mind and emotions

How to Respond to Rage-Inducing People

I’ve been all afire this week with the powerful changes I’ve been experiencing in my life, and they have a lot to do with learning lessons and seeing life as a wise teacher, which I’ve written about before.

Looking at the big picture of the situation, there are so many different elements that allowed this change to occur, and I want to outline the ones I can consciously see right now, almost like a spiritual word search puzzle.

But first, some context. I recently had an interaction with someone that pushed more than a few of my hot buttons. So, like everything in life, I was presented with my own Choose Your Own Adventure scenario.

What to choose, what to choose?

Choice 1

At the start of the interaction, I started to feel all the feels, big time. I had emotions welling inside me like a lava flow. Some of my available choices in this moment were to allow myself to feel those feelings, try to avoid or suppress the feelings, or act the feelings out.

In order to make this choice, I had to be aware that it existed.

And a hint: We always have a choice. Always. Even if our choice is in choosing how we respond to a situation that is beyond our control.

I talk here on the blog all the time about allowing yourself to feel your emotions, so I chose to take my own advice and feel the feels. I didn’t share these feelings with the other person, I just sat there and felt them (thankfully, we were not in the same room so I had the space to do this in peace).

It might sound like a simple thing–and it is–but it ain’t necessarily easy. My feelings were red hot, coursing through me like flames, stirring up all sorts of boil, boil, toil and trouble in my stomach. That shit was intense.

And then…it wasn’t.

I could literally feel the heat in my body start to dissipate, and with it the angry woodchucks in my stomach calmed down and my breathing slowed. The emotions began to wash out of me, and I use the word “wash” intentionally, because I felt cleansed.

The power of truly feeling your emotions is immense. It’s clarifying, purifying, and transformative. 

Choice 2

There was a sense of urgency coming from the other person, and it was clear that they were wanting a response from me sooner rather than later. As an empath, I can pick up on those feelings super easily, as I’m guessing many of you can, too.

But separating their feelings, wants, and needs from my own is part of maintaining healthy boundaries, something that I am very committed to these days, so again, I had a choice.

And guess what? This next part is going to sound familiar:

In order to make this choice, I had to be aware that it existed.

And a hint: We always have a choice. Always. Even if our choice is in choosing how we respond to a situation that is beyond our control.

Some of my available choices included responding right away or giving myself more time.

My ego really, really, really wanted me to respond right now, because boy oh boy, did it have some things to say.

But the still, quiet voice within me said, “Sweetie, let’s go take a walk. It’s so nice outside, and wouldn’t it be great to feel the grass between your toes and hear the wind in the trees? No one’s gonna die if you wait awhile on this. C’mon, let’s go outside.”

So I took a walk. And I didn’t take a walk with the intention of “figuring this shit out”; nope, I just took a walk.

I allowed my eyes to be captured by the colors and movement around me, took off my shoes and scrunched my toes in the grass, and I smiled at the bluejays that seem to follow me these days, cawing loudly, everywhere I go.

And I breathed.

I ended up in a beautiful graveyard, and I chose a spot in the grass, spread out on my back, and let the sun warm my skin.

I gave myself time away from this issue, time to take care of myself.

Now, I can hear the protestations: Yeah, but what if don’t have time to lounge around in the grass? What if the person is all up in my face, waiting for an answer?

Yep, I’ve been there, too. And the responses I am most satisfied with later are the ones in which I chose to give myself what I needed. If I need more time, even if the other person is red faced, sweating, and bulgy eyed, I never regret allowing myself this space.

I have said, “I need to take some time to process this. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

Or, “Our friendship is really important to me, and I want to give myself some time and space to think about this before I respond. Can we continue this conversation this weekend?” 

You might have to say this multiple times. Angry people don’t always like to hear that they can’t unleash their anger on you right now.

And yes, there have been (rare) occasions when I have eventually said, “I understand that this is really important to you. It’s important to me, too. I need to take some time to process, so I’m going to hang up/leave/etc. now. We’ll talk about this again on x.”

And then I hang up/leave/etc.

Just remember, you always have a choice. Always.

Choice 3

So, this is one of the choices that felt the most exciting to me. After I took some time, I now had a choice of how to respond. I was in a much calmer place emotionally, but that didn’t mean my ego had gone on vacation. It was less insistent, for sure, but it was still chiming in with “helpful” suggestions.

What made this experience such a juicy learning opportunity was that it became crystal clear how to tell the difference between the voice of my ego and the voice of my inner wisdom.

Here’s where I’ve been confused between the two time and time again: The ego often sounds like the totally logical voice of reason.

When you take the ego’s arguments at face value, they can be hard to dispute at times. Thus, it’s all too easy to follow the ego, believing that you’re doing what’s best.

Example: My ego said, “You need to ramp up your boundaries with this person, big time! If you let them get away with this now, they’re just going to do it again and again, and you’re just asking for trouble. You need to take care of yourself here, woman!”

Sounds reasonable, right? Boundaries are important, taking care of yourself is good. Check and check.

How did I know this was the voice of my ego and not the voice of my inner wisdom? Because the voice was coming from a place of fear and control (which are synonymous in my book). The voice wanted me to restate my boundaries to exert control over a situation that was triggering fear, and it wanted me to try to control the outcome of future interactions (a pretty tall task for us mere mortals).

Your body is a crucial source of information in this process as well, so here’s what I was feeling in my body as my ego was preparing to attack: tension in my jaw, neck and shoulders; anxiety deep in the pit of my stomach; and a general clenching sensation in my entire energy field. The theme: constriction and lack of flow.

Let’s compare this with the voice of my inner wisdom. She sounded like this: “Honey, you are totally safe and loved right now. Your worth is not dependent on the outcome of this situation.” Woah, thanks, inner wisdom.

And the feelings in my body: open, loose, relaxed, and soft. The theme: expansion and flow.

All right, but what do I do with the information from my inner wisdom? Well, that brought me to…

Choice 4

I now knew the difference between my ego and my inner wisdom, and I knew that by acting on the advice of my ego I would be generating more situations in which I would feel fear and the need to control (Law of Attraction, baby). No thanks.

But I wasn’t sure what a response based on my inner wisdom looked like, exactly, so I had a choice. Some of my options included analyzing different responses in a pros and cons fashion, going with the first thing that came to mind, and asking for help.

I asked for help.

I asked my Guides and the Divine how to best respond in a manner that was an authentic expression of my inner wisdom. And then I listened.

Holy moly, did they ever respond. I suddenly had the urge to get The Four Agreements from my bookshelf. I opened to a page that was precisely what I needed to hear in the moment:

If someone gives you an opinion and says, ‘Hey, you look so fat,’ don’t take it personally, because the truth is that this person is dealing with his or her own feelings, beliefs and opinions. That person tried to send poison to you and if you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours.

Light bulb! This then switched my approach to asking myself this question: “If I’m not taking this personally, how would I respond?”

And I immediately knew. If this wasn’t personal I didn’t need to defend my position, argue over the other person’s claims, or any of that ego stuff that felt so incredibly constricting and draining just thinking about it.

It wasn’t personal. What the other person was saying wasn’t about me. 

In that space, I was able to agree to their requests that, when my ego was quiet, I realized didn’t matter to me at all. They didn’t require any additional effort on my part; they just required me not needing to “win” and be right.

It was so easy. My ego wanted to fight about them on principle, but my inner wisdom was like, “You know this doesn’t even matter to you, right? Let it go with love.”

My ego framed this as “not taking care of myself” and opening myself up to future injury.

Will this person try to do the same thing in the future? Quite possibly.

Will my inner wisdom lead me to take a “firmer line” with them then? It might.

Do I need to worry about that now? Not even a little bit. Because:

Honey, you are totally safe and loved right now. Your worth is not dependent on the outcome of this situation.

mind and emotions

How to Stop Resenting Everyone

It can be really difficult to ask for what you need. Or rather, I should say, it can feel really difficult to ask for what you need. The actual asking isn’t, in the grand scheme of things, rocket science, but our minds can trip us up and have us believe otherwise.

I come from a long line of codependents who aren’t good at expressing their needs. But nonetheless, if you failed to meet those unspoken needs, you could be sure of punishment in some form or another. It was like being trapped in the non-whimsical version of Wonderland where up is down and down is up. Except for when it’s not. Confused yet?

Growing up, I watched most of the women in my family care taking for other people. Most of this energy was focused on the significant man in their life, but it certainly carried over to just about everyone, including neighbors, coworkers, and friends. What I took away from this was that other people did not have to take responsibility for themselves, because it was my job to take care of them. And while I wasn’t allowed to express my own needs, I sure as hell could resent the world for “placing” this burden on me.

Along with this false sense of responsibility came a false sense of control. If you regularly find yourself thinking, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!” with an air of resentment and superiority…well, you may have a touch (or a bushel) of codependent traits. Step on into the Club House.

While this control can give you the illusion of power and safety, it’s a house of cards. Everything is dependent on what other people do, say, and think, and one wrong look or word can cause the whole thing to come crashing down, leaving you feeling insecure and panicked. Because the truth is, unless you’re dealing with an infant (and I mean an actual baby, not an adult acting like they’re still in diapers), you can never control another human being. It’s impossible. Stop trying.

We can construct all of these elaborate systems in our heads that “prove” how much control we have over another person, but it’s just that: in our heads. True power comes from having mastery and healthy control over ourselves. No one else.

If your internal state is a mess, it’s much “easier” to focus on other people’s problems. If you seem to be drawn to drama like gum to hair, you might be using the constant crises to distract yourself from what’s going on in yourself. And if you surround yourself with people who always “need” help, it’s easy to feel superior, because, on the surface, it looks like you have it all together in comparison to those walking train wrecks.

For me, the end result of all of this dysfunction was a feeling of isolation, resentment, and exhaustion. This started to manifest in my body in myriad ways: migraines, an incredibly tight jaw and shoulders, lower back weakness, etc. My body was becoming encased in rigid layers of control, and my back was, quite literally, feeling the burden of all this excess baggage that I was dragging around.

If any of this resonates with you, there are plenty of resources available, because there are a lot of us codependents out there! Books like Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Caring For Yourself can be a great way to gain understanding of your own thought and behavioral patterns and learn tools to create healthier habits. There are Codependents Anonymous groups in many areas, and talking with a qualified therapist can also work wonders.

If you take anything away from this post, know that as much as it may feel as if there is no other way to live (“if I stop taking responsibility for this stuff, everything will fall apart!”) or that you’d rather die than relinquish this control (I know the feeling well), you do have choices. They may be hard to see right now, but there are an infinite number of options waiting for you. The more clouded mental layers you peel away, the more options you will see, and choice by choice you can create a new way of life free from the chains of codependency.

It all starts with one step.