Husband comes home, hands his wife a book saying, “here, I got you a present”.
Wife takes the book, but without looking at it shows a pained expression on her face.
Facial expression annoys the husband, who instantly feels unappreciated and wonders why he bothered to buy her the book.
“I thought you’d like it” he says, it’s your favorite author.
“Oh” she says, now interested, “I thought it was just some boring book you were giving me”.
What’s going on here?
Reading between the lines one can easily see that each reaction - the pained look on her face, and his annoyance of it - are conditioned reactions based, most likely, on a series of past events. In other words, there’s history here.
Maybe the husband has a history of getting his wife stuff she has no interest in, and this hurts her feelings.
Maybe the wife has a history of reacting before she takes time to consider the situation and thus the husband feels momentarily rejected.
We can’t change the past, but we can acknowledge that our past actions – and more importantly our reactions – create within our brains unhelpful patterns that now condition us and make it far more likely we will react the same way over and over.
There’s a sense in society that we need years of therapy to overcome this kind of stuff, but we don’t. If we first choose to acknowledge the truth of the situation, ie that we are reacting based on conditioned patterns in our personality, then we just need to interrupt those patterns a few times to break the hold they have over us. It’s the simple biology of brain wiring!
One tool that is freely available to us all that would instantly solve both of the above conditioned reactions with no judgment or difficult introspection is the act of being present with the person you are engaging with.