Q. I don’t understand a comment you made during one seminar when you said, “No one makes you exhibit dysfunctional behaviors.” Then where do they come from?

A. Every pathology an ecology, meaning that dysfunctional behaviors do not come out of a vacuum. Here is one metaphor that might help describe this phenomenon. Imagine that you are holding a glass of lemonade and someone bumps into you. You exclaim: “Hey, you made me spill my lemonade.” Is that really true? Probably not. The person who bumped into you triggered a movement that resulted in you spilling something. You only spilled lemonade because that was what was inside your glass. If water had been in your glass, you would have spilled water. If chocolate milk, you would have spilled that. You would have spilled whatever was inside your glass.

Think of yourself as a “glass.” When you experience trauma or an event that could be disruptive or have a communication misunderstanding, or something triggers unhappy memories from childhood, think of yourself as having just been bumped into. What spills out is whatever is in your “glass.” If the contents of your glass involves “low levels of EQ,” your glass will spill out JOT behaviors such as jumping to conclusions, overreacting, and taking things personally—behaviors that will likely give you negative outcomes that may involve some “messes” that will take some doing to clean up (if they even can be cleaned up).

If the contents of your glass involve “high levels of EQ,” your glass will spill out behaviors that will likely avoid or minimize conflict, be reasonable, and that will result in positive outcomes. Your choice. So, no person makes you exhibit dysfunctional behaviors. The behaviors that you exhibit—that come out of your glass—are ones that were already in there.