Moods are symptoms. Don’t just react. Look under the surface and connect with the other person to solve or even prevent an outburst, tantrum, or other negative behavior.

I talked about this in a previous post, “Pain Is the Root Of Anger, and Why You Should Care” but today I’d like to amplify that by sharing the following post by Rebecca Thompson, M.S., MFT.

Her blog is about parenting, and this post of hers in particular reminded me of when my son was a toddler and he would routinely become annoying, fussy, and troublesome when he was tired. It was an irritating distraction for work-at-home parents. Of course the instantaneous reactionary impulse was to be short with him, tell him to stop being that way, even yell at him. But I wanted to love and help him, not hurt him. I found that all I had to do when he started acting badly, was realize that he had been awake for hours, and then pick him up and rock him on my shoulder. He felt the loving connection and quickly fell asleep. When he awoke, he was always able to behave much better.

For older kids too big to hold or too old for naps, a hug can be just as refreshing–like rebooting a computer which has clogged up and can’t function right.

For even older people or those you aren’t so personal with, look for a way to give a verbal hug. A kind word, compliment, or some acknowledgement that you are sympathetic.

Meeting and treating on a personal root level works with a person of any age—infant, toddler, teen, adult, and elderly. It can even work with animals.

Read Rebecca’s post: An Alternative View of Tantrums and Emotional Upsets

Or visit her website by clicking this image:

 

© NPM

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Anger Comes from Pain

Why is it really important to understand anger? Because:

  • Understanding anger is the first step in dealing with your own, so that you can behave decently, and so that you are not controlled by automatic responses to other people.
  • Understanding anger gives you helpful insight when dealing with angry friends or family members.
  • Understanding anger is important in the bigger picture of society—for preventing the formation of, or responding to, masses of angry people.

Think about what anger is: Anger is an emotion, a very intense feeling which summons your attention and energy; it is your subconscious talking to your consciousness while it rallies your body for what it expects your response will be. But if you have this detached perspective, then you are not bound to act as your feelings seem to tell you to act.

Emotions exist to serve us. They say, “Hey Master, here’s something you should pay attention to. Don’t you want to do something about this?” That’s true for happiness, sadness, love, anger, or any emotion. “Hey Master, there’s a good-looking person, don’t you want to make contact?” “Hey Master, there’s a fun game. Don’t you want to play it?” “Hey Master, this food tastes great. Don’t you want to grab another helping?” “Hey Master, notice how great if feels when you receive a compliment. Don’t you want to do that again?” “Hey Master, you’ve tried this already. Don’t you want to give up?” “Hey Master, that person stepped on your toe, causing you a lot of pain, and she didn’t even notice. Don’t you need to kick her so she doesn’t hurt you again?”

But we are to be the masters of our bodies, not leave emotions in control. The first part, “Hey Master, notice this,” is rather automatic. The second part, the “Don’t you want to___,” is trainable. Untrained, we tend to be selfish and superficial. We grab what’s fun and strike back when hurt. But we can train ourselves to look beyond the surface before responding, and to be kind when hurt.

What does it mean to be “kind when hurt”? Apologizing for existing because someone bumped into you, is not being kind. Being kind is taking note of your anger and telling it, “Okay, I got your message, now go back to work. I’ll handle this.” Then you look for more information about who hurt you and why, consider their point of view as best as you can see it, and offer some response which might actually help the other person to feel better—even if such a response has nothing at all to do with what they did to you.

Here’s the natural, untrained, emotionally reactive cycle of anger:

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Person A has a problem which generates an angry feeling, and so lets those feelings explode on whomever is handy. Person B, feeling the pain of being unjustly blamed (exaggerated by feared future consequences), yells back about the injustice they feel. Person A, being far from calm enough to admit an error, gets even angrier from the pain of being accused of unjustly yelling. Person B, feeling the pain of being in a hopelessly negative situation, yells about how absurd person A is acting. Person A not only continues to defend his or her self, but also feels additionally pained/angry because Person B has not seemed to care about the original problem.

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But when a wise person gets unjustly yelled at, the thought patterns goes something like this:

“That person is angry and it’s not my fault, which means they are dealing with something more painfully difficult than their level of strength or wisdom at this moment. They are not an absurd person normally; they are only acting on emotions right now, so there is no point in responding directly to their absurdness. I’m going to look for ways to reduce their stress, and try to figure out the real source of their pain so that I can find a solution for their problem. Then their mood will return to normal.”

When you realize that an angry person is actually a person who is in some sort of pain, you can shut off your retaliation instinct and proceed with empathy, love, patience, and possibly assistance.

Acknowledge to yourself your own anger, but shut it down by working to alleviate or eliminate the underlying pain. And if that underlying pain is someone’s unjust anger vented on you, work to alleviate or eliminate THEIR underlying pain, and everyone’s anger will vanish.

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Further reading: Here is an article on the value of seeing people’s offensive actions as stemming from ignorance and poor assumptions rather than maliciousness, thus allowing yourself to avoid reacting angrily: http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2009/10/falkenblog-epictetus-the-life-coach/

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© 2014 Noname Porter-McShirley

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Holiday gatherings, and the month of dread which comes beforehand, are some of the most frustrating and depressing times for many people. These are supposed to be celebrations and reunions, but one of the biggest contributing factors which makes these events problems, is that so many people are measuring themselves and others with the wrong measuring sticks.

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Tradition is to compare and judge others’ lives against one’s own life, based primarily and superficially on physical accomplishments, because these are the easiest things to put into words and are most similar across humanity in western cultural terms.

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Examples: awards and educational degrees earned; prestige or money from jobs and number of promotions; home size, toys, and cars; money spent on gifts; kids and their growth, involvements or accomplishments; fun activities and places visited; number or class of friends; club memberships; books read or written; childhood dreams realized; etc.

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But you can HAPPILY look like a failure by all of those standards, IF you have gained (or know you are gaining) understanding of humanity and of God, your reason for existing, and what will outlast the fleeting years at hand. For if understanding a good chunk of those things is what you pour your time and resources into, you can feel confident in your abilities to be an honest benefit to fellow humans and to the entire universe.

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Communicating a meaningful measurement of your life is often hard, because there’s so much value in the fleeting moments which are like little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and just as hard to remember or explain their context.

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Examples: the times you made someone smile, were kind to a clerk, gave a hug, answered someone’s nagging question, realized the answer to your own questions, forgave someone, lovingly sacrificed your own desires for someone else’s good. The times God’s Spirit embodied you and shined through to lighten and enlighten the world with love.

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So gather with grace, confidence, compassion and love for everyone, wherever they measure up at the moment–or think they measure up–on any yardstick. Hope for meaningful progress.

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Happy holidays!

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© NPM

Do you tend to grumble because you have a spouse, sibling, coworker or friend who can never seem to manage to do their fair share of whatever it is in which you are both involved?

Somewhere in the world there are some really lazy, selfish, or stubbornly incapable people whom you might want to avoid, in order to keep your sanity and not be prevented from accomplishing an important goal or your life’s purpose.

But, I propose quite often the problem with one person’s unhappiness in an “unfair” relationship (working or familial), has more to do with one’s own perception and intrenched assumptions, than with the other person’s shortcomings. Let me explain.

Imagine you have twelve hours to drive to some place unfamiliar. You have this other person on the trip with you, but he can’t drive. He falls asleep in the passenger seat.

Eight hours into the trip you’re feeling tired and wishing he would do his share of the driving, to let you do some of the happy dreaming over there in the other seat. But no, he doesn’t even have a driver’s license because he’s always been afraid to try, even though you think his poor vision isn’t all that bad; after all, he doesn’t have trouble doing anything that else he really wants to do.

You come to a fork in the road which isn’t on the map, and you’re not sure which way to go. You pull over, wake your friend, and see what he thinks. You take his advice because it makes sense, and forty minutes later you see a sign which lets you know you are on the right track—your friend had been right about which way to turn.

Suddenly he wakes up again, and just before a freeway exit he asks if you know you are just about out of gas. You would have passed the exit and run out of gas because you were too tired to think of checking your gas gauge. Thanks to your friend, again, you are on your way with a full gas tank and no time lost.

When you arrive at your destination, you are so happy to be on time that you are no longer angry about having to do all the driving; you’re not even tired because you’re psyched about getting on with the purpose of your arrival.

Now of course by normal thinking, it certainly sounds like the work of the trip was unfairly divided. But consider your assumptions.

  1. You assume that your friend was happily dreaming for 12 hours. But what about the fact that your friend often wishes he could drive himself about, without having to depend on others? What about the headache he had all the next day because he slept uncomfortably in that car seat, instead of home in a bed, where he could have been if he hadn’t wanted to be along with you? What about the nightmare he had about you falling asleep while driving?
  2. You assume that you did all the work of driving. What about your friend’s two major contributions, without which you might have been several hours late? Don’t you think knowing which way to turn and when to get gas is just as important as controlling the car, as far as arriving at the correct place and time?
  3. You assume that your friend could actually drive just fine, if he weren’t too lazy to take responsibility. Maybe that’s true; maybe not. But even if that were true, it’s actually his loss, not yours. If he won’t learn and use a skill, he’s that much less capable and less experienced. But if you can manage to do more where he does less, than you are that much MORE capable and MORE experienced. You might even thank him for affording you the opportunity to stretch yourself.

So the truth is, you did what you could do, your friend did what he could do, and together the trip was a success. Remind yourself what matters.

If life were meant to always be “fair” as defined when we are acting like children who complain, “That’s not fair! I did it last time; it’s his turn now!” then we would all be identical in every way.

While sometimes we feel afraid of standing out from the crowd for fear we’ll make a mistake and be ridiculed, or for fear of being a bit lonely, truly everyone wants to be unique, special, better, needed, appreciated. We’d be so bored if somehow everyone’s life could be just like everyone else’s, so why ridicule or resent someone for not having the same skills or personality traits we possess?

An important key to finding happiness in any relationship, is to look for the virtues and utilities of the other person. Whether they are greater or lessor as compared to yourself or anyone else, does not mean they are not valuable. Appreciate the valuable, and it will appreciate in value.

Now reconsider that person in your life who can’t or won’t do his or her “fair share,” and see what there is about him or her for which you can be thankful and happy. What is his or her valuable contribution, whether great or small? Appreciate it. Build on it.

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© NPM

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