07/30/2012 08:36 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2012

Soul-Talk: I'm Upset Because...

How many times have you been the target of someone else's upset? Have you ever had someone get right in your face, unloosing a tirade of your faults, proceeded by the all-too-familiar "I'm upset because"? How about the other way around? Do you ever find yourself blaming someone else for your upset, launching into your own litany of blame and wrongdoing?

Blaming others for being upset seems about as normal as the sun coming up in the morning. However, if you are willing to look, and to look deeply, you just might find that upset carries with it a blessing, a signpost pointing toward your next life lessons of self-improvement.

If you find yourself becoming upset just reading this, please bear with me. I know this is tricky, and there are certainly any number of reasons we can choose to be upset with someone else or their behavior. However, it is your Self-Talk that spins things into righteous indignation and upset, while it is your Soul-Talk that would have you learn the lessons from your upset and return to your own inner peace.

How to Find the Blessing in the Upset

Have you ever found yourself focused on the other person's behavior without giving much thought to the fact that you're the one who is experiencing upset? Look a little deeper and you may discover that you're the one producing the upset in the first place -- you may not have created the event you find upsetting, but surely you are the one who chooses upset as your response. In fact, I'll bet you have stayed upset long after the other person left the scene. If you have let your upset take charge, then surely you have experienced the fact that upset rarely changes anything other than to add more upset to the equation.

If you would like to experience less upset in your life and move into greater effectiveness, then you might need to learn how to use your upset as a signpost pointing toward greater self-awareness. The real question has less to do with what the other person did or did not do and more to do with how you chose to respond to it. In fact, I'll bet you have been pretty much blown away on occasion when someone has leveled their "upset laser" at you, blasting away at their perceptions of your limitations. Not blown away because of how accurate the blast, but blown away because whatever you were accused of doing or being had no relationship to what you intended or perhaps even did.

Make no mistake -- I find myself upset from time to time and more frequently than I would prefer. However, I'm learning that while there may be behaviors, actions and ways of being that I dislike, I don't have to go into upset to do anything about it. My experience suggests that entering into upset only adds more negativity to the already-challenging situation. One of the things I tend to get upset about has to do with my perceptions of how other people should treat me. Chief amongst those unspoken demands is that I should be appreciated for both my good works and good intentions. Recently, someone I care about summarily dismissed both my good intentions and my good works without so much as an acknowledgment of my efforts on their behalf. The dismissal took the form of their upset being leveled at me with phasers set at stun level.

I was still upset when I sat down with a good friend to process what had taken place several hours later. As we talked, it became increasingly clear that I was upset not because of what she did or said, but because it pointed out to me several life issues I am still learning. Chief amongst those lessons is the simple fact that if I don't appreciate me, if I don't acknowledge me, I won't experience much appreciation even if someone else has it to offer.

As this was circling inside my mind and emotions, my Soul-Talk began to wedge itself into the conversation, reminding me that I rarely appreciate, recognize or claim the good works that I do in the world. In fact, I often go the other way, denying that I did much, etc. My friend pointed out the difference between being humble and denying contribution: I had been living in a state of "humble" denial, hoping someone else would offer the approval I wanted but would not give to myself, and then getting upset when people failed to acknowledge what I was busy denying. Perfect, huh?

I'm doing my best to listen to that quieter voice of my soul, seeking to elevate my experience of life. Here are two powerful lessons from Loyalty to Your Soul, a fantastic book by Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick, that I'm working with every day:

• If someone else triggers an upset, there is an unresolved issue inside of you.
• You create your future by how you respond to your experiences now.

Resolving the unresolved and taking ownership for my own reactions is quite liberating, at least for me. How about you? What experience do you have with taking ownership for your own upset? What are the life lessons hiding in plain sight, disguised by "I'm upset because" type of thinking?

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 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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