I get angry when I'm running late for an appointment and my kids don’t want to get dressed… I feel it in my heart, beating fast, I feel the heat in my face and a rush of warmth coming from my stomach to my chest... my hands are looking for things to do as they need to discharge energy and tension, and I start to "over function"…I accelerate myself and my actions, and my voice gets direct, intense and snappy.
Sound familiar? Gosh, it can be hard to even breathe in those moments, let alone understand that this anger is merely a manifestation of an unmet need.
Stay with me, I am going to explain to you why stating the emotion is crucial in managing stress in your life. By following three simple steps, you can make it through these uncomfortable situations without regretting your actions.
1. Recognize that you are having an emotional reaction.
An emotion always has a physical manifestation. Once you start to focus your attention on your body, it is easier to feel the emotion coming in before it erupts.
Resist the urge to think that your kids are disrespectful, and that they are trying to "push your buttons" or make you go crazy… Bring you attention within and observe what's happening inside you, physically not mentally at this point.
2. NAME your emotion!
Give a name to that emotion. It might sound silly or trivial, but it helps to take yourself out of the moment. Once you name your emotion you can be mindful and take responsibility for it.
This might sound like: “I feel anger” versus “you are making me really angry now”. I will explain the difference in a bit.. keep reading!
3. Say it OUT LOUD.
Say those words out loud. Listen to your own voice, listen to take some space from the emotion. You will notice, as you state and claim your emotion, that you instantly feel more in control and resilient. Verbalizing your emotions, in the presence of your kids, is also a great way to model a healthy process, aiding the development of emotional awareness and empathy.
Understanding emotions and how they can control us, both mentally and physically, is important. They are the expression of thoughts or beliefs.
Think about it - nobody can MAKE you angry, for example... I know you are probably thinking of many people that can "trigger" you, but if you contemplate this for a little longer you will realize that your re-actions are entirely yours. It is your responsibility to own them, understand them and choose how you respond to them.
Train yourself to embrace the countless opportunities you have, every day, to OBSERVE an emotion, NAME IT and say it OUT LOUD. Train your brain to take ownership of your emotions and allow yourself to choose between a variety of words. We have the tendency to use only a few words. Expand your vocabulary.
Through this simple practice, you can begin to bring your subconscious thoughts and beliefs to the surface. This is the first step in restructuring your limiting beliefs so that, over time, you will naturally respond differently in such situations.
This morning I killed an ant. Squashed it with my shoe and broke it in two. It was a "biting ant" and it was coming close to my daughter's bare foot, so I killed it without thinking twice. It was a split second reaction.
Seeing the ant's dead body, both pieces of it, reminded me of the fragility of life. At any moment, life can be taken away from us by forces outside of our control. In fact, it inevitably WILL be taken away from each one of us, at some moment in the future.
I'm not going to say that we should "live each day like it's our last", as if there is some sort of impending doom just around the corner. Yet I find an immense sense of liberation in knowing that one day, just like the ant, my time will come.
Did the ant achieve it's purpose in life? Yes, I believe it did. It lived while it was alive, and that's all that each of us is tasked with in life. Our purpose is simply to live, to participate in the dance of earthly existence. No more and no less.
In each moment we have the opportunity to SHOW UP and dance with all that is going on around us. To surrender to what is, in the present moment, and engage with it fully. For in the end, when our final moment comes, surrendering is the only option we have. And with that surrender, chosen or otherwise, we are liberated from all of our suffering.
I am grateful to the ant for such a valuable reminder this morning.