Is there someone you always let get under your skin, or you always get your feelings hurt when you’re around them? It could be your spouse, or your mother-in-law. It could even be Karen on Facebook, or some guy at church who always talks about politics. What about one of your kids?
I have to practice this all the time because I’m raising a very highly energetic and spirited eight-year-old. It’s very difficult sometimes for me to stay in my own emotions and decide how I want to show up for him, and for me.
It’s so easy for me to think to myself, “He’s just so hard. He gets under my skin. He did that thing again.” I’m working on this right alongside of you.
A tool that I want to teach you is a very key pause. A pause between the thing the person says or does that you think hurts your feelings, or triggers you, and then your response to that.
I do want to mention, I’m using triggered in the sense that we commonly use it every day. I’m not talking about if you have PTSD and there’s something that triggers that.
You might think, “There is no pause. I pretty much just react.” But we create a pause for ourselves so that we can decide how we want to show up, so we can stop blaming other people for being angry or being resentful or having hurt feelings.
When I’m coaching my clients in Life Mentoring School, I will often say to them, “Why are you hurting your feelings like that?” We really do have control of our own emotions. I’m going to help you take more control of them and stop blaming other people.
We’re going to create space for ourselves and we’re going to control our emotions, but that doesn’t mean pretending like everything’s fine. Don’t worry, we’re going to talk about what to do instead.
I also want you to realize that you don’t need to remove people from your life that you don’t agree with. You don’t have to remove people from your life that irritate you. You can live in all kinds of amazing unity with people who think very differently from you, and people who have very different ways of communicating.
We do that by creating a pause, by holding space for ourselves, and by holding space for other people.
We live on a lake and Tom loves to go down to the lake bed and explore, since that water is down. Every night he was trashing a different pair of shoes and getting completely muddy so we got him a pair of boots. They are the kind you can just spray off with a water hose.
Yesterday, I go look outside and realize he chose to spray his boots off right by the door. There was so much mud that it was even dripping off of the sidewalk.
My first thought was, “Stevie’s going to kill us!” The next one was, “Why does stuff like this always happen?” This is the moment I get to decide.
What I really want in my relationship with this little guy is connection. I want a strong relationship. I want to teach him all kinds of amazing things. I know that I can do that when my relationship with him is strong.
I also know because of his trauma, and because of his upbringing, every criticism he takes as a personal attack that he’s not good enough. I know I have to be really careful.
Sometimes I don’t do great and it’s something that I’m hyper aware of, and that I’m really, really working on with him.
Now, some of the people that know how to get you, know how to get under your skin, you’re not in charge of raising them. I think you’ll understand why it’s still really important to create a pause for ourselves so that we can show up the way we want.
1. Identify the emotion you feel.
This is a step that we often skip because we think it’s not important. We think if we’re going to try to change it react better, then I don’t want to be identifying what I feel.
But it really is important to identify what you feel, and not beat yourself up about it. You are just a human.
When I opened the door and there was mud all over, of course that’s irritating. Of course, I’m frustrated because I’m just one of the humans. I just step back for a second and think, “Wow. That really made me irritated.”
Get curious about yourself.
It’s interesting how fast my heart rate went up and I felt hot. It’s just amazing how fast that irritated me.
Ask yourself what is the actual emotion? Do you feel scared? Do you feel frustrated? Do you feel disappointed? Do you feel rejected? A lot of times whatever the initial reaction is, there is a deeper feeling behind it.
2. Allow the emotion to be there.
Don’t resist it. Don’t pretend like you don’t feel it. I don’t want you to pretend like everything’s fine. I want you to identify the feeling, and just take a deep breath and allow it to be there.
Here’s what happens. When we resist our emotions and we push them down and we don’t allow ourselves to feel them, there’s a lot of evidence that suggests they get trapped in our bodies and in our minds. It’s not good for us.
Emotions are waves of energy and those waves of energy can become trapped.
You want to just breathe through it. There’s a really good study that showed that emotions are waves of energy, and if you allow them, they only last 30 seconds, 60 seconds, a minute and a half at the most.
They come and they go like waves.
Right in that moment, you feel whatever you feel. Frustrated, rejected, fearful. If you take a second and pause to ask yourself what is it that you’re feeling, take a deep breath, and allow it to be there for a minute, here’s the magic thing. If you take that bit of a pause, almost as fast as it comes, it goes.
We have caused ourselves lots of problems by not being willing to feel our emotions. You want to become a master of your emotions? Here’s how! You feel them.
What you realize is, it’s not that big a deal.
I can feel frustrated.
I can feel disappointed.
I can feel a little rejection.
It’s not going to kill me.
Once you do that, you gain so much power because you realize it’s just a feeling. It comes and it goes. It doesn’t last forever, and I can just take a deep breath and breathe through it.
If you move through the emotion, you can get to an emotion that you actually want to feel.
I want you to stop trying to pretend like you don’t have the emotion. I want you to stop buffering the emotion, which is also what we do. We go eat something or buy something or hide or numb. That doesn’t help.
The way through is through.
I practiced this yesterday. I kind of stepped back from the situation and I looked at the mud and I was thought, “Wow, that made me so irritated so fast.” I took a deep breath, and here’s the funny thing, you guys. By the time I allowed myself to feel it, and to be with it for a minute, it probably only took 20 seconds.
Then the whole situation was kind of funny. I went and got my camera and I was like, “Well, here’s Tom. And here’s what he’s doing. He’s got the water hose out.” Then he and I cleaned it up.
I said, “Buddy, this is not the best place to choose to do this. So let’s do this. Let’s get the hose out and let’s squirt all this off, and then we’ll put the hose back up.”
We made it into a teaching moment, andI saved myself a lot of upset.
In those kinds of moments, it really teaches your kids a lot about how to have relationships. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to mess up. Sometimes I do mess up, and sometimes I do react in a way that I don’t like. When we do that, we just say we’re sorry.
3. Realize that you are creating the emotion.
You have to take responsibility for your emotions. You think that the reason you’re irritated is because your son cleaned off his muddy boots by your front door. That’s not why you’re irritated. Newsflash!
We have feelings because we have thoughts. Our thoughts are what cause our feelings.
So when he cleans his muddy boots off right by the front door, that doesn’t mean anything to anybody else, right? It doesn’t make you irritated that Tom cleaned his boots off by the front door. The reason it means something to me is because I’m thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh, Stevie is going to kill us. He has gotten this mud all by the front door. This is going to take forever to clean up!”
I have a bunch of thoughts about it, and then from my thoughts, I feel frustrated.
What I was able to do in my pause was I was able to just reevaluate. I was able to feel that feeling of frustration and decide.
Is it worth it? Life’s pretty short. Is it really worth getting that worked up over? We can just squirt it off with a water hose. Not that big of a deal. And because I changed my thoughts, now I don’t feel irritated.
This is so crucial. You can take all your power back. You can stop getting offended so easily because nobody can offend you if you don’t allow it.
The reason this is so powerful is because when I get really frustrated at my eight-year-old, guess who gets to feel the vibration of frustration? Guess who gets to feel the tightness in my chest? Guess who gets to feel the heat come up my neck? I get to feel it, not him.
I’m not punishing people with my feelings of anger or resentment. I’m punishing myself.
This pause will create better relationships with others, but it will also create a better relationship with yourself. You’ll like the way you show up in your life!
I want you to take back your power. I want you to decide what you want to create in your internal body for yourself. Want to create resentment and anger and negativity and rejection? Probably not.
I’m really into love and joy and peace. How do we do that? By creating the emotions that we want. How do we create the emotion that we want? We decide what we want to think about what just happened. We decide what we want to think about what somebody just said to us. We decide how we want to show up for ourselves in our own life.
4. You’re going to fail.
You’re to read this today and you’re going to go out later today and fail at this. So am I. The key to making this a habit is to forgive yourself and try again.
When you don’t do it right, when you let resentment get the best of you, when you lose your temper, when you let frustration take over, when your body makes a big, juicy, negative cocktail of rejection and fear, you just recognize it and you say, “Oh, there I went again, making myself some fear. I don’t want to do that. Let me just forgive myself and move on.”
Learn how to allow people to be who they are.
Guess what? They get to be who they are either way. We might as well allow it. We might as well decide that the only thing we can ever control is how we show up, how we respond, and how we take a little bit of a pause.
I practice this. I make it almost like a game. After you start practicing this, you will look for situations to practice, and of course you’ll find them all the time. You’ll think, “There’s another one. I get to practice again and again.”
5. Take action and create the emotion you want.
Nobody is to blame for your emotions. You are fully 100% responsible for them.
If you feel bad a lot of the time, if you have a lot of negative emotion, if you have a lot of sadness, or a lot of fear, I want you to recognize that you have agency over that.
You can decide, by the way you think, that you want to create something different for yourself, and you deserve it. You deserve to feel joy and peace and love and generosity and kindness and compassion. When you generate those emotions for yourself, you are the first recipient of them.
You can’t make anybody else feel anything, and you are responsible 100% for the way you feel.
Master your emotions.
Stop blaming other people.
Stop being triggered.
I want you to practice this. When you jump on the internet today, and you read something, and just for a moment it set something off in you, I want you to take a pause and decide, do I want to make this cocktail of resentment today? Maybe you do, but I want you to choose it consciously.
I promise you that after you do this for a while, you will decide, you want to be a person who feels love and joy. You will not want to be a person who’s always feeling anger and resentment and negativity.