You’re in complete control of how you feel. Whether you recognize it or not, you choose how you react. While at times it may feel like a knee jerk response, and more often than not we describe it as such, the truth is that you’re always at choice when it comes to responding to stimuli. You just don’t recognize it at this point because you’ve created subconscious reactions to certain situations, thus perceiving them as automatic reflexes. 

All too often, especially when we’re experiencing a negative emotion, we place blame on whomever or whatever else is involved. Just in the last three days I’ve caught several situations:

  • Watching my guilty pleasure reality show, one of the characters commented, “…you make me feel so insecure…”
  • When having a heated discussion with my 9-year-old son about being more efficient with his morning routine, “ugggghhh! You make me so angry!”
  • Standing behind a mother in the checkout lane telling her daughter, “you’re frustrating me to no end.”

I’m sure if I did a deeper scan, I could find several more examples. The point is all 3 of us placed our emotions in the hands of someone else. As if to say, how dare you?! You’re the reason I can’t get myself together. You’re the reason I’m feeling so down on myself. When really, the emotion experienced, is a much deeper rooted challenge that’s surfaced because of the current situation. Simply put, we all experienced a trigger and because we’ve chosen to react similarly with parallel situations in the past, we displayed our go-to response. Plus, it’s MUCH easier to place blame on an outside source, than to put the mirror in front of our own faces and explore what’s REALLY going on.

Here’s a classic example we can all relate to. How often have you opened an email and immediately screamed expletives at your computer? (Raise your hands a bit higher. I can’t see everyone in the back). 

You cursed the sender, imagining a slow and painful death for taking the time to write you about whatever nonsense, thus sending you into a spiral. It triggered something and now you’re in a funk because your coworker (or boss) had the audacity to piss you off. Newsflash: it’s not the email, it’s not the person, it’s not the topic. It’s you. 

Let’s take my son for example. Every time he dawdles I lose my mind. Why? Because his process challenges some of the values I hold dear, specifically when it comes to the morning routine: efficiency, respect, accountability, and responsibility. 

  • He chooses to tinker with toys in between essential activities like getting dressed and brushing his teeth – efficiency is challenged.
  • We’ve had the same conversation about using his time wisely for the last 4 years – respect is challenged because I perceive him refusing to listen to consistent instruction.
  • He often tells me he doesn’t pack his snack or lunch because he expects me to do it – accountability and responsibility are challenged because we’ve multiple conversations about him taking on more of his own activities.

I didn’t need to choose anger at that moment. In fact, I didn’t even want to choose anger at that moment. But because I’ve reacted with anger so many times before when I perceived time is wasted and disrespect from my boys, I went right to my subconscious. The moment it came out of my mouth I mentally kicked myself, and readjusted my approach with one pivotal question smack dab in that moment:

What’s really making me angry right now? 

So, when you receive “that” email or when “that” comment is made in a meeting, intentionally pause and ask yourself what’s really going on. The simple act of removing yourself from the spiral helps you see it for what it really is. Maybe it’s a value being challenged. Maybe it sparked a deep rooted insecurity that you’re struggling to overcome. Maybe you’re still pissed from an argument you already had with someone completely unrelated that was tied to another challenged value. No matter what it is, you absolutely have the power and fortitude to overcome it, you just have to be willing to ask or be asked the hard questions. It will absolutely take time to get there, (uhh hello! I’ve been working on this for a year and I’m still a work in progress) but you’re unlimited in what you can do. Believe in your ability to make it happen.

Lauren is a certified professional leadership development mentor and coach dedicated to radically shifting workplace cultures by empowering the next generation of leaders through self awareness around how they show up and harnessing their energy to lift [others] as they climb. She works with young professionals and emerging leaders whose professional ambitions include leading others and who are in the process of figuring out the most effective way to bring their definition of leadership to life to positively influence themselves, their teams, and their overall workplace environment. She fosters an open and engaging relationship to fully explore what’s going well as well as what’s holding young leaders back from stepping into their full potential. Want support in stopping your spiral? Reach out!, LI and FB: Unlimited Leader, LLC; IG: @mrslaurenammon