There’s a prevailing myth that it is hard for people to “get over” things like insults, arguments, or past injuries. This myth keeps us stuck in struggle and conflict far beyond what is necessary.
The truth is human beings can get over things quickly, even instantly. And knowing can be enormously helpful.
When my wife and I argue, for example, it is a relief to know when the argument ends, the warm feelings will return and there is no such thing as emotional residue.
Consider this brief anatomy of an argument.
Our own internal pressure builds or our mood drops, and the mind attaches outside circumstances to our bad feelings. Since our partner is always around, it seems he or she is the cause of our discontent, so we blame them.
Some days, for instance, a messy house is fine with me. Other days, my mood is low and the mess gets under my skin, and I make a sharp comment about it.
If my wife is in a good place, she’ll ignore the remark or understand I’m in a mood. If she is not, though, she will defend herself, and off we go.
So you see, the argument is not caused by a messy house. It’s just a reflection of our state-of-mind in the moment. And this is always the case.
Now here’s the key.
At some point, our psyche will naturally want to reset itself, clear itself of excess thinking and restore itself to a more balanced place. It may take time, but in due course, our psyche moves us back towards balance and connectedness, in the same way the immune system restores the body to 98.6 degrees.
In fact, an argument can be thought of as a mental fever, where the “heated feelings” reflects psyche’s immune system hard at work fighting off infected thinking.
This healing process can be subtle, but if you pay attention, you will notice it. You may be driving in the car, or walking about, when a warm, loving or remorseful feeling breaks through. We get a glimpse into our partners’ struggles or motivation, we get a surge of humility about our part in things, we see things from a different or broader perspective.
This is not something that we do, like a technique. It just happens. It is how we work as human beings. Like a pendulum returning to rest at center, we too naturally return to rest at center, which for us means a more balanced, connected place.
When arguments arise, it helps to know what is going on. It helps to know that beneath the tumult of our mental fever lies a warm, loving and connected place awaiting our return. It may take a while, but this internal reset is always in the cards.
We just need to trust it and go with it when it happens. When we do, we still may not necessarily agree with our partner, but perhaps we understand them more, or see our own part more clearly, or recognize that arguing is not necessarily a helpful way to address differences. We see that “problems” are not problems at all, they are just the ordinary stuff of life.
Where I think many of us stumble is in believing arguments are caused by our partners’ behavior rather than our states of mind. And when we don’t remember this, it is easy to perpetuate conflict.
We replay the perceived slight in our mind, evaluate the meaning and significance of arguments, hold on to blame and grievances, stand on pride and self-righteousness. In a sense, we recycle a misunderstanding, blaming our partners for internal agitation that is solely our own. All when the internal pressure is screaming to be released, so we may enjoy a more centered experience.
Does all of this mean persisting in unhealthy relationships or allowing ourselves to be a doormat for mistreatment? Of course not. Acting from our own good sense and well-being, we may communicate our preferences or end unhealthy relationships. And our psyche will keep moving us back towards balance and understanding, healing and reconciliation, which is an internal experience.
When it does, we will see things from a broader perspective and recognize that fighting, while utterly human, is not necessarily all that productive. Because there’s another option available to us, which is wait for the internal pressure to clear, for the heated feelings to dissolve, or our mood to lift, perhaps before engaging.
The deeper blessing I am pointing to here lies in knowing arguments or injuries don’t have to mean anything, except that we’ve just lost our bearings in the moment.
Knowing when they’re done, they’re done, knowing we don’t have to work to “get over” them since the psyche does that on its own, knowing it’s in our nature to be restored to a more balanced place — knowing these things has been a continual help in my relationships. I hope it helps you as well.