Appreciating the people that trigger us the most, reflections and a practice

Pema Chodron:

“If you don’t first see where you are hookable, and where you get stuck, with complete honesty, then you are always going to have that blind spot to bring you down.  So if you really want freedom, you need people around to provoke you to show you where you still have work to do”

Here is the reference video

Jonathan Haber:

Given this, being triggered in a relationship, even deeply triggered, can be seen actually as a powerful ally in our journey towards freedom.

What this means is that for the spiritual warrior who takes full responsibility for his or her emotional responses to their partner, the difficult moments can be seen as our allies.

Add to this Byron Katie’s basic premise that “our judgments of another are actually judgments of ourselves,” we can start to see that even when we feel judgmental of our partners, we have room to appreciate them, because we can use these judgments we have to look inside and see what parts of ourselves are wanting attention and/or healing.

Contrast this to an unconscious lover…

The lover who engages in blame and criticism as a desperate attempt to “fix” what they believe is wrong with their partner.  This lover will attempt to monitor the behavior of their lover to avoid the emotional experience they are having in reaction to these behaviors.  If the trigger is not used to look inside, partners in an unconscious relationship attempt to shape each other, they attempt to create their ideal partnership out of thier partners instead of looking inside.

Perhaps this is representative of a great tragedy in unconscious relationship, which would be the lost potential for healing that takes place when we blame our partner for our emotional reactions to thier behavior.

Genpo Roshi’s practice, “Big Mind” illustrates this point further.  Individuals are asked to embody the voices of the fragmented self, including the voice of the fixer.  In my personal experience with this practice, the voice of the fixer is destined to always try to fix anything and everything that appears broken, and is likely to judge a partners behavior as broken if it causes an emotional reaction.

This fixing is then seen as an expression of the ego, of the fragmented self, and through the practice of Big Mind, an individual is also given an opportunity to look through the lens of the “free functioning fully integrated Self,” within which, in my experience, nothing actually appears to be broken.  In this lens, life appears as perhaps it actually is, a magnificent orchestration of pure potentiality, a field of expansion, a realm of complete, pure, open spaciousness, and an invitation into the full, vibrant, uninhibited expression of our deepest Self.

Practice:  Complete these questions and post your responses.  Offer relevant and brief feedback to the other posts that you read.

So, how do we get unstuck when we notice that we are trying to change our partners behavior?

And where in your life are you attempting to shape people to how your mind thinks they should be?

And what part of you would love to accept them exactly as they are and even celebrate the diversity they hold?

Who triggers you, and do you see your judgments as an opportunity for looking inside and healing?

And finally, think of the person who you most resist right now, and send love and kindness to them until your entire body is filled with a pleasant open sensation.

:: :: ::

Response from Andy

Hi Jonathan,

The strangeness of synchronicity would of course rule that I read this after discussing it for 2 hours this morning with my ex-partner (we still get on, but have too many issues). What came up for us was quite depressing – she was upset about what she saw as a lack of emotional response from me and from London in general (big city…) after a trip home to her family and friends in the country where she felt appreciated.

The big issue at the bottom of it all was anxious attachment – we can tolerate those who ALWAYS show us attention (our friends) and also those who NEVER show us attention (strangers in a big city). What drives us crazy is random attention – people who go warm and cold, love us and then leave us, are charming and charismatic when we meet them and almost autistic when we live with them. We’re really just laboratory rats – they go crazy at random reinforcement. Give them food all the time and they are fine, food none of the time and they are fine (but hungry!). Give them food and no food at totally random intervals and they go crazy – either trying again and again to get what they want as if they’re hooked, or just moping and giving up – learned helplessness.

The really bad thing is that anxious attachment goes back to the first years of life and typically the mother-child relationship where the mother is alternately there and feeding the child (good mother) or absent and the child’s hungry (bad mother). All this can seem random to the child – it has no rhyme or reason. If we don’t resolve this in childhood it comes back to haunt us. And it’s a frustrating thing to resolve because we have no words in the first two years of life, so we can’t conceptualize all this in language.

Anyway, as we talked about her issues with this it became clear that my issues with it were equally important. I must admit that at the start of the 2 hours I saw her, just as you say, as “an unconscious lover, who engages in blame and criticism as a desperate attempt to “fix” what they believe is wrong with their partner”. We’ve certainly been to that place….

It was painful to go through this at a deeper level for both of us, and we certainly came face to face with our fragmented selves as you describe it, both of the subject and the “fixer”. This follows your model exactly. But I think the outcome was different – I think we needed acceptance of the potential for anxious attachment in both of us, and this remains far from fixed.

I think in our case the path out of this was positive psychology, as described by Martin Seligman but no doubt similar to pro-active living in all its different shades and colors. When you can’t control your environment and the people in it, control yourself and your own expectations. Rise above it, and seek your own answers and values. Live with yourself and it’s easier to live with others.

One of the things that I hold to be fundamentally true is that “life doesn’t care”. Don’t blame life, fate or anything else! Don’t believe that we “deserve” anything from life! Life is what we make it. I’m right with you when you say “don’t shape people” – we need to shape ourselves.

I don’t know how much this differs from your model. I think we both benefited a lot from the 2 hours we talked over all this. But I think it left us sadder and wiser, rather than happy. We all at some point have to give up, with infinite sadness and regret, the idea of a perfect love.


:: :: ::

Response from Jonathan:

To Andy:

Please offer me the opportunity to gather some more data, I am inspired by your inquiry and perspectives and would like to look deeper to expand my current understanding and my capacity to be of service to yourself, myself, and others.

Regarding this statement:

“The really bad thing is that anxious attachment goes back to the first years of life and typically the mother-child relationship where the mother is alternately there and feeding the child (good mother) or absent and the child’s hungry (bad mother).”

Is this a stressful thought?

If so, then the work of Byron Katie would invite you to inquire as to whether it is in fact true.

You can learn more about her inquiry methods here.

Certified Facilitators who are interested in volunteering time to share this work can be found here

Byron Katie’s process would invite you to inquire into what the most stressful thought is out of all of your current thinking on any issue, and that would be the starting point for her process.

That said, It seems that in Western Culture and Christian Theology, the universe is seen as inherently serious, reference my article today on this:

The Inherent Playfulness of the Universe, reflections and a practice

And Alan Watts presents the universe as an inherently playful phenomena, which has correlation with the Hindu Monotheistic perspective that all phenomena are an outcome of the creative play of the divine absolute, as referenced in the article above.

Given that, I imagine you would agree that the thought I quoted above and the other stressful thoughts that are present for you on this matter are ones that appear to be serious, as in the perspective of our Western Culture.

This is a valid lens to look through, and fully acceptable as a path through relationship and life, however there may be another perspective on this, and one that perhaps begs to be seen through, with the urgency of our inherent drive to come together and experience closeness with the ones that we love.

Please consider this, if you took the 5 topics or aspects of your inquiry into the nature of your relationship with this woman which feel the most serious, and wrote them out. And if you looked at each of them as either inherently playful, as Alan Watts suggests, or as an expression of the creative play of the universe, as Hindu Monotheistic perspectives invite, what would you see?  What would these lens’s provide to you as an invitation into further understanding?

You are invited to use this forum to explore this, and to write your answers below, or to email them to me at

Beyond that, I see a huge potential for your reflections to deepen my own understanding and my article, so lets look into that now.

If a partner in fact offers love at random intervals, given their own personal journey to freedom and their pace and position on that journey… for example, a partner who is triggered by the “wounded child” archetype and not yet ready to look at this, and who then shuts down and becomes judgmental when his “beloved” expresses a victimhood based request for nurturance and attention, then who is to blame for the disconnection and the corresponding pain?

From a Buddhist thought lineage, as illustrated by Pema Chodron in the video I cited, there would be no blame whatsoever, as each person would (ideally) use the trigger and the internal emotional reaction as a signpost to find where they still have work to do.

In the work on Conscious Loving, by Gay and Kathleen Hendricks, as illustrated in their videos online, a similar approach is taken.  They claim to have removed blame and criticism altogether from their relationship by owning thier emotional reactivity and working with processes like this one.

(when an emotional reaction emerges)
1) potentially pausing the conversation if one is active
2) asking oneself… what am I feeling?
3) asking oneself… is there a part of me that is needing my attention, needing love, needing acceptance, needing to be allowed presence and validity
4) if so, could I offer love, acceptance, could I allow this part of me to be present?
5) if so, would I…
6) When?

I borrowed a couple of steps from the process of the “Sedona Method” to expand that practice, but you get the basic premise.  The assumption is that blame is a waste of time and energy, that is is a function of victimhood, which in Living Systems Terms we call an “energy sink,” a place in a living system where energy gets sucked away.

As further reinforcement, Yoga Philosophy also agrees with the point that taking full responsibility for our life circumstances (including our emotional reactivity), is an essential component to waking up.  This is exemplified by the premise in yoga that we are source of our experiences.

Ok, so if this is true, then where do we go from here?

If we are in the victim stance, then how can we get out of it?  I have written several articles on this but would invite expansion on my understanding from different coaches in the network.

And if our partner is in the victim stance, or any of the other polarized stances available (think mythology, or star wars… there is a victim, which necessitates a villain or perpetrator, or a hero,) each of these fragmented persona’s invite a polarized opposite into its dance. In these moments, how do we bring our interaction out of the realm of the hero/fixer, the victim/perpetrator dynamic?

I have had one coach tell me it starts with naming what is happening, but I have seen that generate even more turbulence… depending on the state of mind I was coming from.

This is a difficult one to speak to, and I would invite other opinions, but I would say I have gotten the most success with this by practicing acceptance, by not-engaging with the fragmented expression of my partner but while still speaking to the essential witness consciousness, to the voice of divinity within her.

And at times I have simply named what I was experiencing and opted out of the interaction, but this has been problematic at best.

So this is my edge… I find when I meditate and practice yoga daily I seem to have less trouble navigating these moments, and I assume that when I am needing a specific outcome to whatever conversation I am having that I am usually enmeshed in what Diana Chapman Calls the Drama Triangle… with her it would be seen as the victim, hero, villain positions.

regarding this statement:
“I think we needed acceptance of the potential for anxious attachment in both of us, and this remains far from fixed.”

I wonder if you actually needed the acceptance of the other in those moments.  I would refer to the practice that Gay and Kathleen Hendricks present that I covered earlier, pause the conversation, walk yourself through the practice to clear the charge on your end, and then come back to the conversation.  I believe that you will find yourself more present for her and more able to ride the emotional current that she is generating.

In those moments, I have found myself more capable of witnessing my partner, which seems to be incredibly helpful.

David Deida, in his work with teaching the embodiment of the sacred masculine through audio books and the Integral Institute, offers that regardless of how our partners are showing up, our capacity to stay present and witness their flow communicates our capacity to hold space for the divine feminine to reveal herself.

In these moments, we can see the turbulence of our partners emotional state as a test of our capacity to embody the energy of a mountain… which Deida relates to as a corresponding energy that is embodied by the divine masculine.  The reward, Deida illustrates, is the opportunity to witness the unfoldment of grace, of an absolutely stunning flower that is more beautiful the words can ever capture.

Finally, in regards to this…

“We all at some point have to give up, with infinite sadness and regret, the idea of a perfect love.”

I wonder about this as well… is it the notion or image that we hold of what perfect love is that must be released, or is in the experience of perfection in the love we have internally, the wellspring of perfection and grace that we can draw from naturally when we give space for its emergence that we must give up on?

I would imagine the first… that our images of what is possible and specifically “the seeking of them” is what must be released in order to fully receive that which is already given… as Alan Watts puts it, “releasing the expectation in order to receive what is already there” (paraphrased from “learning the human game”)

So, these are the suggested readings, videos, and reflective practices I would invite you to consider:

Reading my article on the inherent playfulness of the universe and completing that practice, posting your results on her or emailing them to me.

Genpo Roshi, Big Mind: Looking it up on Youtube and walking yourself through the practice with a partner, with a journal, or getting the book and using that to walk yourself through those practices

Pema Chodron:
Looking her up on Youtube and reading “when things fall apart”

David Deida:
Reading or listening to the audiobook “the way of the superior man,” or finding his lectures online somewhere if you are on a budget

Conscious Loving: Gay and Kathleen Hendricks, walking yourself through the practices, reading the materials, and checking out their Youtube videos.

Reading Byron Katie’s Book, “Loving what is”.

And if you do not already have one, participation in a daily inquiry process where all of your attention is directed inward.. we can talk more about this.

And finally, if you do not already have a vision for your relationship with humanity, the creation of either a vision, or the initiation of a research project that inquires into your greatest gifts and how you could apply them to serve your highest good and the highest good of others.

Thats all for today, I hope this is helpful to you, please check out my  mindmovies, and please inquire deeply, listen gently, and invite the new with courage and compassion.

En Lakesh

2 thoughts on “Appreciating the people that trigger us the most, reflections and a practice

  1. This is incredible, Thank you so very much for this information. It offers so much depth and perspective and I was unaware of all of these books and videos until coming across your blog. wow. Not reacting to others in times of turmoil has been something which I have been working with, and not only have you provided some great resources, but you have also provided a wealth of valuable information.

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