As I sit in silence waiting for the raised voices to stop, I realise that they only seem to be getting louder. Why? Surely everyone knows if you’re in a shouting match with someone the best thing to do is speak quietly to calm the other person down so they have to focus on what you’re saying to hear you…don’t they?
Anyway, the shouting continued. Everyone getting more and more irate over something or another, starting to talk over each other, interrupting each other. Each person was in their own ‘trance’, not really listening to what the other person had to say, only desperate to get their own viewpoint across.
Want to know what this was all in aid of? This was my birthday dinner. I am now officially in the last year of my twenties. God help me. (the shouting wasn’t because of my birthday, just in case you were wondering, it started with something and ended with an argument over people interrupting each other – I couldn’t make this stuff up!)
So rather than post a typical coming of age article about what I thought I would have achieved by now and what I haven’t and how that’s OK because it’s all part of the journey…blah…blah…blah, I thought I’d share my entertaining birthday dinner story instead.
Let me ask you something. What do you do when you feel really strongly about something? How do you communicate that to someone who doesn’t agree with you?
May as well do a little quiz here – I know everyone loves a quiz!
a) Keep quiet; it’s not worth the hassle. It doesn’t matter what they think anyway, you’re right.
b) Express your argument in a clear and concise way, hoping they’ll see the error of their ways and come join you on your side of the fence.
c) Shout the loudest – after all, if you’re right you have nothing to fear.
There isn’t a right or wrong here, sorry. It’s about making you think (yes – I sound like your teacher. Get over it). One thing I did notice yesterday though was this – the people who were shouting, they weren’t listening. They didn’t give a crap about what anyone else had to say. It was all about them and how they felt and how no-one was listening to them.
Why is this important?
Yesterday, I also completed a Q&A for the editor of a book I have contributed to (soon to be published on real live paper – more details soon!) and one of the questions asked was, ‘What did you used to think was a flaw but now you realise is a strength?’
I’m not going to lie – it wasn’t the easiest question I’ve ever answered, but I realised that ultimately, what I do here and with clients is teach them how to be aware of their feelings, but not let them control them.
This has made me come across as a heartless cow in the past. I don’t cry when people die. I rarely get truly angry or excited – at least not expressively so, and this can come across to people who don’t know me as, oh, I dunno…’uptight’?!
I HATE that people think that about me. But I also have to accept that keeping on an even keel emotionally keeps me balanced and sane and that those who really know me get to see the emotion in other ways.
FYI – I am not a heartless cow. I do have a happy dance. I do dance the happy dance. Regularly. People outside my inner circle do not know this about me.
What this does help me though, is knowing that I don’t have to be a slave to my emotions. When something is going on that makes me angry, I can feel angry and accept that, but not get so caught up in it that I let the anger control me.
See the difference?
Only you control how you feel. Others cannot make you feel something you don’t want to.
If right now you’re thinking, ‘Listen Emma, when I get angry, I get angry, what the hell are you talking about?’, here’s something for you to try:
Next time the dog’s incessant barking makes you want to throw it out the window, or your dad calls for the fifth time this week to ask why you don’t have a reputable boyfriend yet so he can tell his friends how well you’re doing (because that’s the measure of success in his eyes), or you burnt dinner…again, have a think about what you’re feeling.
Don’t just tell me ‘I feel angry’ – tell me what ‘angry’ feels like for you – is it hot? Cold? Stomach churning? Does it make you shake? What are you thinking?
Analysing what you are actually feeling and thinking takes you out of the ‘trance’ state and makes you mindful of what’s going on. This means the anger is no longer in control of you.
Try to experience it as an on-looker – instead of it happening to you, imagine you’re an outsider looking in. See if you can make the feeling do different things – change temperature, go slower or faster, get nearer or further away etc.
All this helps you to see you are not your emotions. You can feel your emotions. You can react to them. But you are not them.
Just for your reference, the sun has come out here in Wales now so I’m going to go enjoy some fresh air and hopefully not get bowled over by the two labs, scottie and jack russell (they tend to go in to ‘excited’ trance and forget they can’t run through humans – cue me with my legs pushed from underneath me as a dog hurtles in to them!).
If you’re curious about how to get better at not letting your emotion getting the better of you, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer! 🙂