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Reactivity: Overt and Covert

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How do you react when someone is treating you in a way you don't like?

How do you usually react when someone is blaming you, criticizing or judging you, being irritated with you, yelling at you, withdrawing from you, or resisting you?

There are two forms of reaction from the ego wounded self: overt and covert. Both forms come from wanting to control. Both overt and covert reactivity are intended to get the other person to change through some form of teaching, punishment or guilting. The ego often says, "This person is behaving in a way that is unacceptable to me, and I cannot allow him or her to get away with this. I have to teach them a lesson so they won't continue to treat me this way." The ego wounded self is convinced that trying to get the other person to change with teaching, guilting or punishing is taking care of yourself. In reality, you cannot be trying to control someone else and be taking care of yourself in the same moment.

Overt Reactivity

Overt reactivity is anything you say out loud to control the other person. This includes:
• Any form of criticism, judgment and parental tone of voice
• Any form of blame, including telling your feelings with the intent of making the other person responsible for your feelings
• Arguing, explaining, defending and teaching
• Whining, crying
• Threatening

Overt reactivity also includes an overt violent action, such as throwing things or hitting.

When we are reacting overtly, we hope that by intimidating, punishing, guilting or teaching, we can get the other person to change and be the way we want them to be or think they should be.

Covert Reactivity

Covert reactivity is when you don't overtly say or do anything, but in your head you are judging, blaming and condemning the other person. You are punishing the other person by withdrawing your love or attention. Your wounded self is muttering things like, "What a jerk. I'll show her she can't treat me this way. I won't speak to her for two days. That will teach her a lesson." You have convinced yourself that if you withdraw love or attention, the other person will recognize the error of their ways and change.

Even though you are not saying anything, the other person picks up the energy of your blame and may further react with their anger, blame or withdrawal.

There are two main problems with either form of reactivity:
1. They don't work to get the other person to change. In fact, they generally create the opposite of what you want. Instead of changing, the other person feels controlled or rejected by you and then responds with his or her own overt or covert form of reactivity. This creates a very negative circle where both people feel wronged and are trying to get the other person to see what he or she has done that is causing the problems.

2. Overt and covert negative reactions end up making you feel awful. Anytime you react from your ego wounded self, you will feel badly. Your bad feelings are letting you know that your thoughts and behavior are not in your highest good — not in alignment with your true self. While the wounded self believes you have to teach the other person a lesson and not let them get away with their unloving behavior, responding with your unloving behavior only perpetuates the problem for both of you.

So what to do when someone is treating you badly? When your intent is to take care of yourself rather than control the other person, you can disengage without blame, and without taking anything personally. When you do this, you will feel wonderful, regardless of how the other person is acting, and the other person will be stuck with his or her own bad feelings. The other person will be much more likely to take responsibility for their feelings and behavior when you are taking loving care of yourself.

Practicing non-reactivity brings great rewards. Try it!

To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" – the first two weeks are free! ! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.

Connect with Margaret on Facebook: Inner Bonding, and Facebook: SelfQuest.

This article was originally published at Inner Bonding . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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