Are those around you starting to drive you bananas? When we are stuck together for awhile it tends to bring out the worst in others…and us. If you’re frustrated with another, you might not need to look very far to find the root of the problem. It might be you!
Shocking, huh? We are so quick to assign blame to others but often we are the culprit. Take a look at what’s going on in your relationships. Before you start to assume someone else needs to do the changing, take a look at what you might be doing, saying, not doing or not saying that is contributing.
You know the saying, it takes two to Tango? You’re on a relational dance floor and unless you are dealing with a person who has a personality disorder (which only accounts for about 10% of the population) you are likely engaging in as many steps or more than your dance partner. We don’t like that. We like to believe we’re right and the other person has serious problems. The flaw in this is you will then spend so much time looking at the other person’s faults you will completely miss your own.
People have ended relationships erroneously believing it was the other person’s fault. If they had just taken the time to do some serious self-reflecting and stop placing the all blame on the other, they might be in a healthy relationship and avoid repeating the same pattern again and again.
Next time you are in a disagreement, step back and find out what’s your part.
Our lives are filled with so much out of our control like illnesses, political decisions, weather, other people’s choices… So what’s a person seeking to live a healthy life supposed to do? Look at each situation in your life and pull it apart, investigate it. What’s really going on? Who are the players? What is their role? Is this something you have absolutely no control over in the happening part of it? Where do you have control?
We always have some control. At the very least, we can control what we are going to do in any situation. If a person has a gun to my head, I can still make choices around my words, my thoughts and my actions. I might end up shot anyway because I don’t have control over the other person. I can dress appropriately for the weather, but I can’t control what the weather does. I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, but I can’t make it be healthy. I can write a letter or call my Representatives in the US government, but I can’t force them to vote how I want.
When we look at and act on the areas where we do have control we get a sense of empowerment, which usually spurs us on to take more action within our control. Remember when exercising control to keep it in the realm of healthy, legal and wise. Very rarely you might find yourself dealing with an oppressive government or situation which might call you to do something illegal. I’m thinking of the underground railroad during the time of slavery. It was illegal to provide shelter and escape for the slaves, but people did it anyway because the law was wrong. Breaking the law was about preserving human decency, not taking it away.
Most of us aren’t, and hopefully will never be, in that type of situation. For now, find the areas in your life where you think you have no control and give it another go. Process through it and find strength in your God-given right to decide how you want to deal with it. 🙂
It’s that time of year again, the holidays. As with each year since I started blogging I will post holiday-related topics for the next few weeks. Last week was Thanksgiving for those of us here in the States. Generally I have enjoyed my Thanksgiving holiday but not so this year. There were some highlights: gathering together with most of my children and grandchildren, seeing siblings, nieces, nephews, a few cousins, my mother-in-law and my mom. It was a chaotic experience with many people I did not know and that was not enjoyable. Sometimes I am in the mood for conversations with strangers but this year, not so much. This year, I just wanted to be with family. I definitely felt my dad’s absence and that was part of my sadness.
I experienced the strangling of disappointment and anger taking over inside of me. It sucked me down into a familiar hole. I stayed there for several days. I was less patient with those around me, especially strangers in cars who received eye rolls and shouts of frustration. All of which I’m sure went unnoticed. It felt safer to yell at them. They can’t yell back (or at least I won’t hear them if they do). You know those times when you only want to have one-sided conversations because you are pretty certain a two-way conversation won’t go well? I felt gloomy, eyore-ish, and it’s been hard to get out of it.
I stopped to take stock of the why. My self-care was nearly non-existent while I was away for the week of Thanksgiving. I had been expecting myself to survive on the basics alone and that is not enough for me. On my last day away, I grabbed my husband and our puppy and went on a walk. I griped along the way, getting all that life-sucking poison out. I requested that we leave early (a looming snowstorm sealed that deal for me!) to put an end to this misery. Along the way, we stopped on a pedestrian bridge that overlooked the Roaring Fork River (sounds big but it’s just a stream really, especially in the winter). The clear frigid waters lolly gagged and splashed around huge boulders and scattered tree limbs. Patches of ice formed on the rocks on the downstream side of the bridge while the upstream side, in full sun, remained ice free. Something about that caught my attention. Maybe my heart was like the river. When I am on the downstream side, away from my source for internal warmth, I ice over. It’s harder for me to stay grounded. When I move toward the warmth of my source (in my case, God), the hardness and ice inside of me begin to melt.
But it doesn’t stop there. Ice builds inside of me when I am not getting out on walks, feeling fresh air and sunshine on my skin. I desperately need to soak in nature, do yoga, and spend time in solitude with my thoughts and prayers. Those are my biggies, the most important pieces of my self-care that must be regular ingredients in my life. I had a profound experience of what happens to me when I starve myself. I am working on stabilizing again, turning toward the sun, feeling the ice crystals softening and chunks of ice peeling away from soul. I feel warmth growing again and with it, hope that I will be ok.
Not happy about current circumstances and want to navigate well? You don’t have to just wallow in your misery, you can do something productive. First, clearly identify what you are feeling (anger, sadness, fear…) and the thoughts that are dictating the emotions. Emotions don’t just show up all on their own. They are linked to cognitive thought: you have a thought and an emotion will follow. We sometimes notice the emotion and not the dictating thought so it’s super important to get back to, “Where did this feeling come from?” The reason? If the thought isn’t based in reality, it’s not worth entertaining and neither is the accompanying the emotion. We often feel these not-based-in-reality emotions anyway and develop incredibly unhealthy neural pathways that become ingrained in our brain and feel like a reflex when in fact they are an unhealthy learned behavior that we keep feeding.
For instance: “With this new President-elect, our country is going down the tubes, freedom will be lost, this is horrible!” What is true at this moment that you know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt? We have a new President-elect. That’s it. We don’t actually know what he will do. We know what he said he will do, but nothing has actually been done yet. Breathe. Remind yourself of what you know for sure. Let go of all the places your mind is going with the “what ifs”. They are crazy-making and completely unhelpful. You can mourn the loss of your candidate if you did not vote for Trump. You can celebrate that your candidate won if you voted for Trump. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t get too puffed up about all that is going to happen or too depressed about all that is going to happen because–none of it has happened yet. Stay with the here and now and breathe deeply and slowly.
Next, after feeling the emotions based in reality, take a deep breath, splash some water on your face and ask yourself, “Where do I have control? Is there anything I can do about the situation that is healthy, legal and wise?” At the very least, we always have the ability to choose how we are going to react, what kind of attitude we are going to have, if we want to smile and find the joy in our life. Always! Viktor Frankl learned this in a Nazi-run concentration camp during World War II. If he learned this concept in the very worst of circumstances then we can surely do this in our circumstances. I know, if you are reading this, you already have way more freedom and more to find joy in than a concentration camp prisoner.
Now, move on. Surely you have something you need to be doing or could be doing that is productive. Maybe it’s time for a good dose of self-care (something you can do that fills you up in a good way–healthy, legal and wise!). Go for a walk, pet your dog/cat, talk to a friend, listen to music, feel the sun/fresh air, read a book, knit, play piano, write…the list could go on and on. Be good to your body and your mind. Fill up and restore so you can reset. You will deal with whatever happens when it happens and until then, you can take care of yourself, anchor to the present and bring joy into this world in your own unique way 🙂
“If we take responsibility for our feelings, we can use them to make our relationships better. Our anger is often a signal that someone has wronged us. If we feel that the person who has wronged us is responsible for our anger, we are in trouble. We will stay angry until the other person decides to make it better, and that could be a very long time.”
– Dr Henry Cloud
So, this is the quote I opened when checking my email tonight. This might not seem like anything to write about until you know the circumstances. I got into an altercation with family. As my anger rose and I sequestered myself, I thought I would use the time to check my email. I don’t always open Dr. Cloud’s emails because I get one every single day and I usually don’t have a whole lot of time to check my email so his usually just get deleted. When I saw it tonight I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder what Dr. Cloud has for me…hopefully something relevant,” and I got the quote above. It was awesome! So, I am breathing deeply, acknowledging and owning my anger, understanding it makes sense (based on reality not a made up story), accepting my part in it all and working on letting it go (not an instant action but I am on the right path).