How Not To Take Things Personally. Your Guide To Managing Your Emotions.

Understanding and owning your emotional experience is key to staying grounded in a variety of relationship patterns. From getting swept away with actions that may not be best for you to getting in fights and prematurely (or waiting too long) to end relationships, understanding impact and influence versus handing over your emotional power is key. Many of us avoid feeling our vulnerability in relationships by blaming the other person for “making me feel this way” instead of taking our power back and recognizing our control in our responses. The fears of being hurt and the feelings of vulnerability associated with disempowerment are scary. It is natural to work on avoiding them. However, if you can take ownership of your emotional responsibility and own your role in your feelings you do not have to fear hurt and vulnerability.

I meet with a lot of people who feel that it is someone else’s responsibility to make them happy. They are easily knocked off course when negative things happen because they have put their emotional experience in another’s hands. They often feel out of control and play games in relationships – “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me” kind of mentalities. Getting hurt is a matter of life. We love people and they leave us. We want something and we do not get it. We work really hard and we still fail. We want to feel good enough, but we don’t. In each of these situations, acceptance is the key to navigating the difficult emotions. By accepting what is in this moment just as it is we have an opportunity to objectively examine what is happening. From this place, we can determine what worked, what did not and where we can learn more about what to do next for a better chance at success. 

Understanding Impact and Influence

We are not responsible for another’s feelings. This means I cannot make you mad, happy or sad. And you cannot make me mad, happy or sad. We cannot “make someone feel something”. They are 100% responsible for their feelings and actions. I am completely in control of my emotional experiences and you are in control of yours. Many want to feel the good sensations that come from “making someone happy” and work to avoid feelings of “I made you sad”. In reality, you did neither. You cannot make someone happy or sad because you cannot control how they are internally reacting to your actions. I have no control over how you experience what I say. I might be able to influence you but I cannot control you. Your experience of what I do gets filtered through your past experiences and is based on how you are feeling at a particular moment. I cannot control if you are hungry, annoyed with something else or overwhelmed by another situation. Therefore I cannot control how you will receive my actions (actions include statements, behaviors, and even emotions). As a result, I cannot control how you will react to me.   

In our relationships, we often “take things personally” when the other person does something that impacts us. As I am impacted I have a reaction. I may feel sad, hurt or angry. This response may be based on similar past experiences. My reaction to another’s action(s) may be based on an expectation I had about the situation. When I am impacted it is hard to remember that what they do is about who they are, not about me. How they speak to me, the words they use, the actions they do are all about how they orient to the world. I am only responsible for how I orient to the world and how I react. I am in control of my emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. 

What other people do and say reflects the experiences of the other person. However, we tend to interpret what they do as a reflection of us. This misguided interpretation leaves us dealing with our own core wounds and struggles. We feel unsafe, unheard, negated, less than, etc rather than full in our experience of being. As a result of the negative impact, we are experiencing we respond as though what is happening is happening to us rather than just impacting us at the moment. We control our response to everything that impacts us and do not have to be knocked off a positive track just because we were negatively impacted by someone else’s behaviors. 

What to focus on so you don’t take people’s actions personally

To help ourselves maintain focus on our goals we need to be able to recognize what is happening. When we slow down and recognize that their actions are about them we can take control of our reaction. We recognize we can feel our full selves just because we exist. We no longer need anyone else to tell us otherwise. We can embrace our full experience and decide how to deal with it – especially when we do not like it. 

In order to do this well, we have to be willing to take responsibility for our own experience and our own actions. You have to decide how you want to be in the world. What are your goals for your experiences, expectations for yourself and what do you want to accomplish? We have to look at how we speak to others, the word choices we use, the body language we project, and the actions we do or do not do. We have to take ownership of how we have hurt others. We have to notice when we are triggered back to early wounds and experiences that hurt us so we do not perpetuate the hurt. And we have to take responsibility for our own healing. This is hard work. Many people want to say – “there is nothing wrong with me, it’s so and so’s fault. I am fine and good and right”. This way we protect ourselves from our own experiences of feeling less than. 

Healing

If we can take responsibility for our own experiences we can determine how to heal them. We can take our power back and find ourselves strong in our sense of worth. We can embrace being good enough, smart enough, wanted, needed, etc. We can own our individual gifts while allowing others to own theirs. We do not need to tear them down so we feel big anymore. We can allow them to be who they are, doing what they do without getting caught in our own story, old hurts and core wounds. We can choose to set boundaries, choose to engage with them or not. We can decide how we want to react and who we want to be without worry about what anyone else is doing. 

Easier said than done, I know. One way to make sure you are moving in a positive direction is by helping yourself focus on what you can do. Find a daily routine that helps you feel grounded. Maybe it is a morning meditation, reading, and reflection or movement plan. Your job is to focus on what you want, your goals for your future, and what helps keep you moving toward them. It might be building new behaviors or letting go of old ones. Sometimes actions needed will be clear and other times it will not be clear. Sometimes this will be small and sometimes it will be big changes in your life. 

Your job is to stop and pay attention to you. What do you need in this moment? What do you need to do right now – not what you want the other person to do, or say or be. What would help you take care of you? Put your attention where you want it to go … on creating the life you want to live. 

Ready to Make a Change?

And as always, if you are struggling you can schedule a 15 min Q&A appointment to see if it’s time to give yourself the gift of therapy. When else can you talk about yourself for an hour with someone trained to deeply listen to your core, not just the story you tell yourself. 

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Spiritual Sunday: Communicating with something larger than yourself

Good communication begins with us. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and build a strong sense of self that doesn’t fear differences. This allows others and ourselves to show up authentically without feeling judged, attacked, or invalidated just because someone has a different opinion. Very difficult, but worth the try.

For us to be really good at communicating with other people we must be able to communicate well with ourselves. We need to have a strong grounding in our own values, viewpoints, and opinions and a strong sense of self. These allow us to stand tall in our own truth while allowing others to stand tall in their own. To build this strength it is important to cultivate practices that allow for reflection and communication with something larger than ourselves. 

The concept of something larger than ourselves exists in many paradigms and practices. These range from ideas related to spirit, the earth/nature, to the psychology of how mammals communicate somatically. In the end it does not matter what you chose as your paradigm of existence. 

What matters is how you cultivate your practices to maintain connection to something larger than yourself. What matters is that you recognize that we are all connected and how you act in your private life influences other humans and other systems (like water supplies for example). What matters is understanding that there is a shared aspect to everything we do. By taking time to recognize our connections to something larger than ourselves we relate better to those around us. 

When we are better able to relate to those around us, the environment we are in, and be open to the differences between us we are more grounded in ourselves and less susceptible to the vulnerability created when someone has a different opinion, value, or viewpoint than we do. This creates easier conversations and more effective communication for everyone, thus creating more acceptance, less judgment, and more openness to those around us. It also helps create a sense of responsibility for our personal role in helping to create a healthy, vibrant, and just society. 

3 Ways to Make it Through Difficult Conversations

Struggle to make it through difficult conversations? Here are 3 ways to make it through a difficult conversation with ease.

So with this week’s theme being communication AND our political pundits all over the snippets of communication between our highest leaders, it is worth a comment or two on how we can make our communication effective even in difficult situations. 

First, remember it is ok to disagree.

Just because someone does not agree with you does not make them wrong and you right … or … them right and you wrong. Many people get stuck here because of personal values and past experiences. We have strong feelings about our values, however the space between right and wrong is very wide. Nearly every point can be argued from different angles. If one can stay with the argument long enough, without feeling judged to really hear the other side, they often find themselves with more understanding. This understanding allows us to connect with others and our own communities. Acceptance is key here. This means you accept what is really going on in the moment. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, want it, or approve of it. Just face it with honesty and openness, that this is really what is going on right now, right here. 

Second, The idea is not to convince the other person that you are right.

It is to be effective. Many struggle with this one, too. The idea that no one is right or wrong is discombobulating to some. It means that each of our opinions have value, even if we do not agree. See #1 above. The truth is, yes, both views have value and are somewhat right in their own respective. 

Now some may say “WHAAAAAT, some view points are just wrong, evil, and unjust”, but the truth of the matter is every view point comes from some past experience. It may not be lived experience, rather cultural learned and passed down values and viewpoints, but it comes from somewhere. At one point that viewpoint served a purpose to survive an environment. We might say that some of those environments are not the kind of world we want to live in, be a part of, or feel move humanity forward, but they are there due to some reason. And remember you do not have to agree with it, like it, want it, or approve of it, all you have to do is accept that this is what is right now. 

When you hold that openness, it gets easier to work on discourse without the need to be right. A solid model for working with difficult issues is to scale each participant on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 and 5 being extreme opposites of a viewpoint. The goal in conversation is not to bring the other participant to your number, it is just to shift them 1 up or down. 

To do that you must be willing to listen. I mean really listen. You must be willing to hear them out and attempt to empathize. Again, this does not mean you agree, just that you can see where they are coming from and why? Without forming your rebuttal (to win).

The reason this is so hard is … in order to really listen and empathize you have to make yourself vulnerable to their ideas. As a result you might find your view also changes some. Most of us do not like this idea, so we dig our heels in and tighten our own view in order to mitigate the potential that we will be vulnerable to someone else’s differing ideas.

The very nature of being vulnerable is to have the courage to open up and allow myself to be influenced by you – from research done by Brené Brown. 

From Brené Brown’s research on Shame & Vulnerability

Third, remember it is about conversation not conflict.

I love this quote I got from my friend Elizabeth while we were leading a therapy group on interpersonal communication. Keeping the focus on conversation helps you stay present to conflict when it arises and the uncomfortable (or exciting) feelings it can bring. 

As you recognize your physical sensation changes you can decide to take a break from the topic for a bit, move physically, or distract yourself in some way for a bit. This allows you both to stay present to the conversation however not tip over into argument and other difficulties, like ghosting because you do not want to deal with a difficult topic. By focusing on conversation as the goal, tone of voice, body language, and eye contact can all be manipulated to keep escalations at bay and breaks can be had as needed to stay focused on your goals. 

Increase Your Skills By …

In the end, the more exposed you can be to differing view points, different cultures, and different experiences the easier the above steps are. Our personal communities have shrunk because we can more effortlessly control who we are exposed to and it has become harder to feel more empathy for differing people. As a result of our self selection (and the brilliance of advertisers marketing to us based on our preferences) we can live in a bubble where everyone we know and most of what we see are people who look like, think like, appreciate, and honor the same things we do making it harder to give value to another point of view. 

Today see if you can work on allowing yourself to open up to something different than your normal view point. See if you can listen just a minute longer to the pundit, channel, radio show host, the guy across the table, or person on the street speaking different ideas, concepts, and values from what you believe to be true and worthy in the world. 

Create the Best Ever 2019

Want 2019 to be the best ever? Then you have to self-regulate and take responsibility for your experiences. So many of us want to have wonderful times, yet are not proactive in our daily routines. As a result, we are not ready for whatever life has in store for us. We are tired, feel “heavy” and lethargic, put ourselves and others down with negative comments/thoughts, and feel bored in our life. We call it stress or overwhelm, because we can not seem to check everything off our to do list or accomplish all we are dreaming of after getting lost in the daily grind of getting through the day. Instead just floating from event to event as though we have no control in the process of creating our life. 

To be successful in life we have to stop playing the victim of our circumstances and instead play the master. We have to become self regulated, taking full responsibility for the activities that help us maintain that balance. People who learn to self regulate are more successful in many areas of their lives – from work to relationships to feeling more happy everyday. 

Self regulation is the ability to stay connected to your experience giving just what is needed in each moment while meeting the moment accurately. We do this by practicing activities that help us stay focused on healthy relationships and interactions. 

Selfregulation can be defined in various ways. In the most basic sense, it involves controlling one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long-term goals. More specifically, emotional selfregulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses”.

Verywell Mind, Nov 25, 2018

In order to create the best interactions possible in any given situation you have to be able to think. This means your brain (notably the pre-frontal cortex) has to stay fully online. You need the centers of the brain known as executive functioning to help you plan, predict, and respond appropriately. However they will go offline if your emotions are too strong. Emotions are just information and intelligence telling you about your environment and how to respond to it. They are quicker than cognitions and therefore the brain uses them to inform your thinking. When your emotions are overwhelming your brain cannot regulate well and you’ll react rather than respond to what is going on around you. Often the responses are based on old patterns of learning and may not be appropriate in the current relationship, be it with your partner or the customer service rep on the phone. When we do not handle situations well in the moment we often feel shame and guilt, which contribute to a cycle of self destructive behaviors and actions that blow up the very relationships we want/need to be supportive.  We have to keep ourselves in check if we are going to have healthy relationships. 

When you think about creating healthy relationships it starts with a healthy relationship with yourself. Taking care of others includes taking care of yourself first. I cannot engage well with you if I cannot engage well with me. To do this begin by determining what you need to feel you best. 

  • How much sleep do you need?
  • What foods give you the most energy?
  • How much and what kinds of exercise leave you feeling blissed out and ready for anything?

As you determine what you need to be your best self, you begin to meet the needs of others too. You become better at noticing where they are and what they truly want and need in the present moment. You become better at reflecting those needs back to them and this helps you create stronger more authentic connections. 

These deeper connections are something we all crave. They actually help us build our brain structures, increase our immune response, and live longer. These brain structures help us engage more thoroughly in everything from learning to experiences to rest thus creating a more vibrant and full life. As we create a more rich daily experience we create more authentic interaction with any given experience. 

I know this video looks at teaching children in the classroom … but it’s good for all of us

As we deepen our practices of what keeps us well, we meet the challenges of our life with grace. For example if I have taken care of myself and I am feeling grounded – no physical illness, I am not hungry, I am well rested, I have energy, and feel physically strong – I will be able to handle more of life’s little stressors. As I competently deal with the little stressors I am “clearing my plate” so things do not pile up and become “big fucking deals”.

At this level of engagement, things flow and relationships grow deeper. I am taking care of me so my health is better and I am stronger for everything I need and want. Everyday. 

How to Leave the Stuck Feeling Behind!

What do you do when you feel stuck? Most of us, spin. We spin our wheels, gossip, complain, and continue to create situations and stories that keep us looping over and over whatever it is that has us feeling stuck. Then we give up … Or become resentful and angry. What if we could get ourselves out of that stuck feeling without blowing up our lives? Would you be willing to put the work into a simple, yet difficult strategy? Could you take an honest look at yourself and see where you are creating this problem?

When you can take an honest look at yourself it helps create a calmer sense of being. It might be hard, and will offer you an opportunity to find your center. Your personal center, not the one that others want you to have … the one you want. In addition, looking at yourself offers an opportunity to see what solutions you can provide and where you might want to let go.

So let’s say you feel stuck at work. You feel unheard, not valued, or taken advantage of. You could complain to co-workers, skip details on projects, or undermine your boss. In each case you are looking at external factors to deal with internal feelings. I will address the external parts in a moment, for now look at your own process. If you are feeling unheard, what can you do to change how you have been approaching the conversation? Can you change the way you word your requests? Is your tone or body language in need of updating? By looking inside we see where we can take our power back. We have options for how we’d like to engage in the world. From this place even if we aren’t successful, we are operating with authenticity and can feel proud of our part in the interaction.

If you don’t feel valued, how would you know you were being valued? Many of us have a particular style or need for recognition and we expect everyone else to know it…AND we don’t want to tell them. Some of us were brought up believing that if someone really loves and cares for us, they should know what we want and need. Telling them those internal thoughts actually feels like nobody cares. Well, the truth is … No one can read your mind. Plus we each enjoy different styles. It might be that my co-worker keeps trying to give me praise and due to our different styles I don’t even notice the recognition. So by looking inward you are able to determine “how would I best understand praise and recognition”? Sometimes this is all you need. Once we get to this step many of us actually start seeing all the praise that’s been there all along and we can begin to bask in it. If we aren’t seeing it, maybe we need to ask for what we want and need? Many of us struggle to ask for these items, because it is scary – what if no one responds? – well if you are feeling under valued, you are already here, might as well ask. Something different might happen.

Now if you are feeling taken advantage of, look at how you might be contributing to your own sense of being put upon. For instance, do you offer to take care of others’ work load? Do you step up to get things done, yet never expect or ask for others to take care of their end of the bargain? Do you have trouble saying no or asking for extensions on deadlines? Do you do extra work because if you don’t do it who will? These are the things that may keep you stuck in your own problem. Take a look at each situation and ask yourself what your role is? Ask “how can I do this differently?” Or “where can I ask for help?” Or say “my role here is _______”. If you are doing more than your role, look at why. How could you “give back” the parts that aren’t yours to carry? There are lots of ways to determine how to change your behaviors. When you “martyr” by taking everything on (to help, so others feel cared for, because you can, so it gets done, etc) you actually disempower others and create a re-occurring pattern where you’ll be the one expected to pick up the slack. All people want to contribute to something. Allow others space and time to do so in their own way and everyone gets to shine … and relax.

Now, I know some of you have been biting your tongue a saying, “it’s not me” and in some cases it isn’t you. You are only responsible for your half of any relationship. If you take an honest look at yourself you should be able to see what you can control, how you can change your thoughts, and what items you can drop or do differently. If you get through that process honestly you may note that the other person or the environment is too powerful. At this point you have a choice to continue doing the best you can given the circumstances or let go of this relationship, job, etc. It will be important that you take space and time to come to this conclusion. When you change your behaviors give others some time to catch up. In addition, walking away from a situation when feeling strong emotion is not usually successful. Make sure you are objective and feeling logical as you make those decisions. Not only will you be able to say you made the best choice for you, you’ll also have time to consider your options and put other plans in place.