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Don't Take It Personally

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  anita 4 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #101957

    Sunny Coons
    Participant

    Hello reader!

    Thank you for your patience if I am posting this in the wrong place, as I am brand new to the site. I wanted to share my excitement about having found what looks like just the right place for me at just the right time.

    I love the concept of the Tiny Love Challenges, and I hope that it helps me develop a more consistently kind demeanor. It seems similar to Random Acts of Kindness and Paying It Forward, but has the added benefit of the reflection questions to really give you a more structured approach.

    That said, I’m obviously starting in the middle of the book on April 15, which is perfect since Releasing Anger and Forgiving is a trait in which I feel I am weakest. I am definitely guilty of lashing out at people unnecessarily. Aggressively, even, when I feel the slighted at all. And I harbor many, many regrets and guilty feelings about my behavior in the past. Apologizing doesn’t always repair the damage that words can do. Still, I have yet to interact with anyone that seems excessively angry with me today. This is a good thing, for sure. But, admittedly, I’d sorta hoped to be able to put the book’s suggestions into practice right away. So, reflections only for today.

    It’s a good day. Peace.

    #101960

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    You would like to stop lashing out at people when angry, being aggressive unnecessarily when you feel slighted. You wish you had the opportunity to practice a different behavior when you feel slighted by someone, but no one has done the job of (maybe) slighting you today.

    If I am correct so far, maybe I can help you out by offering a slight for you and wait for your response. Once I get your response I slight you further and wait for your response. Would you like that?

    Once we have a back and forth correspondence of this kind, we can analyze what transpired and go from there. What I am suggesting here just occurred to me and it is in no way a part of Tiny Love Challenges. It is my own, individual initiative.

    Let me know.

    anita

    #101962

    Sunny Coons
    Participant

    Well, that’s an interesting idea. Slight away…

    #101979

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    Obviously this is not thought out on my part. For one, I just had lunch and was away from the computer and I don’t know if you are at the computer now. If you are, i will stay for a while so we can communicate without delays.

    Regarding the slight, can you give me a hand? Choose something or give a category of what you are particularly sensitive about, what is effectively most offensive of a slight for you?

    anita

    #101980

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    Well, you are not on line…A better idea perhaps would be if you recall an angry exchange you had recently where you lashed out at someone. If you’d like, you can type the exchange as in a movie script: she (or he) said, you said, she said, etc. and in parenthesis you can record actions taken, for example;

    I: Can you help me with this exercise, I don’t get it.
    She: You are slow, aren’t you (eyebrows rising, mocking expression on her face)
    I: You always put me down!
    She: No, I don’t. I was just kidding. You are too serious, lighten up!
    I: You *&(&^b O&^Y& $&&% (walking to door, slamming it hard behind me, kicking the door from the outside with foot)

    Just a crazy example. Take my offer if you’d like. I admire the work you are doing!

    anita

    #102099

    Sunny Coons
    Participant

    Gosh, every time I try to put an example into words, I feel embarrassed at my past behavior. Feeling a little vulnerable here, online, amongst strangers.

    Maybe I’ll start with an example of one where I DIDN’T turn into a beast, but was tempted. So, last night, my husband was working with our youngest son on a project for school. Son had procrastinated, and the project was due in school today. Husband was also trying to cook dinner and I was cleaning the carpets upstairs. As I passed through the living room where son was working, he mentioned needing to spruce up his display. I offered a box of craft supplies to inspire him, and that sent my husband into a tizzy. He was stressed about trying to make sure the project was completed before bedtime, and believed I was complicating the matter, and he was fussing at me about it.

    I wanted to argue with him. I wanted to justify how I was HELPING HIM. I wanted to correct him. I took the craft supplies back and retired upstairs. After a while, he came upstairs to discuss the matter. I tried very, very hard to not escalate matters. Instead of calling him out for lashing out at me, I apologized for what he perceived as trying to take over the situation, and I told him that when he speaks to me the way he did, it made me feel like I was a hindrance.

    I expected him to agree with me and apologize, but nooooooo. He told me he was glad I picked up on that, because I was being a hindrance at that time. And that made my blood immediately boil. I told him that I was fighting off my temper, and I didn’t want to argue. He was annoyed that I didn’t want to talk, but I was worried that if I continued the conversation, it would escalate.

    I would like to get to the point where my blood doesn’t boil. I would like to feel so sincerely concerned about someone else’s perspective that when they lash out I don’t take it personally. But, in trying as hard as I do, it seems obvious to others that I’m having to try. Almost like I’m insincere. And, that likely incites the other person to respond to my anger, which in turn escalates things further.

    This is one minor encounter that doesn’t even begin to explain how much of a problem my anger is for me. 🙁

    #102103

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sunnycoons:

    I am glad you are back to this thread. In the example you gave, you tried to help your son with his project. Your husband got angry at you for doing absolutely nothing wrong. The reasonable way for him to behave once you offered the box of craft supplies was to thank you for your offer and state the due date is the next day and there is no time to incorporate the craft supplies. Then ask you to take it back.

    When you offered the box, he felt anger. He is not responsible for feeling angry as we are not responsible for what we feel- these are automatic mental events. We don’t choose them= we are not responsible for them. What he should have done was notice his anger, think: “Does my anger deliver a valid message?”, that is: “Did my wife do something wrong here?” The answer would be No, and then he should have said something in the way of what I wrote in the first paragraph.

    Instead, you wrote that he lashed out at you. So far in your example he handled his anger wrong and was abusive to you.

    Next you apologized to him: the one wronged apologized the one doing the wrong. You apologized for his perception even though it was not true to reality. Need not apologize for the wrong perception of another: you have no responsibility for it and therefore an apology is inappropriate.

    If this is an example (up to the point of the talk with him) of a typical occurrence, there is a problem in the relationship.
    It is a good thing that you didn’t lash back at him but your anger will persist until you hear the valid message behind your anger. It is almost impossible to not react aggressively day after day after day to intense anger.

    Is this a typical example, him assigning incorrect/ wrong motives to your actions, lashing out at you in one way or another, repeatedly disapproving of what you are doing, pointing the finger of blame at you… is this his pattern?

    anita

    #102112

    Sunny Coons
    Participant

    You’ve asked if this is his pattern, but I think it is really a pattern that he and I both exhibit. He definitely didn’t handle himself well in this example, but truth be told, the assigning of wrong motives and pointing the finger of blame is more often my behavior than his.

    I also find it interesting that you picked up on the inappropriateness of my apology. He said something along that same line last night. Something to the effect of “You can’t apologize to me for my actions. That doesn’t even make sense.” I knew he was frustrated that he’d been keeping the son on task with the project aaaaaaaaall day, and I also knew he was feeling guilty himself about not making the project a priority and allowing the son to procrastinate. My intent was to not take the lashing out personally and help diffuse the situation, and I’d thought the apology would show my understanding of his feelings. Clearly he didn’t take it that way, but I don’t know how else I should have responded. Although we generally have a strong relationship – a partnership, really – there is indeed an underlying problem that leads to our bickering. My anger issues have caused a rift between our household and his parents and sister.

    There’s so much history there; probably too much to deal with in a forum. Let me try another example.

    My youngest son was developing a friendship with another kid, and they’d had a couple of sleepovers both at our house as well as at the other boy’s house. The child’s mother was an active volunteer in their previous elementary school, so we ran into her on a routine basis. The boys graduated to middle school, and they both participated in music class together. At some point in the school year, my son confided something deeply personal to his friend, and the kid violated my son’s confidence and blabbed to other kids and made my son feel embarrassed. That schoolyard tiff petered out after a while, and my son moved on.

    At the start of the following school year, we ran into the kid’s mom and she walked up to us and asked my son how he was doing and whether or not he was still in gifted classes and what period he was in music class and other seemingly innocuous questions. And, throughout the next few months, whenever we saw her in the hallway at school functions, she would loudly proclaim “Hi Mom!”. This really riled me up, because I felt that she was saying it that way because she couldn’t even remember my name, which was unacceptable to me since the boys had been friendly and had sleepovers at our houses.

    Later, his music teacher let slip that he wanted to put our son in an earlier class where the instrument he plays would be more useful, but he couldn’t because another student’s mother had demanded that the boys be in different classes. The teacher also let slip that it was this particular kid’s mom. While I didn’t let on how angry that made me, I DID let that stew in my mind for another few months.

    Fast forward to his most recent recital. I was sitting in the auditorium waiting for the show to begin and this kid’s mom coincidentally sat next to me. She then looked at me and said “You’re so-and-so’s mom, right?” I said yes and we went back to looking at our phones. But, it irked me so bad that she’d had the audacity to sit right next to me that I said (name changed) “Cynthia? Do you even remember my name?” She looked at me sheepishly and admitted that she could not. At that point, I became venomous. I told her that I didn’t appreciate her calling me Mom in the hall everytime she saw me, and that if she thought well enough to let her kid stay at my house, she could at least remember my name. I also told her I knew that she’d requested her boy be in a different class than my son, and suggested that maybe she should talk to her son about HIS behavior rather than worrying so much about my kid and what classes he was in. I then proceeded to tell her that she did not have permission to speak to my kid and, well, basically I was just really, really nasty to her.

    Very immature behavior on my part.

    Why did I let it stew rather than let it go? Why didn’t I try to have a rational conversation with her, when all the time I was accusing HER of being irrational? If my son had moved on, why couldn’t I? Nothing was accomplished with my outburst other than making her feel very uncomfortable, and now I am the one embarrassed about how poorly I handled the situation.

    #102116

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    You wrote: “the assigning of wrong motives and pointing the finger of blame is more often my behavior than his.”

    This is one problem: assigning untrue motives to another. We all do that, some more often and more persistently than others. It is called “mind reading”- we can’t really read minds but we think we can. We think we know what the person meant by a gesture or a sentence. All the information that enters our five senses goes through processing in our brain before we understand the meaning of what we saw, heard, etc. There are existing neural connections in our brain that make us inclined to interpret data received by the five senses this way or that way.

    Some of our processing of information leads to a realistic assessment of what happened and some leads to the wrong conclusions. In other words, some of our “mind reading” is correct and some is not correct. Definitely nobody gets it right all the time and some people get it wrong most of the time.

    The solution to this problem is to ASK. When you think a person meant this or that, ask: what did you mean by this or that? So before you jump to conclusions and imagine that you mind read the person accurately, you ask.

    Sure sometimes the person will not answer honestly but this can be determined by more questions, in the context of a calm conversation.

    And this is what you did, you asked the other mother if she remembered your name and she said she did not and was embarrassed about it. But you were already on a roll because of the anger at her that you held in for so long. If you asked her why she was calling you Mom the first time or second time she called you that, and you found out then that she didn’t remember your name and was ashamed that she didn’t remember, then you wouldn’t have held on to the wrong information for so long, assigning a meaning to her calling you Mom that she didn’t intend. You could have asked her why does she think that she didn’t remember your name and maybe she would have said that she has poor memory or your name is unusual and difficult to remember or any such thing.

    So this is the point: ask ASAP as you interpret something that angers you. Don’t wait. Verify the intent, accurately understand what happened before you believe your mind-reading and jump to conclusions.

    If what you find out is a problem for you, then comes being assertive and taking care of the problem. But first verify.

    Your thoughts?

    anita

    #102125

    Sunny Coons
    Participant

    I agree – as long as I continue to harbor negative emotions, I will continue to struggle to with the concept of releasing anger. It is probably unrealistic to expect myself to be able to respond compassionately all the time overnight. I am harboring a lot of guilt about my past reactions, but I need to focus my attention on how to correct my behavior moving forward.

    Baby steps. I cannot change the past, but I can change how I choose to respond in the future. I sure wish it were easier to keep calm in the thick of it. Last night’s altercation with my husband, for example: I had to work so hard just to keep my temper in check, so that I was unable to have a productive conversation. All I could do was say I was trying to avoid an argument and didn’t want to keep talking about it for fear of flying off the handle. I may have had a more positive interaction if I’d asked my husband to share with me why he was so frustrated rather than assuming I already knew?

    #102127

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    As to your last line: yes, ask your husband/ anyone at all what they meant when they said this or that or did this or that instead of relying of your assumption. This is my point, the assumptions we make are often wrong. And it is not for lack of intelligence. It is about how early (childhood) experiences shape how we perceive things. Early experiences are way more powerful than logic. So, yes, ASK as soon as possible.

    ASAP so to avoid the fuming over issues. That is key, to avoid the simmering of the anger.

    Your efforts to avoid aggressive lashing out when angry cannot, over time, be accomplished by will power alone. You have to incorporate a changing of your behavior with people before you get angry, or just as you feel you start getting angry.

    You wrote in your second line (wanting) to be able to respond compassionately all the time. I understand you mean that you want to respond compassionately to others all the time. Two comments about that:

    1) you need not respond compassionately to someone who is in reality attacking you- that would be deadly if someone is physically attacking you. In other words, your anger is not a bad emotion. It has a purpose, don’t do away with it completely (or try to as such is impossible).

    2) Be compassionate to yourself. There is a reason you are so alert to the possibility of people hurting you or trying to hurt you. It means that you probably got hurt as a child when a person or people you trusted or looked up to, hurt you. If this is correct, then you deserve a lot of compassion, from your own self.

    anita

    #102134

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    I read your other thread and don’t want to post there in case you want fresh input there from others. I agree with what you wrote there, that you are trying to do too much at this point. Before doing that love challenge, I believe, you need to do another challenge and that is to get insight into your childhood where (see “2)” above, it seems to me, you were hurt deeply, repeatedly by someone and you are not seeing it currently or not completely. And maybe you are still in contact with that person, still angry at that person but deflecting it from being directed at him/ her and instead projecting it to others.

    Insight, in addition to learning skills such as asking before assuming, is sometimes necessary.

    What do you think?

    anita

    #102150

    Sunny Coons
    Participant

    I can’t immediately think of any instances of being hurt deeply and/or repeatedly by someone in my childhood. I’ll have to really put some thought into that for awhile. My mother passed away when I was prepubescent (12 years old), so I was raised by my father alongside my younger brother. Her death was certainly painful, but I wasn’t so much hurt BY my mother as just by grieving over the loss of her presence. I do feel some separation anxiety as a result – always trying to please everyone so that they don’t leave me. I’m told this is a result of my mother’s passing at the age that I was, but maybe it also has something to do with my anger issues? I will think long and hard about this one. Thank you for the input. 🙂

    #102153

    anita
    Participant

    Dear sunnycoons:

    You are welcome. Please come back to this thread anytime with your thoughts and feelings!

    anita

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