March 20, 2023 by Dymphna

T-Bomb: Why ‘retreat and soothe’ never works

Truth Bomb Tuesday: If you give into tantrums, it will never end

Sometimes people just won’t get with the program.

Actually, most times they won’t. People are like that.

But often the people you need to support you most – the ones you’re relying on to make the program happen – they refuse to get with it.

And that puts you in this very impossibly position of choosing between staying true to your vision, or staying with the people who feel threatened by your vision.

And I’ve read things on the internet that say, “Oh just leave his arse girl. You can do better than that.”

And look. It’s easy to say. But the precise reason that this is such a difficult knot is that you can’t just simply cut people that matter out of your life.

If it were easy to just cut them out, then they were never that important.

And I mean, if your mother is not supportive of your interest in changing up your financial situation, that’s tough. You can’t just turn your back on a relationship that is to the minute as old as you are.

So this is a curly challenge. Don’t let any perfect-skinned influencer tell you any different.

But let me, just for today, pull one element of this into closer focus.

Because what I see is that a lot of people in this situation go to a default strategy I call ‘retreat and soothe’.

So for example, they take a step towards changing career towards something more creatively fulfilling. Maybe they enrol in a water-colours course.

They’re partner finds this challenging. They’ve never felt like they were the creative or expressive one, and it triggers their insecurities. In their minds, though they’d never admit it, it’s a step towards their partner finding someone else – a handsome water-colours teacher, for example.

(For example. Let’s not get bogged down in the details. It’s the general tendency I’m interested in.)

So their partner, with their insecurities triggered, chucks a bit of a tanty. They dress it up to sound very reasonable of course though.

“We don’t have the money for such extravagant luxuries!”

“You have a lot of jobs to do around the house don’t you? Your mother is coming in July.”

“You don’t really have the talent for that. Why don’t you focus on something that’s going to make more money?”

In response, the first person, recognising that these emotional outbursts are just going to become more irrational and expressive, and probably, with compassion, recognising that they come from particular unhealed wounds, wants to help.

And so they retreat and soothe.

“Hey, it’s ok. I don’t need to do that course. I’ll cancel. Maybe I can do it another time. It’s ok pet. Would you like a cup of tea? Maybe a Valium?”

But the tragedy here is that nobody wins.

The first person misses out doing something that they were really excited to do. And the second person remains stuck in their insecurities, and probably feels worse because at some level they can see what a negative influence they are.

But it gets worse.

Because now you risk setting up a pattern.

If anytime anyone in your life rocks the boat somehow, and your response is to retreat from the things that light you up, you’re training them in exactly the wrong way.

You’re training them to know that if they ever want to knock you from your course – to put you back in a box that they’re more comfortable with, no matter how small it is for you – if they want to do that, then all they have to do is rock the boat.

It’s like giving an icecream to a kid every time it cries. All that does is train the kid to cry if it wants an icecream.

It’s exactly like that.

And so, as intuitive as ‘retreat and smooth’ might feel as a strategy, you have to recognise that It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.

Your only choice is to stay true to yourself. Make space for the tantrum if you can, hold them if you can.

But whatever you do, you have to stay true to yourself.

Literally nothing else works.