“That’s just the way she is.” She’s quick tempered and comes at you whenever she feels she is painted into the proverbial corner.
“That’s just the way he is.” He’s closed off and goes to his quiet place when he stresses, he hides from his emotions. He doesn’t fight back and sometimes you feel as if he doesn’t care.
Neither of them can be changed, we have to just live with their reactions, which we then react to at times. It becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, stress, leads to reaction, leads to hurt, leads to stress.
What if, each of these individuals above changed their reaction? What if when under stress, instead of lashing out, temper tantrum and vacillating between anger and victimhood, she sat back, took a breath and thought, “what am I so angry at? What can I do to change this situation? What does the other person need from me? What is it inside of me that is causing this reaction?” What if, under stress, he didn’t shut down and close himself off emotionally but actually felt the emotion? Could he think, “why am I retracting? what is about this situation that has me feeling fear? What can I change in this situation?” Are we as human beings capable of changing what we think is a hard wired reaction so that we don’t go to these places when stressed, but instead remain calm in the storm and think about the whole and not just ourselves?
The best news for me, we can change what we think is a hard wired reaction because many times it is not. It is a reaction, usually based upon fear, that we go to as a norm. Now that we know that can we consciously change the reaction. Science says yes. So how?
Just like we can retrain our brain through self talk, we can retrain ourselves to consciously make choices in life to how we react to situations and people. We are responsible for the energy we bring into rooms, into situations and are conscious of, not the other way around. I have lived a lot of my life thinking “that’s just the way he/she is.” Or better yet, “that’s who I am, you don’t like it, oh well.” I know, I have grown and changed a lot over the years and at times I was very aware of how I wanted to react versus how I did react. There have still been those moments when my reaction got the better of me, and it wasn’t my best me showing up. My default when I am under stress has, very often been to get angry, a “how dare you hurt me,” reaction along with my victimhood of “I’m not good enough for you, I’m never good enough.”
These reactions are catabolic and destructive levels of energy showing up. In these scenarios, my focus is very much on myself and very much win-lose. Being conscious of this allows me to think about these reactions and perhaps bring a higher level of energy to a conflict situation. At work I was almost always able to breathe, then think about the reaction and not go to these destructive places with others. In my office, alone, I would feel the anger and the blame, but with others I would work to not allow those feelings to come through.
Personally, I allowed the victimhood and the anger to press through. I have been known to leave scathing voicemail messages, filled with anger and tears. Backed into a corner, I can come out with teeth showing and an attitude that says “watch out.” This past week I could have allowed all of that emotion to come out in that same way. I was pushed into a corner by someone who was retreating and treating me poorly. Instead, really tried to understand the issue and focus on what the issue was versus focusing on how I was being treated in my eyes. I pushed but not with nasty comments or anger, instead I asked and let them know I would go elsewhere for the answer if they couldn’t give it to me. I also thought about the other person. How can I react differently to whatever is their default reaction under stress? I decided, very consciously, that the reaction was one that the person owned, I did say to myself, “It is what it is.” Once I got there, my anger began to subside because I realized consciously that my anger wasn’t going to change their reaction, they are the only person who can change their reaction. Then I started to think about that person from a place of love and acceptance. How can I be of service to this person so they do not hurt so much anymore? How can I help?
I can be a place for them to vent, to share how they feel. I can also be a place of not reacting, not making it about me and how I feel but focused on them and their feelings. All done very consciously, truly asking myself these questions. What happened was fascinating for me. First, I was a lot calmer. My anger subsided tremendously as did my feelings of inadequacy, as my inner critic took a hike, it isn’t about me not being good enough. Second, my focus on them allowed them to vent to me, they realized I could be a good sounding board without fighting back at them. Third, we moved a heated exchange and a lot of emotion to calmness, and laughter, allowing ourselves to get silly and light instead of the heaviness that has surrounded us for a while now. There was a shift in our collective energy and I know there was a huge shift in my energy.
That was my choice. I could have chosen to continue to fight and have my claws out focused on me and my hurt. I chose to bring different energy to the exchange which allowed the other person to do the same. Knowing and understanding ourselves and how we react is always the first step. Beyond that though, we need to consciously make a choice to show up the way we need to, want to in order to move the situation to one of love, understanding, and a win-win for all.
Stop. Take a breath. Ask yourself, how am I showing up right now? Is this going to help the situation or continue to spiral a situation? What choice can I make right now? The more we are conscious of how we show up, the better chance we have of making a choice. No matter what the response is, if it is our choice, we can move forward without guilt or shame and allow others to do the same.
It is our choice.