Do you ever find yourself judging and criticizing other people? Wishing they would shape up and get with the program?
When I started this series I really had no idea what kind of challenging times were headed our way! We’re all in a new situation these days…
We’ve got new challenges AND we’ve still got some of the old ones as well. Like other people… who are the greatest gift on earth and can also drive us crazy!
Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed that trying to make other people change by getting annoyed with them doesn’t work very well. But it also doesn’t work very well to sit on our feelings of irritation and fume in silence. So what can we do instead?
Today I’m going to tell you about my student Michelle and her husband Ted. They were both struggling with the other’s effect on their inner peace. And although obviously the story I’m about to tell you is from the times before social distancing, I’m pretty sure it’ll still be useful to you now!
So… Michelle loves to dance. She loves all kinds of dancing, including partner dancing. But when she and her husband Ted were first dating, they had a few disastrous encounters on the dance floor. Ted frequently bumped into her, and she felt he was completely lacking a sense of rhythm. Michelle burst out with irritation and criticism. “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you at least not bump into me?”
Needless to say, they didn’t do much dancing after that!
A few months ago, Michelle suggested to Ted that they take a partnering dance class as a date. Because it was a class, Michelle would have a chance to dance with others and she hoped it would be fun for her husband too.
Sure enough, during the class, Michelle had a good time learning the steps of this new dance, and partnering with others. She observed that her husband’s partners also struggled to dance with him.
And then it was her turn to dance with Ted. He was frustrated at how hard it was for him to learn and follow the steps. Michelle could tell he was tense and sort of braced for what she was going to say.
But this time, something new happened. Michelle didn’t feel irritated with Ted. Instead, she remembered the whole reason they were taking the dance class was to have fun.
She said to him:
“Hey, it doesn’t matter what we look like or how we do the steps. Let’s just have fun. You lead and I’ll try to follow.”
Ted was astonished! His body had been braced, ready for his wife to judge and criticize him as she had before. He was so grateful to be treated with acceptance and love, that his body relaxed and he was able to have a good time. And of course Michelle had a good time too.
But what happened? What allowed Michelle to react differently than she had before?
Over the previous year, Michelle had been practicing the gentle art of being Self-in-Presence. She’d been learning how to turn toward the parts of her that were getting triggered in her life situations. She’d been getting to know them instead of getting caught up in them. By the time she attended the dance class with her husband, responding from her calm and centered self had become such a habit, she just found herself not being irritated at him at all.You know, when you react to someone close to you with irritation and criticism, you’re basically getting triggered. And the best way to not get triggered is to get bigger than those triggered parts of you… by saying hello to them.
Here’s how to get started.
Number One: Notice when you get triggered… and pause. Give yourself a time out before you react in an automatic way.
Number Two: Acknowledge the part of you that got triggered, using this language: “Something in me is getting really irritated with that person.”
Number Three: Put your hand on your heart, as a way to be gentle to the part of you that got triggered. It’s allowed to feel the way it does… and YOU are bigger than that! Then just notice if you find yourself getting curious about the other person, or having an insight about your real purpose for being there… like Michelle’s insight that she and her husband were actually there to have fun!
Do you want to have more of my tips for calm in the midst of stress? Get my free e-course, Get Bigger Than What’s Bugging You. In five simple lessons, you’re well on your way to responding differently to the triggers of life.So here’s to you… having a more peaceful life.