Relational Discussion or Enemy Mode Argument?

During the two long years Jim Wilder and I invested in writing Escaping Enemy Mode, opportunities to practice what we were learning were frequent.

I often found myself lamenting my enemy mode failures.

As buoyed as I might have been by an occasional successful escape, the damage my enemy mode had caused brought sadness, pain, regret and the determination to escape enemy mode at all costs.

Our writing and research were fueled by a profusion of personal examples, observation of the damage caused by enemy mode around us, and the storytellers who filled us with their tales of enemy mode exposures and escapes. Many stories were like this one from not too long ago when my enemy mode tendencies almost did some damage.

Becoming relational takes time as neural pathways (FAST track) get retrained. 

I almost fell into a well-worn path in a discussion that ended relationally but could have taken a turn.  

My wife Deborah and I were moving out of state this summer.  After hundreds of hours on house hunting websites, we had found just the right place. We wanted to tour it but wondered “where did the bedroom hallway begin?”

She felt the hallway entry was at the front.  I countered: “It has to start in the middle.”  I knew I was right.

The discussion felt like a debate.  Fun for a while, it changed to “just on the edge” of not being fun.  I felt tension rising in my chest. She felt uncomfortable and almost wanted to stop talking about it. 

We were at an impasse.  In these types of situations in the past, it has been normal for me to go into enemy mode. The next few minutes I would not have been my best self. I would prove my point. I would win!

That didn’t happen this time. What helped? I am a Christian, so I wondered “what did Jesus have to say about this?”

Deborah was first to notice what was happening between us.  She felt the tension before I did. I had noticed my tightening chest but not done anything to quiet myself.  She wisely suggested, “you and I just have hypotheses.  We can’t tell from the photos, so we don’t know.  We’ll have to see.”  I agreed with her, “Yes, we’ll see tomorrow!”

She was my “rescue attachment.” She helped me realize we could win the discussion together.  I quieted my body a little.  I remembered she was on my side and listened to her. Our discussion had taken forty-five minutes, thanks to me.  We ended the discussion relationally and agreed to disagree, thanks to Deborah.

During the next day’s virtual tour, we discovered where the hallway began.  It turns out we had been both saying the same thing, but I didn’t notice at the time. 

Why? Because I was slipping into enemy mode. I was not curious about what she was thinking, which indicates enemy mode in the brain.

We got our “hallway entry” answer, but we are still working every day to stay out of enemy mode. This was a tiny victory on the road to transformation. When Deborah and I later reflected on this episode, we felt tender towards each other and thankful to possibly have a new home to live in.

Better, we felt we had been together in it and had acted like our best selves.

Better yet, we both felt Jesus was with us, and was pleased with the new way we navigated what could have been painful.

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