story, at least for me because it highlights what I’m learning about emotional/spiritual growth…

Buddy, our dog, “naughty” Buddy!  It’s been almost a year since Buddy found us!  At l0:30 pm during the tornado warning Matt & Gary (Linda’s son and husband) were driving around and spotted this dog, with no tags, but a chewed up leash and collar….Buddy became our dog.

So everyone in the family totally loved Buddy but me, of course!  I have lots of Naughty Buddy stories!  But it actually came out of my mouth this past week and I admitted to Matt, “Yeah Matt, Buddy is getting better!”  So, as I was leaving one day for a quick store run, Buddy was just hanging out in his cage, opened…I thought wow, he must like it in there, I didn’t put him in there…SO I thought OK Buddy I’ll just let you hang out & not lock up the cage for the VERY first time leaving the house!!!

As always,  I put the alarm on and off I went…..Within l5 minutes I had received a call,,,,,the police have been dispatched and are on their way to the house…I then realized Buddy!  I bet I put the alarm on “away” instead of “stay”…just out of habit….so naturally Buddy tripped the alarm…..  NO big deal…I left the store and waited for the Lake County sheriff.   He arrived, we chatted and off I went back to the grocery store.

Next interruption;  I received a text from Matt:  WHY IS MY BED WET???  It was a Tuesday and the cleaning lady  had just changed the bedding.  I thought Kasia, (my cleaning lady) is pretty smart, she didn’t put on damp sheets did she??  Matt said. “No, it’s wet on my comforter.”  We thought, oh no, must be Buddy!  Well Matt’s a neat-nick and doesn’t enjoy chaos/change/disorder.  Matt was really mad at his favorite person/animal in the entire world!

It really actually surprised me.  Both Gary & Matt tend to distort everything Buddy does into some kind of comical, hilarious and adorable antics!  I don’t relate!     After coming home I checked out Matt’s bedding.  There were paw imprints  tracking  on the white carpeting leading into Matt’s room and sure enough~~……….     Buddy must have jumped up on Matt’s bed and wet the bed!!  WHY? It wasn’t a lot but definitely intentional for some reason.   Buddy isn’t even allowed upstairs and this was a totally new dysfunction!  Later Matt told us there was piddle in the exercise room.

It was then that we connected the dots!!!   Buddy set off the alarm and panicked.  He was frantic, BERSERK!!!  Piercing, loud, irritating, and unending racket from the alarm and he was alone!!……So, Buddy went to go find rescue, comfort and relief of some sort.  Buddy surely went searching for Matt ~ evidence in his bedroom and exercise room!    ……Isn’t that interesting!  Suddenly there was a SHIFT!  Finally, there was clarity, understanding & connection!  Stepping back…..,,looking through Buddy’s eyes & dog world gave us a totally new picture/perspective!!!  And Buddy can’t even talk!

Matt’s attitude and heart suddenly changed:  from Matt defaming his beloved dog ……. …to Oh, poor Buddy!  I even felt sadness and compassion for Buddy!!  …….He must have been terrified and only responding how a “normal” person/creature would when scared; to find comfort /relief!

For some reason, we didn’t instantly understand this scenario….It JUST  seemed apparent to us that Buddy was again— naughty & now couldn’t be trusted alone…..  BUT knowing his “issues” (abandoned/rejected & homeless)……& linking with current disordered behavior::::  DUH!  It became a no brainer!  Making the connection made ALL the difference in the world.

I got a laugh out of Linda’s story.  I bet those of you with dogs have some naughty Buddy stories too.  It’s easy to just REACT when a person (or pet) does something irritating, annoying or exasperating.  Buddy was naughty and he did break the household rules.  At first, Matt and Linda were just reactive. Naughty Buddy!!   Then Linda asked an important question….WHY?  What’s going on underneath the annoying behavior?  Could there be a good reason? Thinking back, Gary found Buddy during a tornado watch and sirens announce the possible touchdown of a tornado.  So the house alarm may have triggered Buddy’s memory of the tornado sirens.  Linda will tell you Buddy  has attachment issues.  Even dogs have their love styles…..hey maybe that could be a book!

This month we are going to discuss the problem of reactivity, how it destroys relationships and how each style struggles with reactivity.  Some practical help to lower reactivity will be given by the time May is over so don’t miss this series.  Just in case you think this subject doesn’t apply to you, reactivity comes in two forms; loud, aggressive and defensive or quiet, passive, withdrawal and pouting.  Which direction do you lean when you are overly reactive?