This week a friend of our family had gone away for a few days and left her daughters and her two small grandchildren in charge of the house. She is a perfectionist when it comes to keeping her house clean.
When she returned, she walked into the kitchen. Her feet “stuck” to the floor. Immediately anger rose. Then she saw that someone had scribbled with marker on her table. “How could these girls be so irresponsible?” she thought.
When her daughter came into the room smiling, her mother received her coldly. To get away from the misery of disapproval, the daughter left an hour early for work. The mother realised she had not spent time with her daughter for a week and now she had driven her away with anger. This was a pattern all too familiar. Her heart sank. She did not want this pattern to repeat itself again.
She did not want to create misery for her family. As she said this to herself the question came to her mind, “What good thing is my anger keeping me from seeing?” So she took another look.
Her daughters had lovingly offered to take care of the house while she was away. They had done their best to clean. They had missed only a few small details. She had missed the big picture.
Think of how often we get stuck on some annoying or upsetting attribute of a situation. We begin to treat the people we love with dislike or disgust because we focus on characteristics or actions that do not meet our expectations. We fail to see that others are often trying to do their best by being kind, helpful and cooperative in their own way.
Here are four simple, powerful steps to open your eyes well well:
Step One: Become aware of your own thoughts, emotions and actions. When you feel uneasiness within, you are not at peace. In distress, you may lash out at those around you. Notice how you feel and how you act. Be honest when you are overtaken by your emotions. Honesty gives you the opportunity to step back and open to a new approach.
Step Two: PAUSE and Breathe. Take several deep breaths before you say or do something. Create space before you react. Wait a few moments. You will find that you are more able to keep from the reaction pattern you normally have.
Step Three: Open to see the situation or person in a different way. The question my friend used is also a helpful one, “What good thing is my anger (frustration, hurt feelings etc.) keeping me from seeing in this situation?” If you have zeroed in on negatives, you may be missing key elements of what is actually going on in the situation. Search for the positives.
Step Four: Practice ahead of time. If you find yourself trapped in cycles of emotional reactivity you do not have to wait until you are triggered to practice new responses. Take time to visualize yourself in the situation. How you would like to respond? With mental practice, you prepare yourself to make new choices the next time you are facing the old pattern.
Your assignment is to identify a recent situation or a relationship that often causes you to react negatively. Ask yourself, “Is there something I’m missing that would broaden my perspective?”
Food For Thought
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”