The person under your skin: Focus on your integrity and wisdom

The person under your skin is generally the person who consumes your attention, your emotional energy, and in some cases, your life. It could be your significant other, your boss, or your kid. Emotion can be intense, tension can be high, and you may have even resorted to avoidance or attack.

Here is an exercise to bring you back to earth and get you thinking from your own font of wisdom (as opposed to your flailing emotions):

Imagine you are in the presence of this person but you are invisible. Sit quietly while you get a gage on what it is like to be around this person. Pay careful attention to the physical sensations or gut reactions in your body. Make sure you take several moments to do this.

See if you have any gut reactions or urges towards this person. Notice judgment, reactions, or inclinations. See if you have any desire to move close or further away. If you notice an emotional response, simply note which emotion has arisen in you. Notice hurt, longing, disgust, pain, or anger. Again, simply notice, knowing that you do not have to interact with this person for this exercise. Make sure you continue to pay attention to any physical sensations that arise with your experience. Notice especially any urges to escape your feelings.

Next, see what it is that you want or do not want from this person. Perhaps you are looking for acknowledgement or respect. Perhaps you want them to see an aspect of you that they have not been able to see. Perhaps you have a strong desire for them to behave differently and they have failed to do so. See what you do with this wanting or not wanting- are you attacking, judging, or labeling your desire or want? Does this turn into hopelessness or frustration? Do you immediately start to have imaginary conversations in your head?  Again, remember that this exercise is to simply observe your reactions, not to interact or to solve problems. Continue to observe sensations and notice judgment.

Next, gently inquire about this person’s capacity and willingness to give you what you want (or don’t want).  Consider if there is anything valid about their lack of capacity or willingness based on their own situation or history.  If it is within your heart to do so now, see if you can see the situation from their perspective. Is it realistic and likely that the situation will change? Notice any frustration associated with this question.

Now start to think about leaving or moving away from this person. Remember you are still invisible. As you get away from their presence, notice again any sensations or reactions. Are you eager or relieved? Do you feel any regret that something did not get resolved? Is there any sadness, pain, or loss that is arising within you? Is it hard to leave? Do you notice any inclination to stay? Notice the intensity of what you experience. Be curious and open; notice judgment.

Now that you have left the situation, reflect back for a moment: What did you notice or experience? Was there anything surprising or new? Did you have an exceptionally difficult time with any aspect of the exercise? What was the intensity of your emotional experience? Are your expectations realistic to the situation? Is there anything you may need to do that calls for action, integrity, wisdom, lowered emotional arousal, or acceptance of what is?