We saw a great bumper sticker recently:
How people treat you is their karma, how you respond is yours.
When something happens to us, particularly if it is something that is challenging or hurtful, it’s tempting to spend a great deal of our time and energy responding to it, over and over and over again in our thoughts and in our emotions. This bumper sticker is a helpful reminder that we cannot control what others do, say, or think but we can control how we react.
Often, when we talk with clients about how their power lies in paying attention to how they react, they will say that they can’t help how they react because it was out of their control. In that comment, what they are actually describing is how they feel when something happens or when someone does something. And, it’s true. Often before we know it, we feel what we feel. But how we feel does not have to dictate how we react.
When we talk about feelings, we are talking about the emotions that are often summarized as glad, mad, sad and scared – and all the variations on those themes. Many times you will hear someone say, “I feel like you did that on purpose.” That is not a feeling. That’s a thought. And, if we feel hurt over and over again by someone and we see that they don’t seem to care then it is logical to believe they did it on purpose but it is a thought.
Whenever there is a “feel like” in the sentence we’ve moved from feelings to thoughts and that’s important to remember because our feelings are, in many ways, data. They inform us of how we are reacting to something that has happened to us. Using that information, we can then decide how to respond.
When we feel “glad” or some version of happiness and delight, it is often data that we want to move toward whomever or whatever we are responding to.
When we feel “mad” or some version of anger or irritation, it is often data that whatever is going on isn’t working for us.
When we feel “sad” or some version of blue or depressed, it is often data that we are dealing with something that is challenging and hard and we may need support.
When we feel “scared” or some version of anxiety or fear, it is often data that we need to assess our safety and security.
Using the “data” of your feelings can help you respond to your feelings and your world in ways that are more effective and leave you with a greater sense of pride.