(This post is the third in a series on The Seven Powers for Self-Control, from the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, by Becky A. Bailey, PhD. Here are the first and second posts.)
You hurt my feelings!
Ugh, he makes me SO mad.
Ouch! If I hit my head on that cabinet door one more time, I’m going to smash that god**mned thing to smithereens!
What do these three statements have in common?
Besides the fact that I myself have said them all (or something similar to them) at least once in my life?
If you guessed: They place blame on an outside source for our feelings, you are right!
The power of perception teaches us that no one (nor any inanimate object… nor any government entity… nor anything outside of ourselves) can MAKE us angry.
(Or sad, or happy, for that matter.)
We are each responsible for our own feelings.
And what’s particularly interesting to me about anger is that if that if we are feeling angry, it’s probably because of how we are thinking. This idea comes up repeatedly, not only in Dr. Bailey’s book, but also in Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, and many others.
When you are angry, take a moment to look at your thoughts.
What are you thinking?
Are you blaming some outside person or force for something?
Are you feeling powerless in the face of this thing that you do not want? When we feel powerless, the desire to blame and punish can be strong.
It’s our job as parents, teachers and caregivers to help the children in our lives take ownership of their thoughts and feelings, and to do so effectively, we must start by modeling the same.
When you are angry, you are focused on what you do not want. Use the Power of Attention to re-focus on what you DO want.
Our emotions are powerful tools that help us navigate the landscape of our lives. The more we look at them this way, the easier it is to move through them without harm. Next time you feel angry, ask yourself: what am I thinking right now? What am I focused on?
Take ownership of your feelings and remember: no one can make you angry without your permission.