Too often, instead of listening to our partner with openness, we deflect what is being communicated to us by ignoring, explaining, complaining, withdrawing, attacking, trying to fix or blaming. What if something that has been said to you has an element of truth, which, if reflected upon, could open you to greater love and awareness of Self?
In this blog I share practical tools in the art of listening, the power of attunement, holding back your assumptions, not taking things personally and turning the focus from outside of yourself to within.
Through mastering the art of compassionate listening and reflecting, we learn to foster compassion over pride, acceptance of pain rather than denial or distraction, and self-responsibility over victimhood.
By holding the same compassion, attunement and awareness that we have cultivated through our listening and reflecting practice, we are also more likely to communicate to our partner without projecting when the roles are reversed.
In this way, communication of needs, wants and desires between two people ceases to create conflict and separation, and rather allows the Souls’ yearning to be heard, seen, felt and loved to become a reality.
Deflection is when someone communicates something to you that causes you to feel triggered and instead of taking it in, you take the conversation into a different direction or turn it back towards the other person. This prevents you from listening, reflecting and becoming more self-aware.
Too few of us actively seek out and LISTEN to feedback about how we could improve. More often, we are cautiously fishing for compliments or innocently seeking feedback that will validate us in areas that we know we excel in or that we feel insecure about.
A classic example of deflection is to avoid hearing feedback at all, as with the “fingers in the ears” reaction that is common in the education system, where students sometimes fail to even collect or look at the advice they receive on their assignments. In the world of health, people turn a blind eye to where they are not respecting their body, rather than seeking and listening to advice around unwanted home-truths – like you need to lose weight or quit smoking. Sometimes we pretend to listen, but internally we are telling ourselves all the reasons why the other person is wrong or why change is not achievable. This is deflection.
Our egos are fragile and we don’t like change, so it is no wonder deflection becomes a tool people use to avoid really looking at themselves! Even the most useful feedback with the best intentions can bring out the worst side in us, as shame arises in our own being about what is being fed back to us. I know for myself, when someone I love becomes unhappy with me, it can be hard to deal with my own feelings of inadequacy that come up. If I can’t own the shame I’m feeling, or just be with how they feel without taking it personally, I deflect.
Eventually, what I end up realising is that the reason they are unhappy with me is because a need is not being met, not because something is wrong with them or myself.
That need could simply be more compassion, understanding, kindness or more quality time and presence. It can be easy to try to figure out what is wrong with someone else when they are upset and try to fix them instead of actually reflecting on what they feel, and how they are seeing a situation.
Can we just listen without making someone wrong and reflect on what is being heard? Yes, we can! It is easy? Not always! A good starting point is to become aware of the ways that we deflect in order to go beyond deflection and into reflection.
Different Ways We Deflect
1.Blaming and attacking the person: When the fault is with us, we feel we cannot take responsibility, and are unwilling to feel the guilt or shame of the experience. And so, we project the blame and fault onto someone else. For example, when a child spills something and unreasonably blames it on their friend or a sibling. In adulthood, deflection can become much more insidious, such as the emotionally abusive person who blames their partner for provoking them by not acting like or doing what they wanted. Another example is when someone says something which hurts another person who then defends themselves, blaming it on the person who was hurt for being too sensitive.
In the spiritual scene, sometimes the blame is the form of words like “you are being manipulative” or “you are just projecting”. The list goes on. Another very common example is when a person triggers deep emotional distress in another person and when that person shows how distressed they are; they are told they are crazy or need to go see a psychologist.
It’s easy to find the person who is an expert at deflecting, because people around them will begin to feel like it is literally impossible to get through to them or to get them to own and stop doing something that is painful.
2. Complaining:Most of us who chronically complain, grew up with adults who were either complainers or negated our emotions. If the people in our lives taught us there was something wrong with us because of how we felt, we develop a deeply wired belief that we are defective or bad. Complaining therefore goes hand in hand with low self-esteem.
You will not find people who genuinely feel good about themselves who complain. You will, however, find people who are stuck in a victim mentality who complain.
Those in the victim mentality begin to find fault in everything and relentlessly blame outside circumstances to try to feel and prove that they are in fact “good”. They will unconsciously create situations to complain about – poor health or stressful conversations for example.
Deflection happens by complaining about all the things that are going wrong in our lives. This stems from the mentality that if what we feel is justified, then nothing can be wrong with us. If we are complainers, we have two primary goals in communication: (1) for our pain to be seen, heard, felt and acknowledged, and (2) to not feel alone with our pain. This is to satiate a deep need to feel as if nothing is wrong with us and thus we are worthy and have value. However, we actually need to give that to ourselves so that when someone communicates to us that they are hurt, instead of making it about us we can truly be present and reflect on what they are saying.
3. Explaining: Explaining often goes hand in hand with complaining! This is where we cannot listen or reflect on the feedback because we are too busy explaining or justifying ourselves. In the simplest terms, explaining occurs when we try to explain our bad behaviour away. Consider, for example, that you have an irrationally angry reaction and then you try to justify your behaviour by blaming it on your stressful day, your period or something that happened to you in the past. Even though that may be true, it is not the actual reason for your outburst, it’s a deflection.
Over-explaining is a particularly common mechanism for those with low self-esteem who feel they must always justify themselves.
How to Master the Art of Reflection
It stands to reason that we would be far better equipped to have a healthy relationship with ourselves and others if we could reflect rather than deflect. After all, feedback is one of the strongest influences on our development. Here’s some key points on how to master the art of reflection.
1.Listen actively and compassionately
Have you ever spoken to someone who made you feel like you were the only person in the world at that moment? Someone who seemed truly engaged and interested in every word that came out of your mouth? How did that make you feel? Important? Understood? Heard? This is the power of deep listening.
To stop ourselves from deflecting, we must learn to listen. Deep listening is more than a valuable social habit; it helps us to be present and compassionate. With deep listening, you are allowing yourself the time and space to fully absorb what the person speaking is saying, and you can encourage him or her to feel heard and to speak more openly and honestly.
There are four essential keys to deep listening:
- consistent eye contact
- presence (staying focused on them and not on your own thoughts)
- non-verbal feedback (the occasional nod, smile, or other sign of interest)
- intimate connection.
This last one – intimate connection – is very important because it will also keep your heart open and compassionate rather than defended and closed. Position your body in a way that creates a safe and welcoming space for honest expression. Lean slightly in, open up your chest, pull your shoulders back, and fold your hands gently in front of you.
2. Be willing to feel the shame of not measuring up to your own standards as well as theirs
We deflect to save our self-image. In order to awaken, we must be willing to feel any shame or guilt and see how our actions could have been more loving – we must be willing to be the “bad” or “wrong” one. We could engage all day long in a debate over “good person vs. bad person” but there is no such thing. The reality is that because we have already judged certain things as unloving or unkind, we must also be willing to see ourselves in this light and feel our shame to stop deflecting.
After all, all our attempts to deflect are designed to shield the fact that underneath, the shame already exists in us. Once we allow ourselves to feel our shame, we realise that deep down, shame is at the core of our wounded self-image, and start to heal this.
3.Be willing to feel the unpleasant emotions that come up
The unwillingness to feel shame, guilt, sadness, anger and fear is at the heart of our urge to deflect, however, this pain is an indicator that we need to become aware of something. Instead of deflecting, we need to go inward, towards the pain and be willing to explore painful truths about ourselves in each circumstance. The painful truths about how we feel about what we are doing, about why people are acting towards us the way that they are, about what we want and don’t want, and about why we are really doing the things that we are doing.
Deep down underneath, deflection is an unwillingness to really be authentic with ourselves and with others. What painful truth are you most terrified to admit to?
Once you accept the painful truth about yourself, you then come out of deflection and work with something real to create change with people and do things differently. When you are ready, you can communicate your new understanding and create positive changes to the relationships around you.
If someone in a relationship is deflecting, there can be no repair to the relationship once rupture is created. It is impossible to create repair when someone is unable to honestly reflect on what they are doing to change themselves and instead make it about something else being inherently wrong with the other person. This is often the real reason that relationships never get resolved. We have a common societal saying relative to relationships and it goes like this: “It takes two to tango” or “the blame is always 50/50”. This is the idea that it takes two people to make a relationship work and two to destroy it. This is actually not true, due to the nature of a connection. This is because if one person doesn’t want the connection or doesn’t nurture it, there can be no relationship. There is nothing more painful in life than un-repaired relationship rupture, so dare to reflect instead of to deflect.
4.Don’t give someone license to criticise or emotionally abuse you
Some people are so good at reflecting, that they end up copping criticism and emotional abuse! Point out the difference between feedback and criticism. Criticism challenges our sense of freedom and can literally feel like a threat to our survival. Feedback is the sharing of our individual and honest perspectives or experiences; our growth and awareness is dependent on it. Giving criticism is very different to sharing your feelings and your honest perspective because it is given with little to no regard about whether the person on the other end is receptive, in a state of reactivity, or in a state of defence. The intention behind criticism has almost nothing to do with the person receiving it and almost everything to do with the person giving it.
People who chronically criticise (yes, we know who we are, let’s just admit to it) struggle with chronic fear.
We are only critical of something when we are afraid we will be affected by it.
Criticism is a cry for help in disguise. It is a cry for help that says: “I feel powerless compared to others and so I can’t trust myself to make myself feel good or emotionally safe. So I need you to correct this thing outside myself that is going to cause me pain so I don’t have to feel bad.”
A great many criticisms that are given are also dripping with projection. We’ve all been in that situation where we’re looking at the person who is upset at us thinking “now isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?” Projection is the ultimate form of hypocrisy. We project our shadows all the time (see previous blogs on shadow work).
Criticism imprisons you. Feedback sets you free. Remain open enough to question yourself about whether the feedback is in alignment with the highest good.
5.Don’t make assumptions and don’t take things personally
When we receive feedback, we tend to make assumptions that we are losing love or freedom in some way and take it all very personally. The true problem with making these assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, take it personally, then blame them and react by sending emotional poison or ignorance with our deflection. This creates an entire drama for nothing. The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to have the courage to ask questions. Once you have the answer, you won’t have to assume anything because you will have the truth. For example:
Does this mean you don’t want to be with me anymore? Do you still love me? Does this mean you are going to stop me from doing what I love?
Be willing to be vulnerable.
I hope these words can assist you to identify where you might be deflecting rather than reflecting in your own lives. Next time someone gives you feedback, reflect rather than deflect and watch your life transform. You could even ask someone for a reflection in order to develop these skills or ask your loved ones to tell you what they like about you and practice receiving.
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For women wanting to go on a journey of deep self-exploration and be initiated into the Sacred Feminine energies, join us for the incredible BEING WOMAN women’s retreat in the sacred lands of India this coming October.