I'm charisse!

I’ve been a therapist for 17 years - and in a relationship for 14 - there’s not much I’ve not seen in my consulting room or experienced in my own life. I know how we tick and the traps we inevitably fall into. It’s been my obsession for these last 17 years to come up with tools and strategies on how to overcome each and every hurdle. And I’ve put it all into these online teachings.

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SELF-CONFIDENCE

How To Be More
Secure In Relationships

We all have our own unique history of childhood difficulty or inconsistency, past relationship upsets and the insecurities, assumptions and fears that are a result of those. Try these strategies when you get triggered by your partner and learn to react in healthier ways that don't damage the relationship.

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In my teaching video (Why Your Relationship Is Struggling And What To Do About It), I explained how we get triggered by our partner in a relationship and how many couples just fall into a pattern of fight, flight or freeze, which only leaves tensions to build and triggers to become more sensitive.

Here are the strategies we can adopt to help us when we get triggered by our partner. We can learn to react in healthier ways that don’t damage the loving feelings in the relationship.⁠

We can recognise when we go into our 'script' - the story we tell ourselves (over and over) whenever there is difficulty - because our script is about our insecurities and trauma from our childhood and past relationships. That's why it feels overwhelming - we are triggered. This means our job is to step away and regulate ourselves.

What many of us aren’t aware of when we feel triggered by our partner is that our own personal history as well as a “critical inner voice” in our heads is impacting what triggered us and why. ⁠

We all have our own unique history of childhood difficulty or inconsistency, past relationship upsets and the insecurities, assumptions and fears that are a result of those. Because our heads like to make sense of things we create stories or narratives about our experiences as a way of understanding things and filing them in the storage system in our brains.⁠

Then, when anything in any way reminds us of those experiences, the brain can just pull out that script, which offers us a set of default thoughts and feelings about the situation to show us how to deal with things.⁠

So typical negative scripts sound like: “Men are useless”, “What I want doesn’t matter”, “Women create drama”, “I’m not important enough”, “People are so selfish”, “No one can ever meet my needs”, “It’s always my fault”, “I’m unlovable” and so on. And we react accordingly.⁠

It’s crucial we learn + understand our scripts because they often are fear-based and we will keep triggering ourselves and our partners. And even more importantly, because we seek to recreate what we know, we will unconsciously recreate past upsets in the present so we can continue our expected pattern.

That's why it feels overwhelming - we are triggered. This means our job is to step away and regulate ourselves.

Being able to keep your reactions, tone of voice, behaviour and thinking constructive allows disagreements or misunderstandings to not escalate or become damaging. This can sometimes be a tall order when we are triggered. In those difficult moments it helps to know of ways we can look after ourselves by staying calm and regulating our emotions.

Okay, this is so very important. And it’s important because this is probably what you least want to do when you’re triggered, and possibly even think it won’t ‘solve’ anything. Not so. ⁠

Self-soothing is the single most important tool anyone can ever learn. Because it’s only when we can keep ourselves relatively calm can you use the tools and strategies I’ll be offering in upcoming posts. It is the foundation everything is built on. ⁠

As long as we are triggered and in reactivity/survival mode, we will keep making the same mistakes in our relationships because we’re not using the part of our brain that is rational and interested in problem-solving.⁠

Of course, self-soothing will be specific to you and what works for you. Here are 4 techniques you could try that work really well. ⁠

1. Take A Time Out - If you can feel yourself getting too angry or hurt, or you can see your partner might be, it is far better to gently end or pause the conversation. Continuing to engage will generally only escalate into unhelpful, potentially damaging exchanges. ⁠

2. Stay Grounded - Adrenaline and stress triggers our ‘fight or flight’ response, making us aggressive or hurtful. We can dilute and reduce the adrenaline with deep breathing and slowing down the exchange. Pause between sentences. Breathe together for 3 full minutes. Only proceed if you both feel in control of your responses. ⁠

3. Work On Managing Your Emotions Every Day - Focus on breath work, meditation (click here to get a free copy of my guided meditation), exercise and go for walks. A stable body and mind can return from a trigger quicker than a system that is activated a lot of the time.⁠

4. Practice Self-Holding - When agitated or stressed, hold your hand to your chest. Feel your heart beating and focus on breathing. Or cross your arms over your chest holding your shoulders – this is a way of containing yourself and literally giving yourself a hug. ⁠

As long as we are triggered and in reactivity/survival mode, we will keep making the same mistakes in our relationships because we’re not using the part of our brain that is rational and interested in problem-solving.⁠ 

When we are triggered and in reactivity, we feel justified to vent our emotions or simply shut down. We know now this is trauma response and not conducive to peaceful and loving partnerships. With your self-soothing skills, practice the below to communicate with calmness, confidence and control.

Once you’ve become skilled at self-soothing and staying in control of yourself as much as possible, it’s important to begin to challenge how we communicate with our partners. When we are triggered and in reactivity, we feel justified to vent our emotions or simply shut down.

Communication skills to consider and actively develop:⁠

1. Moderate Your Negative Thinking - When our ‘fight’ response is triggered it will put us on the attack. Not useful for constructive discussions and negotiations. If you find yourself becoming negative, critical or defensive, bring your focus back to the here-and-now. Recognise you may be in your script, and are likely triggered. Self-soothe until you are aware you are with someone you love who loves you & you needn’t jump to the worst conclusions about your partner. ⁠

2. Communicate With Care - Be honest. Be real. But do it WITHOUT THE EDGE. And let each other speak. Skilful communicators are very aware of the language they use and their tone of voice. This is one of the biggest issues that comes up in couples therapy: it isn’t what we are saying to each other, it’s HOW we’re saying it. Useful phrases are: “It hurts my feelings when…”, “I understand why you’d think that…”, “Hearing your point of view is interesting, tell me more. And then I’ll share things from my perspective…”, “Your feelings are important to me”.⁠

3. Practice Respect – Before having a serious or difficult conversation, get yourself mentally in the right frame of mind (as I say to my clients: “Get your head on”). This means grounding yourself, setting your intention for yourself (for eg: I want to be loving at all times), self-soothing, and finally, imagine ______ (enter name of (could be famous or well-known?) person you admire/emulate/adore) will be in the room with you watching the exchange. This helps us stay very dignified and present the best of ourselves.⁠

Lesson 1: Recognise When You Are Triggered And Know Your Script

Lesson 2: Emotional Regulation And Self-Soothing

Lesson 3: Be In Control of How You Communicate

When we are triggered and in reactivity, we feel justified to vent our emotions or simply shut down. We know now this is trauma response and not conducive to peaceful and loving partnerships. ⁠ 

Lesson 4: Don’t Become a Fault-Finder And Over-Focus on the Negatives 

When we are not happy in the relationship, or our anxious attachment has been triggered, the full beam of our discontent is focused on our partners and relationship. While this is understandable, what is likely to happen is our unhappiness will increase as we fall into the trap of becoming fault-finders. This means we only see the problems, we only notice what goes wrong, we become hyper-vigilant to find all the reasons why we are wronged, unfairly treated or neglected. We criticise, complain and can sometimes be cruel. And then expect our relationship to thrive.

Is discontent and dissatisfaction inevitable in relationships? Yes. Is it important to tackle problems and keep growing as a couple? Yes. Is it helpful to discount the positives? No. Is succumbing to a constant stream of critical and disapproving statements, jibes and remarks going to help us get what we want (ie: a loving relationship)? No.⁠

And yet it is what all couple therapists see in our consulting rooms all the time. For some people when we are unhappy, we begin disgorging our discontent into the home and our relationship, inadvertently exacerbating the situation by fault-finding. We over-focus on the relationship, seeing only the negatives and become fixated on changing our partner.⁠

This is part of being triggered. ⁠

Recognising when we are doing this is imperative, so we can take a step back, emotionally regulate, and behave in a more boundaried and respectful way towards our partner. When we are fault-finding we are living in a distorted reality where only negatives exist. Once we have regained perspective and can approach the relationship with an appreciation and acknowledgement of what is good, helpful, kind and loving about our partner and what they contribute, we can have conversations that will be significantly more constructive.⁠

Tool to achieve this: if you fault-find, take some time out and make a gratitude list of all the things you like and love about your partner, and the things they do that you appreciate. If you are in a bad way, this may take some time. Stick at it. Write a minimum of 15 things.⁠

Once you have done this, I recommend this becomes a daily and then weekly practice for you. It will help you avoid getting triggered into negative scripts, create more goodwill between you and your partner, and also shift the dynamic away from someone’s right/someone’s wrong.⁠

When we are not happy in the relationship, or our anxious attachment has been triggered, the full beam of our discontent is focused on our partners and relationship.

Lesson 5: Attachment Style's Biggest Concerns

- Anxiously Attached: Can I trust this person?  
- Avoidantly Attached: Am I ever going to be enough?

In our relationships we are indirectly communicating the above to our partners a lot of the time. And this can create a really unhelpful cycle – a cycle where both interpret each other’s actions and responses through the lens of bias confirmation for each of these concerns. This is where a lot of couples get stuck, and this mutual dissatisfaction and constant defensiveness becomes normalised within the relationship.

Nowhere are we more vulnerable than in our intimate relationships. And because of that the need to protect ourselves can take over when things are tough. We become consistently defensive.⁠

Being secure means we don’t become defensive so easily. We can withstand difficult feelings in the relationship because we know we are with a fundamentally good person who loves us. Our nervous systems can relax into this truth. ⁠

The typical dynamic of the defensive pattern is as follows: ⁠

- The Person with Avoidant Attachment Issues (AvA) makes some error / doesn’t do something the Person with Anxious Attachment Issues (AxA) wanted them to (trigger)⁠.
- The AxA’s sense of trust is shaken⁠.
- Because they are triggered they express their upset defensively to the AvA⁠.
- The AvA receives the message yet again they have failed and believe they will never be enough for the AxA (trigger).⁠
- Because the AvA is triggered they express their upset defensively to the AxA⁠. 
- The AxA receives the message they absolutely can’t trust the AxA because not only does the AvA mess up but then defends their position rather than apologising or doing something about it.⁠
- The AxA then gets deeply emotional (read: angry) & expresses that defensively.⁠
- The AvA receives the message and is now clear they are a total failure… and on and on.⁠

Two triggered (aka scared) people completely missing the opportunity to soothe each other’s fears.⁠

Having practiced the previous 4 steps we can recognise our script is being triggered, we can self-soothe and calm ourselves, we can communicate more lovingly when we are in control of ourselves and we can be aware of the trap of fault-finding and only seeing the negative.⁠

Breaking the above pattern means the person with avoidant attachment learning to step up for their partner in small, significant ways, and for the person with anxious attachment to let their partner actually succeed so their trust in them can grow. Some people might call this love.⁠

Nowhere are we more vulnerable than in our intimate relationships. And because of that the need to protect ourselves can take over when things are tough. We become consistently defensive.⁠ 

There we have it, the basics of what we need to be aware of, focus on & keep practicing to build our confidence, behave appropriately and have secure, loving relationships. ⁠

In summary:⁠

Know your Script & Recognise when You’re Triggered:⁠ - We all have our stories (about our fears and insecurities) based on our experiences growing up & past relationships. These get triggered all the time in our relationships and we need to be aware when that is happening as it can really sabotage us. When we’re triggered we go into Fight, Flight or Freeze and can behave destructively in the relationship. Not helpful when what we actually want is to connect and be loved.⁠

Emotionally Regulate or Nothing Changes:⁠ - When we are triggered, rather than instinctively lash out or shut down, we need to develop the skill of realising we’ve been triggered (ie: whenever we’re in a heightened emotional state) and prioritise emotionally regulating and calming down. This is often the hardest step for people. We have to take responsibility for our reactions and emotions. Until we can, it will be very hard for things to change.⁠

Be in Control of How You Communicate:⁠ - Part of this is practicing emotional regulation when you’re with your partner. We need to be in control of what we’re saying. When we lose control, we are not only insecure but also unstable. ⁠

Watch Your Focus: Don’t Be a Fault-Finder & Fixate on the Negative: - It is all too easy to see problems. And then suddenly all we see are problems. When we fault-find we are living in a distorted reality where only negatives exist. Balance thinking about the problems in your relationship with it’s strengths.⁠

Learn To Love: Be Trustworthy and Let Your Partner Be Enough: - Being trustworthy means not avoiding as much, it’s being accountable and working on being available. Letting your partner be enough means noticing the good and really celebrating it. ⁠

My teaching video (How To be More Secure In Relationships) is a longer teaching video where I will discuss the above in more detail. 

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