Are you slowly dying in your own self-made poisonous rut of upset and resentment and calling it life instead? Are you drinking the poison of continuous upset hoping the other person will change? I'm pretty sure all of us have blamed someone else for our own upset and then stewed in that poisonous brew for days on end. You have, haven't you? I know I sure have.
Last week, we spent a little time on that wonderful blame-oriented toxic voice of "I'm upset because... " The truth of the matter is that while someone else may have done something you found offensive, nonetheless, you are the one who authors your own experience of being upset. In order to become upset in the first place, you have to tell yourself something negative about the other person, the situation or what happened, and you probably had to cast it in some form of "that's not fair" or "that's not right." Of course it's not fair -- it's life. However, the longer you persist in running the negative Self-Talk mantra of "I'm upset because..." coupled with "it's not fair," the longer you wind up stewing in your own poison.
Haven't you ever noticed that someone else can experience the identical situation that you found upsetting and the other person simply let it go and moved on? If this is even remotely familiar, then you might want to ask yourself what you hope to gain by remaining upset long after the event has slipped into the past. The really crazy thing about upset and resentment is that the more often you go to that well, the more familiar it becomes. And the more familiar you become with upset and resentment, the more you may begin to equate life with being upset. Sooner or later, upset and resentment can become the new normal.
Could You Be Drinking Your Own Poison?
Perhaps you have heard this old cliché, which has been attributed to many over the years: Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Think about that one for a moment as you consider the upsets you experience in life. If you find yourself remaining upset long after the event has passed, what are you hoping to gain by stewing in your own upset?
Are you hoping to punish the other person by remaining upset? If so, how's that working for you? Especially if you're home drinking your poison while the other person is out enjoying himself? Perhaps some part of you thinks that the situation will miraculously change by your ability to remain stubbornly upset. Again, how's that working for you?
We all know the tired but true cliché: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The trouble with tired but true clichés is that we often lose track of the underlying truth because they get repeated so many times. What could be more insane than drinking your own poisonous resentment somehow hoping the other person or situation will change? Has that ever worked for you?
Turn Back to Your Source of Light
If you're tired of drinking the poison of "I'm upset because..." then what can you do instead? For now, the simple but not necessarily easy thing to do is to simply switch your object of focus. The more time you spend focusing on your shadow, or your resentment, the darker things will appear. Of course, if you're seeing your own shadow as we discussed in an earlier article, then it should be self evident that you have turned away from your source of light. If you are tired of living in your own shadow, then why not turn back toward the light source?
Finding your own light source requires that you pay more attention to your Soul-Talk than you do to your Self-Talk. As we have been pointing out these past months, your Self-Talk has likely been programmed to think in terms of deficits, of what's missing, of what's wrong. The more you focus on the shadow of deficits and what's wrong, the darker things will appear.
If you're upset because of what someone else did or said, you can begin turning back to your own light source by simply asking yourself what you would prefer to be experiencing instead. As you make that subtle little turn in place, turning away from the shadow and back toward the source of light, you may well discover at least one small step you can take that will begin moving you toward the positive experience you most prefer.
This can be tricky if you are used to blaming others for your misfortunes. The more blame-oriented you become for what befalls you, the more you may also come to believe that even your seemingly-impossible good can only arise as a function of what other people say or do. Even if you find yourself in that rut, you can still make some progress by asking yourself what small, positive experience you would prefer instead. Simply asking that question gives permission to the softer, quieter voice of your Soul-Talk to begin revealing to you the power you possess to create at least some small measure of improvement all on your own.
Early last year, I found that I was becoming upset with a client over subtle changes that were taking place in the level of work we were doing together. The changes were chipping away at the leverage points where we could make the most progress, and I began telling myself stories about the client and how little they appreciated the value they were receiving. The more I told myself these kinds of stories, the more upset I became.
In my profession, we say that we always teach the thing we most need to learn, and in one blinding stroke of the obvious, it suddenly dawned on me that I had slipped into my own shadow side of blame and resentment. I asked myself what I most wanted to experience working with the client and what the client most wanted to receive. Once I got those two clear in my head again, I simply went to the client and asked what the changes were about. As you might imagine, the client was hardly even aware that a change had taken place. From there, I was able to show the client even more about the roadmap to the positive outcomes they were seeking and the client, in turn, was better able to understand how to work with me toward that mutually-desirable goal.
We all know that Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was your history of negative Self-Talk. The miracle of your seemingly-impossible good happening now won't take place all at once either. However, by simply turning your focus that little bit, you may discover that more small, positive things will begin to appear. Of course, if you're thinking about this even a little bit, you will have to notice that most big things are made up of a whole bunch of little things. So, how about starting to put together your own collection of little things starting now?
There's another key to moving from upset to your seemingly-impossible good, which we want to explore next week: The Power of Forgiveness.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. What has been our experience with turning from upset and resentment back to your own light source? How have you cleaned up that poisonous well? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
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