This was first published on KSL.COM
As the holidays approach, I'm feeling deep uncertainty about having family come to visit. We have managed to social distance visit for most of the summer, taking advantage of strictly outdoor, socially distanced visits. With the colder seasons upon us, I feel like physical visits from family outside our home should stop since we cannot be outside for extended periods of time. I know it's the holiday season, but I just do not feel like it's worth it to get together. The problem I face is that I'm feeling pressure from family members to continue to see each other. Even though we have done visits safely all summer, these holiday events would be face-to-face within our home. Masks would not be worn, and it would not be possible to social distance. It seems reckless to me to observe the holidays in typical fashion during a pandemic. How can I maintain the peace and show respect but also keep pandemic boundaries?
In this situation, it sounds like you are going to have to be the bad guy, put your foot down and insist that the family do the right thing and cancel the parties, even if it means having family members angry with you. How do you feel about this? For many people, this is a difficult and scary proposition to share their views in face of opposition.
There are also people who have no problem being the bad guy and sharing their opinion. They think it is easy and struggle to understand why some people can't do it. If you are this type of person (fear of loss dominant, meaning you fear things not being right more than you fear judgment) please understand that for other people (fear of failure dominant, meaning your core fear is inadequacy and feeling not good enough) this is extremely difficult and takes great courage.
There will be many times in life when you will need to enforce a boundary, share an opposing opinion, or deliver bad news in the face of disapproval from people you care about. It is important for you to identify what you are so afraid of before you can beat the fear. See which of these fears resonates with you:
Here are some tips and tricks to help you stand strong and share your views:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
My spouse and I keep getting in these fights where she does something like ignores me when I am trying to talk to her, and this offends me and I get angry and slam a door, which really offends her and makes her feel attacked, which starts a big fight that lasts all week. The fight morphs and quickly becomes about who treats who worse. And in this drawn out fight, no one wins. After days of being mad and miserable we will start to move past it, but only until one of us offends the other again. What can we do to break this cycle of offending each other?
The root cause of these fights is you both functioning in a fear state where you feel unsafe with each other, and this is making you wear what I call "mistreatment glasses." Mistreatment glasses means you are subconsciously looking for mistreatment and offenses that will prove that you aren't safe with your partner and that they are the "bad one." Whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for mistreatment, you will find it. If you are looking for proof your partner loves you, you will find that too.
Unfortunately, almost all of us feel unsafe in the world (at the subconscious level), and this keeps us on the defensive a lot of the time. When you feel unsafe, your ego steps up to try and protect you. It does this through defensiveness and casting the other person as the bad one. That is why it feels like a win (to your ego) when you can show that your partner treated you worse and you are the victim. But this is really not a win; no one wins when you get offended by small things and always see your partner as the enemy.
Below is a process you can use when someone offends you. Following it will help you step back out of ego to see the situation more accurately and respond more maturely.
Note: In this article I am only addressing how to deal with the garden variety of arguments, not situations that involve abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has information on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how one can get help.
See the other person's bad behavior accurately
When someone behaves badly or offends you, there are four possible reasons for this behavior. Knowing them will help you accurately access what is happening in each situation. The four reasons people behave badly:
If this offense happened for any of the other three reasons, you must step back, stop taking this personally, and choose to not get offended — because it isn't about you. They don't feel safe in the world, and a person who doesn't feel safe has no choice but to focus on finding a sense of safety; they aren't capable of anything else. They may need some professional help to work on their fears around not being good enough and things not being right. So, the negative coping behaviors can be negated.
Be responsible for your response to the offense
You are responsible for your reactions and responses, and this should be your only concern. It is the only thing you have control over and the only thing that matters now. You must choose to respond with love, not fear.
If you get defensive and respond from a fear state, you are now doing the exact same thing the other person did to you. You are demonstrating fear-based bad behavior, and responding badly back is just as bad as responding badly first. It's the same bad behavior driven by the same cause.
Respond to an offense with love
Offenses and your reactions happen fast though, so you will need to practice and prepare ahead of time to be able to remember these steps in the heat of the moment. You might want to read through this procedure daily or replay past offenses that you reacted badly to, running through these steps to see what you should have done.
Procedure for reacting to offenses:
You and your partner may also need some coaching or counseling to work on the underlying fear issues that cause you to feel unsafe with each other. I find most couples who fight a lot need individual coaching to get their subconscious fears under control before they can create a healthy relationship. Always be willing to take this on and work on yourself.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I often have problems with co-workers and am often bothered or angry with their behavior. They are inconsiderate and they never take responsibility for what they do wrong. I am thinking of looking for another job, but I am worried that before long the new co-workers would just bother me too. I’d like a job where I didn’t have to deal with people at all, but in my field that doesn’t exist. I realize the problem might be me and not them, but how do you really know? How can I feel less bothered with people?
First I want to commend you for being willing to look at the situation and see if you are the problem. That takes courage and the truth is we are always at least part of the problem. If you are often bothered with other people’s behavior or find yourself angry at people on a regular basis, one of two things is happening:
If you are willing to seek the truth and grow, there are some things you can do to check yourself and make sure you aren’t the problem, and make seeing your problem easier to understand.
Strengthen your self-esteem first
To ready yourself for this exercise first remind yourself that you have the exact same intrinsic value as every other human being on the planet, whether you are the problem or not. Life is a classroom and you are here to learn, but you cannot fail or be "not good enough." No matter where you are or what you are struggling with, you still have the same value as everyone else and you are right on track in your classroom journey (or you can believe this if you want to).
This means you are safe to look at your behavior objectively, see problems with it and make changes and there is nothing to fear. You are still OK and safe. Take a minute and tune into this belief.
Ask for honest feedback
You might want to ask some close friends or family members for some candid feedback about your behavior. You might have to reassure these people that you can handle the truth and want to learn. Tell them you really want to see where your perspective might not be accurate. You might also ask them what you could do to improve yourself and show up for other people better. If doing this scares you, work with a coach or counselor to build up your self-esteem first. A coach or counselor may also be a safe place to get some objective feedback. A third-party person can often tell you things a family member or friend would be too scared to say.
Don’t be offended by the feedback. Thank them for being willing to support your learning and take some time alone to step back and look at their perspective. There is a chance it isn’t accurate and they could be projecting their issues onto you. But if you will sit quietly with the information, your gut usually knows what you own and what you don’t.
Check for trust issues
Do you have a hard time believing others have your best interest in mind? Do you delegate or prefer to do things yourself so you know they are done right? Does having control make you feel safer? Do you subconsciously assume other people can’t be trusted? If you have a subconscious tendency to distrust, you may generally feel unsafe in the world. This makes you see everything and everyone as a threat. If you have had this programming your whole life, you may be more confrontational and easy to offend. The important part is that you become aware of this tendency, so you can catch it when it’s happening. Acknowledge that you might be seeing the situation through your "mistreatment lenses." Ask another person who doesn’t have this tendency how they view the situation and be willing to shift your story around the situation to one that is less offending.
Ask yourself these questions:
Don’t have any shame around this — show compassion to yourself and others.
Just own that you may need some work on your fear triggers or some additional healthy thinking skills you haven’t had the opportunity to learn. It’s time to find some professional help to change the underlying fears that drive bad behavior. You are not a bad person, though. You are just a scared, stressed, worried person who needs to learn another way to see and process what goes on around you.
You also need to work on having more compassion and being more tolerant of other people’s bad behavior. Every time you condemn or judge another person for bad behavior and get bothered or annoyed by them, you are subconsciously making a rule that says "there are faults which make some humans unworthy of love." Every time you do this, you are also accepting the same rule for yourself. You are confirming the belief that there are faults in you that could make you unworthy of love too. This will make you need to judge others more to feel better and a vicious cycle is created.
Work on changing this one thing. Be more compassionate and less judgmental of others. Allow them to be flawed and still be worthy of love. Be more patient, forgiving, and let a lot of annoying things go. You will not only get along better with others, but your own self-esteem will improve.
You can do this.
Family gatherings can be very painful experiences when you are going through hard things in your life. These well-meaning people who haven’t seen you in a while are probably going to ask questions about your relationship status, how your career is going, and where you are in your life. If you don’t have good answers to these questions, this can trigger feelings of failure and loss.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for surviving family parties in a healthy way:
Keep fears in mind
If you have relatives who are hard to get along with, remember their bad behavior is often driven by their fears about themselves. If you choose to see them as scared (versus just being a jerk), you will have more compassion and will be less likely to take their comments personally.
Be sensitive about what your relatives might have experienced this last year and be careful what you say or ask. People who are struggling with something can be delicate and easy to offend. This year has been a rough year for many, so keep that in mind.
Create an emergency signal
Create an emergency hand signal and arrange with your spouse to rescue you from annoying relatives.
Be a strategic host
If you are hosting a holiday dinner, use place cards and arrange seating to keep touchy family members away from one another.
Be kind and let things go
Be patient and let unkind comments roll off. Remember, all bad behavior is a request for love. The worse the behavior, the more that person needs love and validation. Treat them with kindness, even when they don’t deserve it.
Don’t take anything personally. If someone says something mean, let it go. It’s not really about you; it’s about their fear and low self-esteem. They may feel like they have to put down others to feel good enough. Choose not to be offended and let them keep their negative energy to themselves.
Be a good listener
Ask lots of safe questions and let other people talk. Allowing another person to do the talking makes them feel valued at the deepest level. Be someone who cares enough to listen.
Avoid telling a story to top someone else’s. Let them have the spotlight and practice not needing it yourself.
Pay lots of compliments. Compliment everyone at the party. If you focus on giving validation to others, you won’t worry about yourself as much.
Be the love in the room. Be there to make others feel loved and valued. Don’t worry about whether they love you, just be there to give.
Consider not attending
If you can’t be around certain people without feeling discouraged, depressed or upset, it’s OK to decide not to attend the party at all. Start a new tradition and do something different instead. Get friends together and spend the holidays with the people you choose to be around.
Young adults would rather you didn’t ask about personal matters such as school or whether they are dating anyone. It’s better if you ask what they do for fun or what great movies they have seen lately. These topics are safer and less likely to embarrass them.
Don’t try to convert or lecture anyone on your ideas, beliefs or opinions. This party is not the right time for a debate. Obviously, don’t bring up controversial topics like politics or religion.
Drink too much
Don’t drink too much, especially if it tends to make you more confrontational or easily upset. Avoid sarcasm, correcting or criticizing anyone.
Remember, you are not responsible for other people’s happiness. If others choose to complain about the food, gossip about others, or share their woes too freely, leave the room, ignore them, or change the subject.
Give anyone the power to hurt you
Dealing with family members can be tricky because you care more about what they think than others. These are people who should love and support you, so when they don’t it hurts. Decide before your family event to trust that no one can diminish your value in any way. You have the same value as every other human soul and nothing can change that. This will make you more bulletproof.
If someone offers unsolicited advice, just smile and thank them. People often give advice to make themselves feel important too. It’s not really about you; don’t waste time being bothered by it.
When your family is hard to deal with, remember that these people are in your life for a reason: to help you become a better person. Their job in your classroom (life) journey might be to push your buttons and bring your fears and bad behavior into the light so you can work on them.
Ask yourself what dealing with your specific relatives could teach you. How could their annoying tendencies give you the perfect opportunity to practice being more loving, mature and calm? If you see them as your perfect teachers and try to use these experiences to grow and learn, you will at least feel good about yourself on the way home.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
This is kind of a generic question, but things happen and I don’t know how to figure out the right way to respond and fast enough. I am a slow processor and struggle with immediate reactions. I also just wonder if you have a process or way to find the right response in a situation that would help me avoid bad behavior?
I am going to share a process in this article you could use to help you find the right solution or response to any issue that may arise, though it is most useful with people problems. This is a procedure that will help you make sure you are seeing the situation, yourself and other people involved accurately — which is the most important part of good decision-making. If you are reacting without the whole story, or you have made up a story that isn’t really true, you are not going to respond appropriately.
We all have a subconscious tendency to apply “story” to events, which complicates them and creates more suffering. For example, if someone says they can’t go out with you this weekend, you might add story that they don’t really like you, you must have offended them, they like other people more than you, or you are just not enough. All of those scenarios are story. The only fact is they can’t go out. The story you tell yourself is fiction, and it is completely in your control. You could tell yourself a different story, one that might create better behavior if you wanted to.
Here is my Clarity Questions Process that will help you remove inaccurate story and choose a balanced, love-motivated response to any problem. Not every question will be relevant every time, but some of them will.
1. Is this problem really about you? Or, is it really about the other person’s fear issues and it just got projected onto you? Remember that it's hurt people who hurt people. Most of the time when they are hateful toward you, they are spewing their own self-hatred and fear of failure at you because they aren’t strong enough to own it. If this is really about them, let it go and work on being balanced, mature and loving yourself.
2. If the problem is about them, what are they afraid of? Are they afraid they aren’t good enough? Are they afraid things won’t be the way they want them to be? Are they afraid of being mistreated? Has this created fear-driven, bad behavior?
3. What are you afraid of about this situation? Is it failure or loss?
4. What do you need to feel safe right now?
5. What do they need to feel safer in the world?
6. Is there anything you can do about this? What is actually in your control? You can only be responsible for things that are in your control. If you have no control, it isn’t your responsibility or your problem. Let it go and work on being balanced, mature and loving yourself.
7. Take 100% responsibility for whatever is in your control. Don’t make excuses. Own that you behaved badly as much as possible because the more you were — or are — responsible for, the more power you have to fix things. (Ego really hates being responsible because it prefers blaming and complaining, but these actions leave you powerless to improve things.)
8. Remember you have the same infinite, absolute, unchanging worth as a human being just like everyone else. We all have the same value, so no part of this situation can diminish you (unless you choose to let it). This will make you feel safer, which will help you to respond in a less selfish manner. When you are afraid of not being good enough, you always respond whichever way will make you feel safer. You won’t be able to focus on the needs of others.
9. Remember that everything about this experience is here to serve your growth and learning. The universe is a wise teacher that knows what it’s doing, and it brought you this problem to stretch the limits of your love and help you become wiser, stronger or more loving. When you accept this situation as happening for you — not to you — you will see it accurately and respond better. Trusting that every experience is the perfect one for you takes away the fear of loss, mistreatment and feelings of being taken from. From this place, you can again respond less selfishly and think about what other people need.
10. Is the other person involved in this situation tired, hungry or incapable of mature behavior because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn a better way of handling life? What has happened in their past that could be affecting their behavior here?
11. Is there any chance that the emotion you are feeling right now is one that has shown up repeatedly throughout your life? Is there any chance you had the fear that this situation is triggering long before this experience with this person? Is it your issue and possibly a big lesson that you still haven’t learned, so it keeps showing up? What could this emotion be here to teach you to do? If you had to solve this emotion inside yourself without involving anyone else, what is the work you probably need to do?
12. What are all your possible responses to this situation? Write down every possible option — even the bad ones. Make sure you write each behavior option down with a good, loving attitude and again with a bad, fearful, defensive attitude. For example, you could speak your truth with anger and hate, or you could speak your truth from trust and love (same option two different attitudes).
13. Next to each option write down what you think the outcome of choosing that behavior would look like.
14. Cross out all the fear-driven, negative, bad behavior options and choose a love-driven, strong yet kind, respectful response that feels right to you.
If you still cannot tell which response is the right one, apply WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Most of the time, that is your answer. If you trust your intrinsic value is unchangeable and your journey is the perfect classroom for you, you should be able to respond in a strong and loving fashion, honoring and respecting yourself and your needs along with the other person and theirs. Practice this procedure and it will get easier and easier to see the answer clearly.
You can do this.
Coach Kimberly Giles is a master executive coach and a popular corporate trainer doing people skills training and team building experiences with her 12 Shapes Relationship System. She is the CEO of https://www.upskillrelationships.com
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a fresh perspective on why we disagree and how to resolve it.
I live in a small planned unit development with four families. This is the second year we have lived in the community, as it is a new development. The control box for the sprinkler system is in my backyard. The park-strip grass we all share is watered by a valve in that control box. Every summer, I consult the water conservation website for irrigation frequency, and follow that guideline. This means that the grass is not lush and green, but rather, closer to yellow in color.
My retired neighbor is extremely unhappy about this and badgers me relentlessly to increase the watering for that area. He has become hostile and abusive. When I called a meeting with the other families to discuss what to do, he went into victim mode, saying that he is the only one trying to save the grass and maintain the appearance of the grounds. He does do a lot of work around the planned unit development, such as repairing sprinklers, fertilizing, etc. He is home and able to do it, and is compensated by the HOA.
How can we find a happy medium? Is it even possible?
Most disagreements like this happen because of differences in values. It has been my observation, as a life coach and human behavior expert for 15 years, that there are four value systems that drive most human behavior. When you understand what someone values most, you will then understand their thinking, behavior, and why they make the choices they do.
We all value all four of these, but we usually have one that is more dominant than the others. Understanding this is the trick to resolving conflicts and disagreements.
Here are the four value systems that create most disagreements:
1. Some of us value people most. These people don’t like to be alone and highly value relationships, connection and feeling wanted and included. They would sacrifice getting things done for time to visit with friends, and they care more about people than things, tasks or opinions.
2. Some of us value tasks most. These people are driven by their “to-do” lists and are constant workers and doers. They care most about getting things done and would rather work alone and be productive than visit with others.
3. Some of us value things most. These people care about how things look, taking care of things and creating things. They can be artists, inventors or good stewards, who carefully manage what they have or are in charge of.
4. Some of us value ideas most. These people care about causes, opinions, rules, politics and the environment most. They are rule keepers and system followers. They are often advocates, teachers and well-educated. They also believe in fairness, loyalty and are community minded.
It sounds like you are someone who values ideas and principles most. This is why you follow recommended guidelines and believe in doing what is right for the community, city and state, not just for yourself. You highly value doing the right thing, even if it means sacrificing some of your quality of life.
Your neighbor appears to value things. He spends a great deal of time making his yard look good. Having a nice yard feels important to him because it creates his quality of life and he hopes others will benefit from it too. I am sure he cares about the community and environment, but it sounds like he cares about things looking nice a little more. He also values hard work and wants to see the fruits of his labor.
The most important thing you need to know in this situation is there is no right or wrong— there is just different. Your value system isn’t better than his, and you both have the right to be who you are and see the world the way you see it. You both have the right to have your value system honored and respected, and you have the same intrinsic value as every other human being. Neither of you can resolve this problem if you continue to see yourself as right or better and the other as wrong.
Whenever you find yourself in a disagreement, the solution lies in having a mutually validating conversation with the other person, a conversation where both people feel respected and honored. There are five steps to doing these conversations right, and if you follow them, you can usually create a compromise.
Steps for a mutually validating conversation:
1. Make sure you see the other person as having the same intrinsic worth as you. Make sure you aren't talking down from a position of better, smarter or more right.
2. Set all your opinions aside up front. Don’t start the conversation expressing your view. Start the conversation ready to listen to them.
3. Ask questions about what they think, how they feel, what their concerns and opinions are. Actively listen and validate, honor and respect their right to see the world the way they see it. This comes from how they are wired, and they cannot see anything else at this time. Make sure at this step you are not agreeing or disagreeing (those are about you). This is the time to make them feel heard and understood. The longer you spend here the better. This kind of listening helps to lessen defensiveness and create a safe space for you to share your views too.
4. Ask permission to share your views. Ask your neighbor if he would be willing to let you explain why you think it’s important to follow recommended guidelines and do what you feel is right for the whole community. Ask if he would be willing to be open-minded and at least consider your view. If he is, then go to step five. If he isn’t willing to hear you, say you respect that and thank him for his time. (You must do this if you want to build trust where further conversations could go better.)
5. Speak your mind using “I” statements, not “you” statements. Tell him about your values and why you see the situation the way you do. Ask him if he would be open to a compromise and suggest something that honors both your values. Maybe you could water more, but do it at night or water a little longer, while still conserving, to some degree.
The trick lies in being willing to let go of the “I’m right and you are wrong” mindset, and being truly open to seeing the right in the other person's perspective.
Remember, they aren’t wrong, they are just different. The world would be a boring place if were all the same, and we need social connectors, get-it-done workers, artists, stewards, advocates and rule keepers to make the world work. There is a place for everyone.
Make sure you validate your neighbor's strengths and talents, and appreciate the work he does on the property. He will really appreciate some praise and validation. If you start the conversation with that, you can resolve most problems.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert and master coach. Visit www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com to learn more.
I am 25 years old and suffer from anxiety and overthinking. My biggest issue right now is death. I am scared of death and every second I think of losing my parents or siblings and it destroys me mentally. I have never lost anyone close to me but for some reason I can’t get the thought of losing my family out of my mind. It eats away at my brain and causes me to have more anxiety and more overthinking. How can I deal with this? How can I learn to accept it and how can I stop thinking about it?
We define overthinking as: Ruminating over things that don’t protect you and aren’t productive. It makes sense to spend time thinking about tasks you need to accomplish, cautions you could take to keep you or others safe, or processing emotions or experiences to work through them. If you spend your time planning out what you can do to prevent problems, it’s productive thinking about things over which you have some control.
But if you are spending valuable time worrying about things that might not happen or things over which you have no control, you are wasting your time and energy and overthinking.
Here is a procedure to follow when you catch yourself overthinking about unproductive things:
1. Practice mindfulness
Take a minute and notice what’s going on in your head and the effect those thoughts are having on your body. Become the observer of your own thinking and what it's creating inside you. Use your senses to bring you back into the moment. This means pay attention to what sensations are happening in your body from head to toe.
Notice what can you smell, hear or see right now. There is a reason people use the phrase "come to your senses" when they talk about becoming calm — you can literally use your senses to calm anxiety.
2. Relax your nervous system
Studies have shown that when your body is in fight-or-flight mode, your frontal lobe, which you need to logically think your way back to peace, shuts down and stops working.
To get access to your frontal lobe again, try diaphragmatic breathing. An article on relaxation and stress from Harvard Health explains how to do this exercise:
"Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural)."
Take a few minutes to try this.
3. Identify which fears are causing the overthinking
Is this a fear of failure problem where you are worried about failing, looking bad, being insulted, judged or criticized? Or is this a fear of loss problem where you are afraid of things going wrong, being mistreated or losing things or people you care about?
In this instance, your fear of losing family members is a fear of loss issue.
4. If you are overthinking because of a fear of failure: choose to see that all human beings have the same intrinsic value that can’t change.
When you choose to see all human beings as having the exact same value all the time, you take failure off the table. You cannot be less than anyone else. No matter what happens you will still have the same value as every other person on the planet.
If you see life as a classroom and every experience as a lesson instead of a test where you must earn your value, it becomes a lot less scary. You can’t fail if there is no test. No matter what anyone thinks of you, you still have the same value.
5. If you are overthinking because of fear of loss: choose to see the universe as a wise and loving teacher who brings experiences to help you learn and grow.
We believe there are two mindset options about the nature of life: You can see life and the universe as a dangerous place, or you can see it as a classroom journey, where perfect learning experiences show up.
We cannot prove this idea is true, however, because there is no ultimate truth about the nature of life and the universe. This means, either way, you will choose a perspective or belief in your imagination. You might as well choose one that makes you feel safer in the world and improves your quality of life.
This means letting go of the illusion that you have control over anything and choosing to have a positive outlook, even if difficult circumstances occur. If you ever lose a person you love, you can choose to believe it was their time to go and the universe (or your higher power) will see you through the experience and make you better for it.
Overthinking about death and losing your loved ones is not keeping them safe and it is not creating solutions or preventing bad things from happening. What happens to them is completely out of your control. It is unproductive thinking that does only one thing — it takes away your peace and joy.
You are stealing suffering from the future and using it to ruin today.
We suggest you leave future suffering where it is and choose as much joy and peace as you possibly can today. This moment, right now, is the only one you have any control over. This moment, right now, is the only place you have any power to choose anything. Use that power to choose gratitude, trust, love and peace.
6. Choose gratitude, in this moment, for all the things right in your life.
Count your blessings and make a choice to focus on something fun, joyful and rich going on around you right now. Take time to send a note to a loved one and let them know how you feel about them. Focus on something you have control over that is based on love, not fear.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the human behavior experts behind www.12.shapes.com. They host a weekly Relationship Radio show
I have a hard time controlling my emotions because I feel things deeply. Do you have any advice for helping me calm my reactions and get control of myself? Also, how can I teach my children to get control of themselves so they don’t inherit my bad habit of throwing a fit over things?
I’m so glad you asked this because many of the techniques I teach in these articles involve thinking your way out of reactions.
The problem is when you get upset and triggered into a fear-based reaction, you are functioning in fight-or-flight mode.
Research has shown when people go into fight-or-flight mode, they don’t have access to their frontal lobe, which is the rational, thinking part of the brain. So you are not capable of choosing your way out of these upset reactions — at least until you calm your body down, get out of fight-or-flight and get your frontal lobe back online.
Learning to calm yourself down is a skill everyone needs to learn and teach their children. Children and teens who learn how to calm their nervous system have less anxiety and stress and are more emotionally intelligent, studies have shown. They also have more capacity to choose their mindset in any situation.
It is very normal to get upset and emotional when you feel mistreated, insulted, criticized or threatened, and it’s normal to have strong emotional reactions to these situations. These reactions are kind of like riptides — they are strong and fast, and can pull you into dangerous water — in this case, bad behavior that sabotages your relationships — before you even consciously know what’s happening.
Understanding real riptides can help you learn to escape emotional reactions. A riptide is often misunderstood because it does not pull a swimmer under water — it simply carries the swimmer away from the shore.
Many people who get caught in riptides do not understand this and they try to swim against it. The danger here is they can exhaust themselves and drown.
But if they were educated on how riptides work, they would know they can easily exit the riptide by swimming at an angle to it. If they swim sideways, parallel to the shore, they can easily exit the current and return safely to land, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
Experts recommend this approach if you get caught in a riptide:
1. Don’t fight the current.
2. Stay calm to conserve your energy and think clearly.
3. Think of it like a treadmill — it cannot be turned off, but you can easily step to the side and get off. Swim sideways following the shoreline and when out of the current swim for the shore.
You can calm down your upset emotions the same way. Here is a simple procedure you can practice when experiencing strong emotional reactions to calm yourself down and choose a better response:
1. Don’t fight the feelings of anger or hurt. Just sit with them for a minute and don’t do anything yet. Each emotion is an interesting dimension of the human experience and feeling them can teach you things. Make note of how your ego (the reactive, selfish part of you) wants to respond. Can you feel how much your ego wants to respond with selfishness, defensiveness or anger?
These are strong feelings, but the more you sit in them, you will see they are not your only option. Feeling this upset is a choice. But you can always choose to change the story you are telling yourself around this, see the situation in a different way, and choose a calmer, more mature and unselfish response.
2. Stay calm. Take a step back from the event and do some calming exercises. We recommend learning diaphragmatic breathing or engaging your peripheral vision by focusing on seeing the two sides of the room at the same time. This may sound weird, but you can’t activate your peripheral vision and stay in fight-or-flight at the same time. Read more about why this works in this Panicyl blog post.
3. Think your way through it. Ask yourself, "What am I really upset about? What am I afraid of here? Why do I feel threatened? Am I applying meaning here that may not be accurate? What will happen if I choose to be upset? Is that what I want? Is being upset a choice? Is there any other way I could choose to feel in this moment?"
4. Exit the reactive current. This is where you get to step to the side or exit the reactive current by choosing a mindset that runs parallel to principles of truth — principles that provide solid ground and safety, like the shore. If the fear reaction is the riptide, you can choose thoughts based in trust and love, and you can step right out. Choose to trust these principles of truth instead of embracing fear in any moment:
It will take some work to master this, but you can do it!
We moved to Utah from out of state and we are good Christian people with high standards and values, and like most people outside of Utah we drink coffee and wine. We also use a phrase that apparently is taboo here. We say “Oh my God” quite a bit and never in our lives considered that a swear word. But twice since moving, here my children have been told that’s bad to say that, and this has been very confusing for them because it is so normal at our house. The way they were scolded about their language was very judgmental of my husband and I as parents. We have also have had numerous families tell my children they can’t play with theirs, because we are not Mormon and have wine in our house. We have never had wine in front of their children and we actually don’t drink very often, but really, we’ve never experienced anything like this. My children have good manners and are kind, sweet kids, but they are cast as bad in our neighborhood because we are of a different religion. I am not sure how to handle it? I am shocked that religious people would be so unkind. Do you have any suggestions?
First, we would like to openly apologize to you (on behalf of our state) and say we are so sorry this kind of thing happens here. Please know there are many Utahans, who would never treat you and your family this way and are saddened to know this has been your experience.
As for some advice, you have two options in this situation. You can be angry, bitter, resentful and unkind back, or you can take the high road and demonstrate your beliefs better than they have theirs. Our advice would be to take the high road and treat them with kindness and love anyway. Do this, not because they deserve it, but because it’s the kind of person you want to be.
You might consider killing them with kindness, instead of being unkind back. Take them cookies, shovel their snow or find other ways to demonstrate what love looks like.
Let your children know these people are afraid. They have a fear problem around certain words or actions that make them feel unsafe. If we see their behavior as scared, instead of judgmental and unkind, it’s easier to have compassion for them. They are doing the best they can with what they currently know and see, though ignorance isn’t innocence.
Suggestion for righteous people everywhere:
We would also like to offer some suggestions to you, who find yourselves feeling uncomfortable with people who are different from you, or not of your faith.
We hope you will be open minded and consider you might have some subconscious fear issues that arise when interacting with people who are different from you, and this might trigger behavior that is less than loving.
We all have subconscious biases in play, but that doesn’t excuse unloving behavior. It is always your responsibility to identify your discomfort around certain things or people, and force yourself out of your comfort zone. This is the only way to grow and learn to accept and embrace people, who are different.
We believe this one lesson (loving people who are different from you) is the primary lesson we are on the planet to learn and it is why the universe is filled with diversity. Diversity gives you an opportunity to see “the limits of your love” as they show you the boundaries of your comfort zone and challenge you to learn to love bigger.
If you are uncomfortable around people of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation, people who drink coffee or wine, have tattoos, swear, or have gauged ears or piercings, you need to find some of those people post haste, and spend some time with them. Get to know them. It is simply a matter of choosing to expand your world. You will probably be surprised too, because these people are often the kindest you will ever meet.
We were at a conference recently and saw a transsexual woman sitting alone at a table. Because we haven’t had the opportunity to know many trans people, we could immediately see getting to know this person would be a good stretch for us. We asked if we could join her and had the most amazing time learning about the challenges she faces and feeling of her goodness. You must also do this kind of thing if you want to grow.
We also recommend asking yourself, what does being a righteous person mean to you?
The dictionary defines righteousness as: being morally right or virtuous.
This is definitely a noble pursuit, but that is about one’s own choices and behavior. You get to decide what your values are and what behavior you deem right, but it does not include putting those same values on others. As soon as you do that, you have moved from righteous to self-righteous.
The dictionary defines self-righteous as: believing one is totally correct or morally superior to others.
This is where it all goes wrong. When you believe you are morally superior to another person, you are no longer righteous, in our opinion. It is not right to push your beliefs on other people or scold them for language you have decided not to use. When you do this, it is not defending God’s name, it is making another person or family feel small. You are choosing to see some human beings as having more value (or being more right or better) than others, and this is a problem.
If you want to raise confident, loving, wise children, who grow into mature, kind adults, then teach them to see all human beings as having the same value, no matter the difference in their journeys, language or behavior.
We know you are trying to teach your children your values, which in this case includes the idea that drinking coffee and wine are bad. We understand the fear you have, that children, who don’t see drinking as bad, might be prone to do it. The problem is you are also raising judgmental children, who will miss out on getting to know a large number of amazing people all over the world, because their fear will overpower their ability to love them.
There is a way to explain to children though drinking is against your family’s personal values, it doesn’t make a person who drinks bad or less than you. You can teach the dangers of alcohol, while also teaching them to accept and love those who have different values. There are good kind people all over the world who drink responsibly and live healthy lives. You may also have a child who drinks at some point, and they need to know there is nothing they could do, to separate themselves from your love.
Most of all, make sure you are teaching children to accept and be kind to everyone and the only way to teach this is by example. If you have ever made a neighbor feel judged for being different, don’t underestimate the power of a sincere apology. It’s not too late.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I just read your article on adult children rejecting the parent’s religion and I agree with what you’re saying, however, my heart is still hurting. I understand my pain is all about me and that I need to just love them, but I can’t help resenting my son and his wife for causing me this pain. He is my only son and I resent his wife taking him away from the way he was raised. I find myself resenting them and not wanting to hang out with them. I don’t want to feel this way, but my heart is so sad that there will not be baby blessings, baptisms and temple marriages for my grandchildren. I'm just not sure how to bridge the gap, stop grieving and feeling so emotional about it. Thank you for any thoughts on this.
First, we want you to choose a perspective about why we are on this planet. Most people feel we are on the planet to do two things: 1. Learn, grow and become the best version of ourselves we can be and 2. To love and serve others and try to make a difference in their lives. We find these two ideas are consistent with most religions and life philosophies.
If you think these two ideas feel like truth to you, you might consider seeing life as a classroom. This philosophy means that everything that shows up in your life is there for one primary reason — to help you learn to love at a higher level.
We believe this experience might be in your life for that very reason. It has the potential to stretch you out of your comfort zone and teach you to love, forgive and accept people when it’s harder to do. It’s easy to love and accept people that are the same as us, it’s much more challenging to love those who are different. It’s especially difficult if their choices trigger fear of loss in you.
We want to make sure you really understand what a “fear of loss experience” is, as we define it. We believe there are two simple core fears which cause most of our suffering.
The first is the fear of failure and you experience this whenever you feel you aren’t good enough, or get insulted or criticized. This fear causes suffering, insecurity, stress and sadness as it makes us feel inadequate. This fear is easier to understand since you experience it to some degree every day.
Fear of failure experiences give you wonderful opportunities for growth. They can help you practice not caring what others think of you, getting your self-esteem from your intrinsic value instead of your appearance, or trusting that all human beings have the same value.
Fear of loss is also a wonderful classroom opportunity for growth. Loss is triggered whenever this moment or event (that you didn’t want to happen) is taking away from the quality of your life. If you get stuck in traffic, on the way to a big meeting, and you hate to be late — you are having a loss experience.
You can feel loss whenever people mistreat you or take from you, but you can also experience loss when life itself doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. You can feel robbed by life when you don’t get blessings or experiences other people get. Whenever you find yourself in self-pity around what you have been dealt, you are having a loss experience.
This is the most important part of this article we want to make sure you get this point – Life isn’t fair and no one gets the journey they wanted. They get the journey that fosters their growth best.
If we always got what we wanted, we wouldn’t grow, and that’s the point of the whole thing. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to throw all your expectations about how your life should look out the window now.
Life is not going to meet your expectations. It’s going to be messy, ugly, painful and even embarrassing at times. It’s going to include some wins and some losses and sometimes it’s going to pull the rug out from under you completely. If you haven’t had those experiences yet, they are probably still coming.
We are not telling you this to scare you, because life is also going to be rich, wonderful, sweet, beautiful, amazing and thrilling too. The point is it’s going to surprise you and if you stay attached to your expectations, about how it should look at each stage, this is only going to create misery.
Instead, we recommend that you choose to trust the journey, the universe, or your higher power that it knows what it’s doing. Whatever interesting twist or turn your life has taken, that you didn’t see coming or didn’t want, it has a purpose for being here, and that purpose is always to serve you.
Having your son leave your religion is definitely not what you wanted, but it’s not as bad as a lot of other challenges you could be having. Talk to some people who have a child with cancer, or a child that died, or people who have a host of other awful challenges that life can throw at people. The truth is that you still have much more to be grateful for than you have loss.
Here are some things you can do to feel better about your situation:
You can see yourself as at risk of having your life ruined, being taken from, robbed or deprived if you want to, but it will only create suffering. Or you can play with seeing yourself as whole, blessed and well. You could actually believe you can’t be deprived because the whole universe is conspiring to bless and educate you all the time. If it is always for your benefit, it’s not a loss. From this place of wholeness, it is a lot easier to love others unconditionally and let go of the pain.
Play with it and see how you feel.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.