Navigating The Bullfighting Ring: Learning to ACT And Not REACT

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If you are anything like me, somedays life can make you feel like you are a tortured hot-headed bull, being poked and aggravated by tiny preposterous matadors doing anything they can do just to get a rise out of you.

It’s challenging not to react when everyone is basically begging you to make a scene.

Although I was a temper-tantrum throwing child and a drama queen all through my adolescence, I am slowly, with much practice and many failed attempts, becoming a more relaxed and even-keeled woman. My daily yoga and meditation practices have made this possible, as has the experience of being in a stable, supportive and loving relationship. Yes, I still have my my Scorpio stinger, but I’m becoming more judicious with it.

Learning to act consciously, and not just simply react angrily, when confronted with a conflict is a skill and a practice.

The universe keeps on giving me this learning opportunity with one particular relationship in my life. This situation is the one thing that still makes my otherwise easy-going personality want to absolutely lose it. When confronted with this contentious relationship (mostly via impersonal correspondence such as email) I want to scream, cry and hurl caustic insults and break china plates. It’s not pretty, to say the least.

But, one thing I’ve found is that it’s best to actually allow myself the space to feel my emotions and be expressive in order to process them and move beyond my struggle. That’s not saying I go out into public, shout profanities and smash windows or anything like that, but I do let my guard down in the privacy of my own home and allow myself to get really sad and angry for awhile before I try to be a peacefully smiling little yogini again. Most importantly, I do this before I try to engage in any sort of conversation with the other person involved in the conflict.

Our emotions – the rage, disappointment, devastation and betrayals we feel – are real and should not be dismissed in order to save face or appear “perfect.” Don’t just whisk your feelings away with platitudes. Don’t stuff them down inside. As my friendly fellow blogger/mischief-maker says, feelings are doorways. They provide opportunities for self-investigation, for growth, for deeper understanding and personal responsibility. Shunning them is not the answer.

When I’m being pushed and provoked and triggered – here’s what I am slowly and stubbornly learning to do so that I can act and not react to challenging conflicts:

Let it out: A good solid cry does wonders. Being angry and vocalizing your feelings can release pent-up steam. But don’t release your feelings aggressively onto another person, instead, give yourself a time-out – go be alone, feel deeply, express yourself and only after you physically feel a release, return.

Write about it: Writing an email or letter to the person that I am angry with is always a huge catharsis for me. Nowadays, I always delete the email after writing it, but the experience of actually verbalizing all the specific details of what I am feeling helps me process my pain. It feels good to be honest and direct about my feelings. Even if the person I am upset with never reads my words, I feel lighter just by putting them onto paper.

Call your mother: Unless you are mad at her, of course! No, all joking aside, talking to someone, like your mother or your very dearest friend, is another avenue for release. Talk to a person who loves you unconditionally and is supportive of you. This way, when you say stupid and mean things during this conversation, she won’t hold it against you and will simply listen to you vent. Plus, mothers normally give pretty good advice that will encourage you to be a nicer and calmer person.

Get moving: Take a walk, a bike ride or a quick run. When I was a teenager, whenever I would get super upset about something, I would leave my house and walk briskly down to this stone bench about a mile down the road. I would sit on that bench, have a smoke, dive into my emotional world and then walk home. That walk always helped me categorize and experience my emotions, The movement of my body and the quickening and deepening of my breath because of the activity helped me stay grounded in my body when I felt like flying off the handle.

Don’t put on a mask: The other day I got super worked up over something and was boiling with anger and deep sadness. The yoga teacher in me wanted to force myself to sit down immediately and meditate. But, sitting still and silently was not what I actually needed at that moment. I first needed to cry, to talk, to write and to FEEL. If I didn’t give myself the space for that, I knew my mind would be running in furious circles as I sat on my sheepskin. But, after an hour of vocalizing and processing, I did my evening meditation practice and some EFT tapping. Instead of it being a battle to calm my mind, my practice became 20 minutes of comfort and prayer – just what I needed it to be.

Count and make choices: Two quotes/wisdom nuggets that I think about when I’m dealing with rough emotions. The first is the Thomas Jefferson quote about counting to 10 before speaking when angry and counting to 100 if very angry. The second is the idea that although we cannot change the way we feel, we can choose our behavior. These reminders, although a bit cliche, do help me step back for a moment and be more conscious in how I proceed with my conversations, relationships and correspondence.

What do you do when dealt with challenging emotional conflicts? How do you choose to process and grow from your emotions? Does any of this ring true for you? If so, tell me about your experiences and hopefully I can learn from you too.

In gratitude,

Love Frances

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3 thoughts on “Navigating The Bullfighting Ring: Learning to ACT And Not REACT

  1. Hi Frances, I feel like the divine is giving me all the messages i need right now and this is a big one! thank you! I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide and bury my emotions and now, at 32, am finally really learning to feel them, whether it means crying or just being with the emotions and observing them. It’s taking a lot of work, but my meditation practice and yoga have been invaluable! Now I’m working on the not reacting part. (It’s my mother that’s the problem! ugh!) But I’m getting there little by little and becoming more detached in a way. And I’m totally with you on the EFT! I’ve been using it now and then again and it’s been of great help in clearing my head.

    Such a good post! thanks again!
    Blessings,
    Roanna

    • Thank you dear Roanna.
      I’m glad this post was meaningful to you. I’m sorry to hear about your conflict with your mother. It is often the people close to us who can hurt us the most…I know that all too well, as my challenging relationship is a familial one as well. 😦
      Much gratitude for your readership.
      Love Frances

  2. This was interesting. As a kiddo, then teen, I was very low conflict. Why? I lived in a drama riddled household. My dad was an addict in more ways than one. My mother was the daughter of Polish immigrants who ran a strict Catholic household, where it didn’t matter how crazyinsaneangry the man got- it was very much the wife’s job to deal with it, make amends, and make sure everybody stayed out of the way. For a very long time after my dad’s death, I was intensely angry towards my mother and begged her for an explanation as to why she wouldn’t leave a man who scarred us the way he did. I realized, a good deal of it was being scared, another part was her upbringing, and her not knowing if she could have done the job of two parents by herself (She would have been great btw.) We came to our peace and are best of friend now- more than a lot of people can say about their relationships with their parents. She remarried, my stepdad is a really great guy, and it’s a happily ever after story.

    I learned in my floundering twenties, a lot about my own anger/anxiety/depression issues and the choices they can lead you to. Being in a home with an addict often leads a person into a lifestyle where they crave control . . . . and BAM- here comes anorexia!!! When I was dating I had this series of volatile relationships but one guy and I were together on and off almost 3 years. We were particularly nasty to each other when fighting. I learned from that relationship that I A. Have a temper that can flare over the most mundane of things. & B. I can be really, truly, shockingly nasty and mean when I’m fighting. I remember how terribly mean my dad would get- it seemed like his way of ‘breaking you’ so he felt like he had truly won.

    It changed a lot of things for me. When I had Eva, it informed the kind of mother I wanted to be. When I married Nolan, it truly defined the kind of wife I wanted to be. I struggle a lot with the control issue still. I make sure that when things come to a boiling point, I’m not saying hurtful, terrible things that ruin my family and marriage and self later on but that I’m stating a point of ‘Point A is frustrating me and here’s why- what can we both do to make this better.’ or with my kids ‘No, you can’t behave like that. It’s not acceptable, it isn’t kind, and if it happened to you, you would feel awful.’

    I had originally written my book manuscript from the view point of a woman with a childhood of trauma that led me to this point actually. When talking with editors about rewrites, it’s being regeared for a YA book There are a lot of kids/teens that need to hear the lessons you’ve learned about anger and that I’ve learned about life. Basically, so much boiled down to this with me- I may share traits with my dad. But I’m not him because I can decide to make better choices. Re-reading this tonight reminded me. Thank you. S.

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