Don't let conflict destroy your relationship! Learn this 5-step process and heal conflicts instead.
We've all been there. One minute life is going along as normal, and the next minute, some seemingly small thing has set us off. She left a dirty dish in the sink again! She's driving too fast, after I asked her not to! She never does her share of the cleanup! Suddenly, our anger swells, and knocks us off-balance.
Whatever the specific issues are in your relationship, what all of these scenarios have in common is that our upset probably goes back way further than this incident... or even this relationship. Generally, when little things set us off, it's because we've gotten triggered.
When we're triggered, we respond with more emotion than a situation might seem to warrant, because part of us is responding to some other time and place - not this one! This can end up casuing a lot of relationship problems and fights.
The SCORE Process is a healing alternative, because it helps us get underneath the surface of the argument and exlore what's happening inside us on a deeper level. As we do that, we get more connected with ourselves - and that, in turn, can lead to more connection with our partners, too.
So not only do our conflicts not have to damage our relationships - but when we know how to SCORE, we can actually strengthen our relationships through working with our conflicts! Read on for a closer look at SCORE.
The SCORE Process
S Step back into yourself
C Connect to yourself with compassion
O Open to and observe the origins of your feelings
R Remember responsibility for your feelings
(and relinquish responsibility for hers)
E Experience empowerment!
At first glance, the five steps of the SCORE Process may seem like a lot to remember. But once you’re familiar with the process, you can go through all the steps inside yourself in less than a minute.So let’s go through these steps one at a time.
S – Step back into yourself
When we’re caught in the grip of a difficult feeling – hurt, disappointment, or anger, for instance – we tend to focus on people or circumstances outside of ourselves. Consciously choosing to bring our attention back into ourselves – to breathe ourselves back into our bodies, to feel our feet on the floor or our butts on the chair – helps us calm down. When we get upset, we tend to breathe more quickly without even realizing it. Taking just two or three long, slow breaths in and out can make a big difference in feeling grounded and centered.
C – Connect to yourself with compassion
Few of us are accustomed to connecting to ourselves at all – much less connecting to ourselves with compassion! In fact, many of us find it exceedingly hard to direct compassion at ourselves at all, even when we are very good at being compassionate toward others. Some of us have even been taught, or have imagined, that it was a virtue to be compassionate toward others, but not toward ourselves!
Ironically, this inability to bring compassion to the hurt, scared, vulnerable parts of ourselves keeps us locked in a state of pain. Life without compassion is, quite simply, hell. Often, we desperately long for other peoples’ compassion to save us from this hell – without ever realizing that the power to save ourselves is within us the entire time.
Part of the power of the SCORE process comes from the fact that when we’re locked in a state of conflict with someone we love, much of our suffering comes from the feeling of being disconnected. In such moments, we may imagine that only connection with that other person can restore us to a sense of well-being – or, we may feel so angry at them that on a conscious level, we don’t even feel as if we want to connect with them. At the root of most conflicts, though, there is a hurt, sad, lonely younger part of ourselves who really does need and yearn for contact. So, realizing that we can give that contact to ourselves can truly be life-changing.
O – Open to observe the origins of your feeling
This is a step of exploration and inquiry – getting curious about our feelings, rather than assuming that we already know all about them. Questions we might ask of ourselves at this point include: “What exactly am I feeling? Where does this feeling truly come from? What assumptions or beliefs underlie it? Have I ever felt this before? At what point in my history did this feeling begin?”
Most of us deeply crave the feeling of being understood by others, yet we may never have put much effort toward understanding ourselves. So, beginning to observe ourselves more closely is an extremely powerful step. It can lead to much more self-knowledge, which is a prerequisite for many kinds of healing – and it can also help us let our partners know us much more fully, too.
However, it’s very important that this process of self-observation come after the step of directing compassion to ourselves; otherwise, we might begin to observe ourselves with judgment. In that case, we might find ourselves asking questions like, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I such a crybaby/ wimp/ loser/ reject?”
If you are judging yourself or withholding compassion from yourself, you are not SCOREing! The point of the O step is to learn more about yourself in an inner atmosphere of gentleness (which is actually the only atmosphere in which we can learn effectively.)
R – Remember responsibility for your feelings
(and relinquish responsibility for hers!)
Now that you’ve stepped back into yourself, connected compassionately with yourself, and observed the origins of your feelings, you’re in a good position to take responsibility for those feelings, rather than assigning responsibility to anyone else.
In this process, your thoughts might go something like this: “I recognize that this feeling I’m having is my feeling – it belongs to me, not to the person I’m in conflict with. Something she said or did triggered this feeling in me, but she didn’t cause it. It was in me before I met her, and it will remain with me no matter what happens in this relationship. It’s mine to deal with. No one else can resolve it or take it away.”
It’s important to note that just as observing ourselves with compassion is very different from judgmental self-observation, taking responsibility for our own feelings is radically different from blaming ourselves for them.
An inner monologue of self-blame might sound something like this: “I’m stupid to feel this way. What’s wrong with me? I’m much too sensitive.” Notice how similar self-judgment and self-blame sound – and how different they are from the inner postures of compassion and self-responsibility.
People often resist taking self-responsibility because we fear that when we stop blaming others for our feelings, we’ll be stuck with blaming ourselves. The truth is, we don’t have to blame anyone. Blame is equally damaging no matter where we direct it, and it is also equally misguided.
Blaming ourselves for our feelings is like blaming the sun for being hot. Feelings are natural; they pass through us the way the sun’s heat passes through the sky. We can’t stop them from coming, but we can learn to hold ourselves with compassion, and also to recognize that we are larger than our emotions. They are not the whole of us. And that realization gets us ready for the final step of SCORE.
E – Experience empowerment!
Once you’ve gone through the steps of the SCORE Process, you’re no longer at the mercy of your emotions; instead, you’re empowered to make conscious, constructive choices about what to say and when and how to say it. You can work with your feelings more before bringing them up; you can wait for a time when your partner is relaxed and spacious. Then you can have a conversation in which you share what you’ve learned about yourself, rather than blaming your partner for anything she did or didn’t do. That’s how the SCORE Process can actually help us get closer – both to our partners, and to ourselves.
At Conscious Girlfriend we offer many tools to help you learn to SCORE - and learn everything else you need in order to have a happy, healthy intimate relationship. Check out our coaching, our memberships, and our retreats at www.consciousgirlfriend.com.
This article is the third in a 4-part series. For more information, read the next article, “Life With and Without SCORE.”