Becoming Your Best Self – An Emotional Response Primer

Have a good emotional response lately? Is there someone who makes you see red every time you’re with them? Do you replay conversations over and over, getting upset or angry each time you do? You’re not alone. Everyone I know does this. How frequently it happens, and how we handle these situations when it does, is a good indication of where we are on our spiritual path.

When we accept total responsibility for our lives, we begin to understand that we create these situations, and we create them for a reason. While we cannot control the actions or behaviors of others, we can control our emotional response. With that perspective in mind, we start to look at these situations as the opportunities for growth and change that they really are.

Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when you find yourself responding emotionally in a way that you don’t like. One of these questions (sometimes two!) will probably allow you to release the emotional response and get on with your life.

Is it them?What if whatever the person said or did that pushed your button wasn’t about you, but about them? What would that mean? Sometimes we play a role for others in their development, offering them an opportunity to grow and change. If we ask these questions, how does the answer leave us feeling? Does seeing that whatever happened is a reflection of them and not us help? Feel calmer? Send a prayer to bless and release the other person, providing them support to work through their issue, but in a way that does not involve you emotionally.
Are they a mirror?What action or behavior of the other person reminds you of you, of an action or behavior that you don’t like or are ashamed of? Can you recognize yourself at all in the other person’s behavior? When we are uncomfortable about a behavior, we sometimes ask (unconsciously, of course) someone to mirror that behavior to keep us in check. Seeing someone else take selfishness to the extreme serves as a good reminder to us to keep that occasional selfish act at bay. The problem is twofold. One, on a scale of 1 to 100, we tend to perform the problem behavior on a 5 or 10, but we ask someone who operates on a 90 or 95 to be our mirror. Second, we forget that we asked them to be our mirror and we get lost in the injustice of their behavior. Do you see a connection? Be brutally honest with this one. Feel calmer? Write a postcard to the other person. You won’t send it, you’ll burn it. In the postcard, release the person from the contract. Thank them for providing the service, but tell them you no longer need it as you are now aware of the issue. You now understand that you do not have to keep yourself in check the way you thought you did. When you burn the postcard, do a prayer to bless and release both of you to proceed forward with your lives, either separately or together in a healthy, happy way.
Is a value being violated?Very often our deepest emotional responses come when one of our values is being violated. This is actually one of the clues to help you identify your values. Pay attention to when the absence of something (like respect or justice) pushes your button. It is probably one of your core values. Feel calmer? Identify ways to bring this value into your life in a more active way. Identify at least one major goal that is linked to this value and start taking action on it.
What life lesson is being taught?I believe that we come into this life with a specific purpose and that part of bringing that purpose to fruition is to undergo certain experiences or life lessons. I also have a theory that the first half of our life is about learning our lessons and the second half is about putting that knowledge into practice in the service of others (fulfilling our life purpose, if you will). Does whatever is happening feel familiar? Can you remember other times in your past when you felt this same way? What pattern do you recognize? If there is a sense of familiarity around what is going on, then it is very likely a life lesson. This is a definite opportunity to learn the lesson once and for all, since life lessons tend to keep presenting themselves to us so that we may learn them. Feel calmer? Take inventory. What do you need in order to complete this lesson? Sometimes, awareness of the pattern or life lesson is all we need to break the cycle. Sometimes we need to take concrete action or develop and build skills to strengthen ourselves or an area of our life. There are times when we just need to understand that the experience is linked to our life purpose, that by having that experience we will be better prepared to more effectively fulfill our life purpose. If that is where you are, then figure out how to start expressing your life purpose.
Where do you need to take action?Are there a number of people pushing your buttons? What is the common thread on what is going on? Recently, a client had 6 different situations that were bringing him down. We started by discussing each one, but pretty soon a pattern of feeling not in control and not respected started emerging. We looked at his life and identified a major area where he was feeling frustrated and it was causing him to lose self-respect. He realized that this was the real area that needed to be addressed. The primary difference between this and a recurring life lesson is the time element. All of the situations are concentrated now, not spread out over a lifetime. Feel calmer? Identify what action you are going to take and when. Then do it. Also, write one postcard to all the individuals who were pointing out the situation to you following the guidelines above.
How does this serve you?Sometimes a difficult situation that drives us mental provides us with an unseen payoff. For example, a client was frustrated because her daughter and new husband often seemed to be at loggerheads, fighting over spending time with her. As we examined this, she realized that the benefit she was experiencing was to feel special because they were fighting over her. In fact, she was able to accept that she was creating the situation in order to feel special. (That is the enlightened aspect we talked about earlier). Feel calmer? A postcard is in order here, thanking the individuals involved and releasing them from their contract. Identify other ways to get that same feeling.

I also wanted to mention that emotional response tends to be different than feeling in that feeling is current. It exists in the present and unites you to the present. Emotional reaction appears to be triggered by a present event, but in fact is seldom related to the present. It usually has a lot more to do with the past or future, and contains a sense of powerlessness.