My body was tense, my throat constricted and all I could think was, “Here we go again.”
Earlier when I was contemplating this conversation with her, I promised myself I wouldn’t say it. I knew it wasn’t productive, it wasn’t helpful and it would end badly.
I would hold my tongue.
I would remain calm and we would discuss things rationally.
But here we were in the heat of the moment and of course, I did it anyway. My buttons got pushed and out it came: the underhanded, passive aggressive, hurtful comments that I had sworn wouldn’t cross my lips.
But then they did.
Now she was incensed and the rest played out as per usual.
I pointed fingers and told her she wasn’t doing her part.
She defended herself and pushed blame back on me.
There was yelling and screaming.
There was stomping and slamming.
Same old, same old.
Heart pounding, I came out of it feeling anger, shame and guilt.
Why couldn’t I control myself?
Despite the best of intentions it seemed I just couldn’t help it. What was it that had me reacting so immaturely?
Why did I fall into this trap every. single. time???
Does this scenario seem familiar?
Do you have certain people in your life that you have the same fights with over and over?
Do you each step into your roles with the precision of Shakespearean actors?
Does it seem like you never get any resolution–only added layers of anger and frustration?
Doesn’t it feel awful?
I know it does because I’ve been there. Oh so often.
Today I want to share a process that can help you avoid this happening in the future.
Once you understand why you react the way you do, you will be able to have conversations instead of fights. You will be able to communicate effectively instead of falling into reactive mode.
This process was devised by my teacher, Dr. Jonice Webb.
As you get better at using this tool, you will be able to use it in real time. But for now it is best to sit down quietly after the fact and go slowly through each step.
Get quiet and check in with yourself. What exactly are you feeling? Is it anger? Sadness? Guilt? Betrayal?
Is identifying emotions easy or difficult for you? Notice if pinpointing your feelings is normal or completely foreign for you.
If you find it particularly difficult, Google an emotions list that you can refer to. The list can help you figure out what you are feeling.
Many women are good at the identifying part, but not so good at the accepting part. Often you recognize how you feel, but then you make yourself wrong for it.
“I should’t feel this way.”
“A good mother wouldn’t think that.”
“I need to just suck it up and get through this”
When you don’t accept how you feel, you are actively negating yourself.
When you push away, deny, suppress or otherwise tell yourself that your feelings are wrong, the message you send yourself is that you as a person are wrong.
Feelings are not right, wrong, good or bad. They simply are. Feelings come and go all the time. And they do this much more easily if you don’t judge them.
A crucial step in fully accepting yourself, is to first accept your emotions for what they are.
This step can be a bit tricky. Usually it is not the situation at hand that is causing you to get upset. Every once in a while it is, but mostly it is one of these two things:
1) You have let things build up.
It isn’t the dirty dishes in the sink right now. It is that there have been dirty dishes in the sink daily for two weeks running. You have been annoyed, but you haven’t said anything. Today is the day that seeing those dishes makes you want to explode. So it isn’t what is happening right now that is making you feel the way you feel, it is the build up of what you haven’t said up until now.
2) It reminds you of something from your past
You have completely blown your top. You know that what occurred was not that big of a deal. Why did you lose it like that?
This reaction indicates that it is not the current situation, but what it reminds you of from your past.
Is this the way your dad used to treat you?
Does this make you think of your 6th grade science teacher?
If you have unresolved pain and unmet needs from your past, you are going to recreate scenarios that give you an opportunity for a different ending.
Emotions are motivators. When we tune into them by using this process, they can show us when something needs to change.
Emotions can help us identify when we need to stop something harmful or start something beneficial.
If you have effectively Identified, Accepted and Attributed your emotion around a given situation, you should now have some perspective. It should be clear to you why you overreacted or why you feel as badly as you do every time this scenario plays out.
From this place you can decide what action is needed. Is a conversation in order? Should you change a behavior? Do you have an unmet need?
It is important to point out that at this stage you may find a whole new emotion arising. If your feeling of being taken advantage of by your boss has led you to understand that you need to have a discussion with her, you may have a new flood of feeling course through your body.
Take that feeling, go back to Identify and move through the process again.
Being able to cycle through again and start untangling the deep seated feelings that we have is one of the reasons that I find this tool so effective.
Our feelings are complicated. It’s not just one thing, it is hundreds of things over a lifetime. It can be very difficult and confusing to get to the bottom of why we are stuck in certain areas of our lives.
This tool helps to get underneath it all and paints a much clearer picture of what is really happening.
Here are the steps again:
You will probably notice that you are already good at 1 or 2 of the steps and barely doing the others.
You won’t be able to fully work through and communicate your feelings unless you master all 4. But remember, it is a practice and will improve over time.
There is no need to play your Shakespearean role anymore.
Give this a try and let me know how it goes. And as always, if you need help, hit Contact in the upper right hand corner and I can help walk you through it.
In order to change your life, you must first change your mind.