I was just about to press send when I pulled my hands away from the keyboard and placed them on my lap.
I took a few slow breaths and asked myself, “Am I building or burning bridges with this email?”
That email was a combination of gasoline and a lit match and I was about to do some damage!
What was this all about you ask? It doesn’t really matter.
Here’s what matters…
I was reacting to people, a situation, and my perceived ideas about how I was wronged in some way.
It was a visceral feeling of tightness in my chest. My breathing was shallow and my vision even narrowed. I was feeling wronged, not seen, stretched too thin, and all of a sudden very negative.
And that’s when I headed for my computer. I was going to give my unsolicited piece of mind or help me! I was reacting. A little bit of honesty here? It sort of felt good… empowering. I felt a unique focus and energy that I don’t get otherwise, like a freight train gaining speed. But if I don’t check myself, I could go off the rails.
Have you ever experienced this? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. I think it’s normal.
We need to be aware because bad things can happen if we don’t catch ourselves. There is a downside to reacting. – damaged personal and professional relationships, people feel less safe with us, lack of trust, and just plain hurt feelings. I’ve been on both sides of this and honestly, it feels terrible either way.
It’s important we don’t stay stuck in this reactive state for our health and relationships.
Making our way back to center takes practice.
There is one practice I like to use when I catch myself reacting -- Inquiry.
I ask myself the following questions to move from reactivity to centered.
What do I know for sure?
I like to think I know what other people are thinking and feeling but I don’t. So, if I start to talk to myself and say, ‘they won’t like this because….’, or ‘they think….’, or ‘they didn’t respond when I wanted them to say they are…’ all of these are my first clue that I think I can read minds. I can’t read minds!
What I know for sure is what happened. Example: Let’s say I texted my colleague hoping for a response in the next 10 minutes. Ten minutes goes by, no response. That’s what happened. That’s it. The next question is important.
How do I feel?
This is important - I take the time to understand how I feel. Back to the text example. I feel anxious about not getting a response in the time I wanted. I start making up stories in my mind about why. I begin to believe myself and I feel more anxious.
Time out! I don’t want to feel this way.
How do I want to feel?
I want to feel fine about not getting a response in 10 minutes.
How do I move from anxious to OK?
First, slow down. Take a few slow breaths. In the text example, I feel the sensations in my chest and allow it to be there. Yes, allow the discomfort to be there. It will shift. I keep breathing. I tell myself there is a whole world out there with trillions of things happening at one time. There are an endless number of reasons I can’t think of as to why someone doesn’t respond to my text.
Do something for yourself to release thoughts and energy. Any number of things can help. Write a short journal entry to empty your mind. Go for a walk or any other type of exercise. Cuddle with your dog or cat if you have one.
The goal is to release energy and connect with yourself. You're your best ally when you’re centered.
I’m so grateful I didn’t hit send on that email. After a couple days had passed it wasn’t even a big deal to me anymore.
If any of this resonates with you I can help. I work with people to build resilience and make their way back to center in challenging times. If you are interested finding the tools and practices that work for you I’d be honored to work with you. Contact me here to let me know you’re interested.