Your car broke down. Your husband is late getting off work. The kids need dropped off at this event or that practice and you have no car. You’re late and it’s all your husband’s fault. The anger in you starts to build every minute that the kids are screaming to go and the car isn’t in the driveway. He FINALLY shows up. You rush out to load the kids only to get your finger jammed in the door, breaking a nail. It hurts. You’re upset. You’re late. Everything is going wrong. You start screaming at your husband as your kids cry about needing to go NOW.
If you are anything like me this happens pretty regularly. It doesn’t have to be. Peace is possible.
Let’s break it down:
First: Things happen that are outside our control that feel like they should be within our control.
The start of the spiral: We blame ourselves for it. In the example above it’s the car breaking down. You do maintenance, you take care of it, still things always seem to break at the most inopportune times.
Common wisdom says that everything breaks. Rust, corrosion, death is a fact of living in this world. So tell that judge or victim mentality in your head that no amount of planning or care stops the inevitable and that God has a plan for this time in your life. When we accept life as it is we remove our guilt about what is going on.
This was the time for the car to break down. Nothing we did or didn’t do would have changed that. It’s freeing to let go of guilt over the uncontrollable.
Tip: Take a breath and kick your judgy thoughts and victim attitude to the curb. They will only increase the negativity in the moment.
Second: The actions of others are also outside of our control. There are so many reasons why people don’t meet our expectations. It becomes bad only when we let it. If we don’t set an expectation in the first place then people can’t fail them. In this case the husband was late arriving home. Maybe work ran late or there was a traffic accident that left him in gridlock. The possibilities for not meeting the expectation of him getting home at a certain time are endless. The point is that if the mom in our story had let go of the expectation that the husband would be on time, she would not have built up the agitation and anger against him that added to the situation.
Understanding brings reflection. Reflection brings calm. When we fail to set an expectation and make the agreement to not take it personal when things don’t happen the way we want them to, life gets better. We stop judging the other side. We have empathy for them, which breeds good feelings.
Tip: Without awareness, we will never break the circuit. Awareness comes through meditation. Whatever form this takes for you, learning focus is the key to shutting this down. God does not want this in your life. He has left us guidelines for building awareness. His peace that passes understanding is within reach every day.
Third: Don’t accept outside pressure. This is easier said than done. Kids scream because they’ve been pressured by their teacher or coach to be on time. You then take that negative energy and transplant it onto the “late” husband by screaming, punishing him for your kids punishing you because they are going to be punished. It’s a nasty circle, full of self judgment and screaming. The only way to stop it is to break the chain. Be a light switch. Energy (good or bad) can only travel on a completed circuit. When a light switch is in the off position there is a break in the circuit. When the light switch is in the on position the circuit is complete. Energy is traveling, which is visible because the light comes on. By seeing ourselves as light switches we can choose when to be emotionally “on” and when to be “off”. But to do that we need to have awareness of both the emotion traveling on the circuit and the ability to say yes or no to the agreement behind the emotion breaking or connecting the circuit.
Tip: Just like in meditation, focus on the breath. Don’t stop trying because you get off track. The judge in your head is NOT from God. It might actually be stopping you from living in the peace and understanding that God promised us. Instead of letting the judge have a foothold, stop and refocus. The past is the past, even if it was two seconds ago. Do not get sucked into guilt. It only heightens the negative emotions. Now is what matters. If you break the cycle now, it is broken. The light is off. That’s what matters. The more you focus on the now, the more your past will reflect the right and wrong times to have the light on.
Fourth: Figure out the overarching agreement and evaluate it. Behind all of the pain and suffering is a core agreement. In this case, it is the agreement that “you need to be on time.” For the husband it is enforced by the wife’s yelling. For the mom, it’s enforced by her kids screaming. For the kids, it’s enforced by extra work from their teacher or coach. If the time restriction on the father to get home, the mother to get her kids to their event, and the kids for getting to the event were lifted no one would have gotten upset. All of this would have been peaceful, loving, and yelling free.
Tip: The problem with releasing this agreement is that it’s not just between the members of this family. It’s between the family and their community. If anyone of them breaks this agreement they will be judged by someone outside the family, such as the coach or teacher.
That’s the cost of breaking agreements, allowing others the freedom to judge you. Knowing that their judgment can only hurt if we let it is power. We give them the authority to inflict punishment or reward. Ask yourself, is continuing this cycle of negativity worth it?
For me and my home it is not. We are working to let go of the “don’t be late” agreement. “Punishments or Rewards” will happen no matter what we choose to do. Allowing things outside ourselves to dictate our love isn’t a solution. Much like the car breaking down, the actions of others just are. They will happen when they happen, regardless of anything on our parts. So don’t let them control you.
Remember, we are on a journey. This is not about the destination of removing all negativity from our lives. The judge and victim will always be with us. There is this phrase that everyone has a good and bad wolf inside them, battling for control in our lives. We want to know which one will win. As the saying goes, it’s the one that we feed. I’d like to add that a starved animal is a dangerous animal. The more starved a part of ourselves is, the more desperate it becomes. The more likely it will attack at the most inopportune times. Better to create peace between the animals and keep both well fed than to allow desperation into your life.
Thought for your day:
Let me learn to love all of myself as You love me. Good or evil. I am me and you love me as I am. Only Your judgment matters. Not the judgment of others. Not the judgment in my head. You are my judge and I will seek You first.
May joy over follow your emotions as you move forward in your journey today.