Perspective – When My Attitude Flares Up, How I Tone It Down, and Why I Should

MOST of the time I *try* to be a decent human being.  I try to reflect on my behaviors – good, bad, and ugly – and to conduct myself in an upstanding way as much as I can.

I ALSO fall short plenty!

As human beings, we are subject to more influences than I think we ever want to admit (hell, even the moon has me all off kilter when it’s full!) We are subject to changes in mood, for so many reasons that it would be nigh impossible to list them all.  But that’s okay.  We are allowed to ebb and flow, because that is just the nature of life.  We don’t have to be perfect all the time, and even if we have some grandiose notion that we’d like to be. . .it doesn’t always play out that way.

But the other day a thought came to mind that stopped me right in the middle of my “if-the-car-in-front-of-me-doesn’t-speed-up-I’m-going-to-go-nuts!” rant.  It was such a jarring thought that my attitude shifted. Instantaneously.  

I have the wonderful fortune of volunteering with children with disabilities with two organizations – I’ve never found something that lit my heart quite as much (and that’s saying a LOT, as I am a truly passionate person about my life, my activities, and the careers I have had.) I love the kids, and I love meeting their parents – learning about them, their individualities, and what makes them happy, is an overwhelming joy.

So as I was having this moment of “can’t stand anyone” (and I think it was in reaction to a woman tailgating on the highway and giving me the middle finger, despite that I had no idea what I did to warrant it) I thought to myself. . .

What if the person in that car who I’m getting all flustered because of, or at, was one of the parents of the kids I get to work with?  Would I act the same way?

Resounding NO.

I wasn’t *trying* to give myself a guilt trip, or make myself feel badly.  When my behavior deviates – and I think it’s fair to say, as adults, we generally know when we are being unreasonable and inappropriate with our reactions (should we choose to be honest with ourselves!) – I am aware of it.  I do try to correct myself and in effort to curb poor actions, I have said to myself everything from “you never know who has a weapon!” “you can’t take back what you say,” to “that really doesn’t make me a good person to flip someone off”…!

Doesn’t always seem to calm me down, though!  

But. . .the thought that it *could be* someone in a situation such as the families whose children I work with shut me down pronto.

I would never want to behave that way with one of them.  And when I think about it, I can’t imagine I really want to act that way with ANYone.  What does reacting poorly say about me anyway? Nothing grand, I assure you!

When I think about it, it makes me feel sad that I would allow temporary emotions to overcome me in such a way that I lash out – in any regard.  As a human being, I know it is bound to happen, and that expecting myself to be Miss. Goody Twoshoes is NOT realistic.  But because I don’t know what other people are facing, and because I also know how blessed I am, I appreciated the supernal reminder. . .which stopped me from getting angry, or for the woman who flipped me off to ruin more than the few seconds of my day during which she did so.

I know I’m going to fall short sometimes, but that moment was one I know I will remember. . .

I have the blessing to work with those who have a journey fraught with challenges, and I LOVE the work because I have the opportunity to make lives better. To behave poorly as a result of flared emotions is to contribute in a negative way, and I will suffer personally when I choose that route.  The only thing that would make it worse is to also hurt someone else who didn’t deserve it to begin with…and I’d say I don’t really want to decide that someone deserves any of that.

 

Martial Arts Wisdom – Revenge and Anger

In Martial Arts we say we hope we never have to use what we learn – the idea isn’t about trying to prove something, nor to assert any kind of feigned dominance.

Along those lines, we are taught that ideas like “revenge” and “anger” serve only as injurious deviations from our true paths.  The Universe finds a way to right things without the heavier, shall we say, karmic repercussions of going down that road.

To seek revenge or harbor ill will is, as Buddha says, holding the proverbial hot coals and assuming both that they will burn another…and also that we are impervious.

The truth is the reverse – to seek such things is to diminish our own self-worth. It is a disservice to ourselves as willfully negative actions and thoughts hinder the flow of “good” that has the potential to continually manifest in our lives.  It is far wiser to let go of resentment, and to be as the Martial Artist aspires to be – free of the burdens that come with animosity and bad blood. 

It isn’t always an easy pursuit, but it is a noble one and worth the aspiration. Neither human being nor circumstance has the right to turn us from the higher road.

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A Wise Man. . .

There are a thousand reasons why this idea should be prized. . .

Words have power and sometimes it is better to remain silent, lest ignorance, impatience, anger, or inability to understand cause more harm than good. 

Sounds easy. . .but. . .it isn’t.  It’s a life-long pursuit to manage the gift of language we’ve been given.  Sometimes nothing feels better than sharing, commenting, responding, speaking. . . But a lot of times silence is a wiser, if not kinder, response.

While I am a long way from mastering the skill, it’s a good reminder that there’s a time and a place to use the gift of speech. Before engaging, thinking is often a great idea.

The Art Of Communication

This week a lot of friends have seemed to have had their share of communication breakdowns – on their side, or on the part of another person….parents, children, instructors, training partners. . .and it prompted me to think about it.  You’d think Mercury was in retrograde! (Don’t worry, it isn’t for some weeks 😉 ) 

It never ceases to amaze me, though, how similar situations can be, even when involving vastly different topics, completely different areas of Life, and totally different players.  Communication, however, is the underlying thread weaving it all together. . .

Communication isn’t relegated to one type of relationship, nor to specific people – it isn’t just about friendship, or marriage, or work, or family. . .  Communication is what sets us apart – it’s what binds our species, allows us to function at high levels, to accomplish collective goals, to learn, to love, and to live. Communication isn’t in and of itself horribly complicated, but humans ARE. . .and that’s where it gets tricky. (Modern life does bring a few challenges as well…)

shoeboxblog.com Chuck & Beans

Emotions, preconceived notions, previous experiences and conditioning. . .it all plays a part in how we respond to stimulus.  While humans are capable of incredible strength, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also highly sensitive (I know I am!) – the way in which we communicate is therefore as important as the words we are using.  Words, keep in mind are defined differently, even among those were are most similar to – in this case, the nonverbal, the tone, and the delivery makes a difference.

A HUGE one.

 

Everyone has had their fair share of “stuff” – we’ve all been marred by life’s rough edges, nature’s unpredictability, and lessons we needed to struggle through in order to fully learn (I’m still learning quite a few, including the topic at hand.)  As a result, most of us walk around with what I call “walls-at-the-ready” – we are kind of like collapsible fortresses just waiting for the moment to erect our barricades, and employ our moats.  

Seriously…

So communication then can become a very delicate – and powerful – affair.  

There is a true art to navigating what could easily become choppy seas (at our own hands – or our chosen communication.) There are tons of articles, books, seminars out there (such as this one) but no matter which relationships they are intended to better, they speak to the same key principles.  So it doesn’t matter if it’s your child, a new co-worker, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling – the keys to communicating well focus on the same fundamental ideas, and can apply across the board.

LISTEN

Listening matters – listening with the intent to reply is not the same thing.  We need to listen to hear and understand from the other person’s perspective. Whether or not we agree, feelings are just that – as such, they are valid even if we don’t “get it.” 

EMPATHIZE

Everyone wants empathy and to be understood – no matter how much you may disagree, recognizing that the person speaking has a valid and true reality – for them – helps to bring them down a notch. Or several. 

MAINTAIN CALM CONVERSATION

People are open and responsive to calm conversation – the second the heat of anger is turned up, or promise of threat implied . . .POOF! . . .Barricades!

AVOID ATTACKING, BLAMING, SHAMING

People are (at least generally) open and responsive to discussion provided they aren’t in a corner – the slightest attack, criticism, blame, there go those walls again.  What you want to convey will be shut out like an enemy coming in full force. No bueno, as they say…

STAY FOCUSED

Keeping the focus on the issue at hand makes for a cleaner conversation – muddling the mix with outlying topics that really have no part to play make a mess, quickly.  Not to mention a full suit of armor on the other side!

Usually communication is only difficult when it’s controversial – when it may cause discomfort (like embarrassment, anxiety, self doubt etc), when it’s about a touchy subject, (embarrassment, shame, etc), or it provokes a fear-based response (as in “fright or flight” – resulting from directed anger, frustration, for example.) At those times, that’s when we LEAST want to be gentle and “follow guidelines of effective communication”!!  

But, as they say, a moment of patience can make a lifetime’s worth of difference.

Adorable! Seven Deadly Sins Cartoon: Anger
Written by Bearman Cartoons

Listen to the other person and, whether you agree or not, make the effort to recognize their view.  Keep yourself calm, avoid blame and attacking, and stick to discussion mode – people will be far more able (and willing!) to receive, and are less likely to block you out. If you feel like you can’t contain the disappointment, anger, frustration etc, do something else until you can be calm. 

People are complicated, and so is Life.  Even your best friends and closest family members meet discord from time to time (if they didn’t they wouldn’t be breathing!) that’s okay – it happens!  We aren’t always going to see eye to eye, we aren’t always going to define terms the same way, and people aren’t always going to behave exactly the way we want all the time.

You say you’re a Martial Artist and I might take you at your “word.” (schoolofdisney.com image)

One of my favorite expressions is “how important is it?” It’s one I heard growing up, and it’s one I hear frequently today.  As spoken at a dear friend’s wedding recently – in fact, by a very wise and learned woman – you can be right, or you can be happy.  Again, this applies to all areas of life, and to all kinds of relationships…

For example, I’ve seen a marked change in my own relationships with family members over the years, and every so often I catch myself really thinking about how our interactions have (or haven’t!) evolved since childhood – sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it feels down-right painful. . .but Life doesn’t stop because I don’t agree with something, or I feel hurt. 

The more I can communicate effectively and in a kind way, the healthier all my interactions will be, and the better I – and others – will feel.  That means learning to do things that maybe I’m not so great at, or challenging my mood at that moment, or, even tougher, changing things I’ve done my whole life – sometimes what used to work for us doesn’t anymore! I know I’m a work in progress…but I am working at it, because there are areas in which I know I can do better.

I loved this excerpt, read by a friend recently, as it captures the essence of the idea perfectly:

” Today being aware of the words I use, I am learning to communicate more responsibly.  I not only share in a more straightforward manner, but I also argue in a healthier way.  There are better was to express myself than to say ‘you did such and such to me.’ I can talk about myself and my feelings.  I can explain the way I experienced something rather than telling the person how he or she made me feel… 

“…We learn in time that it is not the subjects which are controversial, but the manner in which we communicate about them and the elements of personal blame we add to them in anger.”

CTC by AFG p 176.

Effective, healthy, and happy communication can be accomplished, but it does take a little work.  We are thrown to the wolves in many ways, and learn to swim in the deep end by trial and error – there aren’t structured courses in school about interpersonal relationships, and workplaces don’t exactly help you along either! Unless we seek out our own kind of learning, it feels a lot like a shot in the dark, especially when we meet new people, are navigating a new job etc… Even when it comes to parents and children who’ve been together for a lifetime – life changes!  I recently was reflecting on how I could do a better job of understanding, as well as responding to a parent differently.

If things aren’t being communicated as smoothly as you’d like, or you feel it’s complicated and overwhelming, know it is NOT a lost cause. The phrase “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU” works really nicely – that’s basically the gist of it.  So if all else fails, just think about how you’d want to hear criticism, or how you would want someone to convey some tough news.  When we are in that kind of a mindset, we usually are off to a great start.

Here’s to the journey of Life! ❤ 

 

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Breathe

You are so much stronger than you think. 

When you are in the throes of despair, frustration, anger. . .take a moment to b r e a t h e.  

Take a moment – at the hardest time at which TO a breath. Feel…allow…the in…and the out.

Remind yourself within that space that you have accomplished so much more than you are giving yourself credit for.  You have surmounted obstacles at one time that seemed impossible.  You are in charge.

Remember you are a survivor and a fighter and that you will get through it just like you have so many times before.

Empath Humor – The Ambivert’ed, Dichotomous Nature Of The Introvert

Um…YES.

And I’m not alone!

As an Empath I feel sympathy to the Nth degree – to the point that I can empathize with a smurf! I’m not kidding either – cartoons, fictional films or books…doesn’t matter.  My emotions are FULL ON, and have been so attuned since childhood. It takes a seriously concerted effort for me to disconnect and observe without feeling deep compassion.  I also love to give back, as do many of those around me.  

That said…I am ALSO the same person that might go bananas if you double park or didlly-dally when the rest of us have somewhere to be.  Loud neighbors, that’s another one… I get the stare-O-death (same one my Southern Italian mother is notorious for), boiling blood, and a highly irascible tone (probably the better end of my wanting to snap my fingers and have humanity disappear.)

It’s a downright conundrum.  I simultaneously believe in beauty everywhere, and the infinitely generous things people are capable of.  And then there’s a part of me that sees laziness, anger, taking advantage…which makes me view humanity as a plague. . . 

Sigh.

Which is it?

BOTH, actually…

We have the power to create and destroy, terrifying that may be.  Being an Ambiverted Introvert gives me the option, I suppose, to choose which side of things I’m on during any given day. (I *try* to stick to positive, don’t worry…but I will also never claim to be miss sugar-and-peace all the time.  Thankfully I’m a Gemini also…I can point the finger to the Stars! 😉 )

 

 

Thankful – adj \ feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative

Sometimes I annoy people with my positive outlook.  Other times, I flat-out frustrate.  Maybe they aren’t internalizing that I have days where I feel down, discouraged, angry, and disappointed too – trust me, there are plenty!  Maybe they just don’t understand why, in spite of the ugliness Life can occasionally dish out, I even want to focus on the good.  

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For me, energy is everything – I view the world in energetic terms, and (again – for me) it matters what I put out, and what I focus on.  I have witnessed “unfairness” at it’s finest – whether in suffering, death, abuse, misfortune, or debilitating pain… I’ll never gloss over the “tough” without tears, reflection, acknowledgment, and sometimes despair…  But I will try – my damnedest – to find the lesson, the blessing, and the good in everything.  There have been times I’m not sure I’ve actually found the “good”…but I try to at least go in that direction knowing that in doing the opposite, I may as well surrender my own wellbeing.

Whenever this “Thanksgiving” holiday rolls around, I feel like I actually become a little bit annoyed myself.  I’m not on board with the idea that we have one day of “thanksgiving” but I guess if that’s what gets people together, and in a positive mind frame, why not.  That said, thanksgiving is something I personally try to make room for each day.

I’ve had a lot handed to me – neither will there be a day that I am not acutely aware of the sacrifices made to make that happen, nor that I am not immensely grateful.  There is also a lot I had to work my ASS off to have, and lot I’ve had to work through.  There might be only a small handful of people who fully understand the “work” I’ve put in, and just how far I’ve come, but I’m okay with that.  I’m thankful for my own journey – the good, the bad, and the downright horrifying.

I don’t always remember to write out those things for which I am thankful – generally I think them, or say them to myself.  Writing, though, is a phenomenal exercise – not only in mindfulness, but in self-learning.  When we take the time to sit down, peel back the layers, delve deeply and feel, we come up with a lot more than we might have expected.

You can be thankful for little things as much as the substantial.

What you feel thankful for is never “wrong” because it is what feels right to you.

Gratitude goes a looooong way energetically, sharing with the Universe what other “good” should come your way.

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I’m thankful for so much I think I could fill a book…but why not, after all?  The more, especially in this case, the merrier. ❤