Choose a Different Response

I was checking voicemail yesterday and found myself in a familiar state: upset and agitated by one of the messages.  I interpreted a comment as a personal attack, and immediately went into defense mode.  I felt myself tighten up, my breath became shorter and I created a list of several people I wanted to call to complain about this person.  Now I have been down this road before.  Haven’t we all?  Sometimes we are correct, and the person is attacking us, other times we’ve misread the situation entirely. Regardless of their intention, we still get to choose how we’re going to respond.

I’ve been reading a lot of books about mindfulness lately.  Luckily, I had just started reading “Taking the Leap: Freeing ourselves from Old Habits and Fears” by Pema Chodron.  She says right in the beginning that if we stay present, we can use our “natural intelligence.”  It will always guide us to the right reaction in any situation.  But first we need to remove all the emotional baggage that is clouding our thoughts. I had to resist an impulsive reaction, and allow myself to be with everything that was present.  Even the uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.  So, I took a deep breath and sat with my feelings.  I recognized that I was triggered because of my own doubts and fears, and I remembered that in the past, gossiping and complaining did not help me feel better.  It just created drama.  I don’t like drama.

In the end, I decided to let the comment go.  This person might not have meant anything by it, and even if they did, what someone else thinks of me is not my business.  In other words, I saw that the right reaction was to not take it personally.  I have felt good about this choice, because I am not obsessing over the comment, I’m not plotting revenge, and I’m not endlessly stirring it up again by discussing it with anyone who will listen.  I honestly haven’t given it another thought.  Right now I’m almost grateful that it happened, because I learned that I can choose to respond in a different way, even when I’m upset.  This doesn’t come naturally, so I’m sure I’ll have to learn this lesson many more times.  But the ease of knowing I made the right decision seems worth the effort.

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