01/30/2012 07:32 am ET Updated Mar 31, 2012

Soul-Talk: What Can You Do With All That Upset?

How much upset have you experienced in your life so far? How much more upset would you like to endure going forward? Bizarre questions, perhaps, and yet if you are willing to dig into them a bit, you might be able to dig out from under all that hurt and upset in your life.

Undoubtedly, you have experienced all manner of upsets in your life, some that came seemingly out of nowhere, and some that have been of your own making. It's this last statement that some will find even more upsetting, while others will find it liberating. If it's upset you seek, you need read no further, for upset has already been won. As much as you may find it apparently useful to blame me or someone else for your upset, the truth of the matter is that you are the one who authors your own upset.

From Upset to Liberation

If you're not already completely pissed off, let's dig into this notion of how you author your own upset and see if you can discover some keys to your own liberation.

If you're already pissed off, did you start your day off that way before you even began reading this article? Is pissed off your basic stance in life? If so, I actually do understand -- I've spent much of my life angry and upset, blaming circumstances and other people for the things I didn't like in life. Truth be told, there's lots to be pissed off about out there. The only problem with living life through pissed-off eyes is that the only thing you win by remaining upset is the opportunity to be even more upset. Perhaps you've noticed.

If you really want to experience what this is like, just bring to mind something that really pisses you off about another person. Simply dwell on that behavior, attitude or way of being of the other person for a moment and see if you just don't wind up being even more pissed off than you were even five minutes ago. If you're "successful" at getting even more upset, then you may have noticed that the only person who got you upset right now is your own self. Sure, you can blame me for bringing up the subject in the first place, and if that makes you any happier, go right ahead and blame me.

However, blaming me, or anyone else for that matter, is beyond a slippery slope. The more you focus on your object of blame, the more upset you are likely to find yourself. Let's be clear, here: Take a look around wherever you happen to find yourself right now. Am I there? Is the other person there? I didn't think so. The one person who is present, however, is you.

Actually, there are at least two of you present -- your Self-Talk and your Soul-Talk. Your Self-Talk is the one that will keep bringing up even more reasons for you to be upset, and the more reasons you give yourself, the more upset you will become. If you have been following this series on moving from Self-Talk to Soul-Talk, then you will recognize that your Self-Talk is primarily negative and builds on limiting self-images you most likely learned growing up.

The more riled up you manage to get, the more power you are handing over to your Self-Talk. Talk about a vicious circle! What makes this circle ever more vicious is that you can literally turn a mole hill into a mountain by what you tell yourself and wind up actually believing that the other person did this to you.

One Self-Talk limitation most of us learned in massive doses is "I'm upset because..." and then you get to fill in the blank. "I'm upset because..." is a master stroke in blame, a true key in how to live a life filled with hurt and upset.

I doubt seriously that any of you spent late night hours recently plotting for your next upset, or planning your next set of hurt feelings. However, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that at least some of you reading this article did spend some serious time reviewing how upset you are with your boss, husband, wife, kids, next door neighbor, politician or any other object of your upset. If you have, then surely you must recognize that the more time you dwell on what the other person did or said, what they didn't do or didn't say, the more upset you can become.

If you can recognize this simple little fact, then perhaps you can at least own something along the following lines: The more time you spend dwelling on your upset, the more upset you become. "So what?" you might ask. Well, there's a really big "so what" here: Even if the other person did do something unkind, mean-spirited or downright nasty, you're the one adding insult to your own injury. Long after the other person has left, you're the one who insists on dwelling in the negative feelings. You're the one who is adding to your own upset.

Was It Me or Someone Else?

Toward the middle of 2011, I lost one of my key clients, which had a material impact on my work and income. The reason they gave for not continuing turned out to be the very reason they hired me in the first place! The company was trying to grow its book of business and in order to do so needed to add some capability not already in place. Just as we were starting to make some progress in building that capability, the CEO turned his attention to another of his "bright, shiny objects," a patter of distraction that had put the company in the predicament for which I was hired in the first place.

At first, I was thoroughly upset, running the scenario over and over again in my mind, reminding myself how completely stupid this decision was. As I was stewed in my own juices, lamenting the turn of events, one of my mentors and coaches asked me, "When are you going to stop being surprised?" When I asked what the heck she was talking about, she reminded me that I had not been all that thrilled with the direction of this client work in the first place. She then asked me to consider what my Soul-Talk might prefer. I wound up recognizing a deeper level of working with people that I truly wanted but had not been willing to risk going for. From there, I was able to let go of my true source of upset (undermining my own self), and began focusing on that more deeply satisfying and meaningful work.

What makes this all the more interesting is that as I began to take positive steps toward aligning my actions with my "seemingly-impossible good," the very client that had dropped me, came back asking if we could re-engage the conversation but at a deeper level.

That's where true positive thinking comes into play: Once you choose a positive experience that you would like to experience more of, you can then ask of yourself, "What can I do, right now, to begin bringing that 'seemingly-impossible good' into my life?" As I mentioned last week, you probably won't go from zero to hero in one simple miraculous step, but you may put yourself on the path and wind up discovering a whole series of micro steps that will begin leading you into the improved experience of life you truly seek.

How have you let your own upset interfere with your "seemingly-impossible good?" How have you been able to turn things around and begin making at least some positive progress?

I'd love to hear from you. What has been our experience with taking this kind of approach to your life? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)

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.

You can buy "Workarounds That Work" here.

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 You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)

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