I can’t control other people. I know that’s true, but sometimes it seems they can control me! My mood changes if someone is rude to me, or I witness a person doing something mean. Their behavior triggers a thought cascade in my mind, and if I don’t watch it, I will end up angry or sad or irritable. It’s like magic! But, the other person didn’t cause my mood, my reaction to that person did.
I know plenty of techniques to bring myself back around. I start by reminding myself not to take it personally. Sometimes that’s enough. Other times, I need to dig deeper. Then I have to work on letting go of how I think things should be, which includes all the thoughts of how unfair this other person’s behavior is, and how I wish they would treat me differently. This often clues me into the fact that I’m fighting what is happening, rather than accepting and responding to this moment. When I let go and accept it, the right response to the person and situation usually presents itself.
Sometimes none of that works, and I’m still replaying a scenario in my head. Then I try to invoke a sense of compassion toward the person. Stay with me here, I know that’s often the last thing we feel about someone who has hurt or upset us! But if I can recognize that person as another human being, who, like me, is just doing the very best they can with what they have been handed in life, I can start to let go of some of my anger and upset. At the very least, I may find a different perspective. I’ll give you an example. I went to the pharmacy this weekend to get a prescription for a family member. I ended up in line behind an elderly man. As he started to speak to the pharmacist, I realized two things. One, that this man was an angry bully, and two, that his issue was not going to be resolved quickly. I was frustrated because I wanted to get my prescription filled so my family member could start it right away, and this was not what I wanted to happen! I realized that I had a choice, and decided to go to another pharmacy. But not without being angry about it!
As I continued about my day, I kept returning to the man at the pharmacy, thinking all kinds of nasty thoughts about him and how mean he was to the pharmacist. My stomach kept churning and I was distracted and irritable. My other techniques weren’t calming me. Finally, I stopped myself. I literally said “Stop it!” I took a deep breath and really thought about this man. He was elderly. He was alone. He was ill. I breathed into my heart and was able to feel compassion toward him. I am not saying he is allowed to bully people because he’s had a hard life, but I can recognize his struggles and know fully, once and for all, that his behavior is not about me. Or the pharmacist either, for that matter. I let him go, and my mood lifted. Just like magic.