I believe we have more power to take charge than we realize. For example, say I have a huge headache and it feels like I can’t do anything else but curl up and moan. When this happens, I apply an old trick my dentist told me years ago when I was still in grammar school. I had a cavity and he was drilling away on my sore tooth, and the tears began leaking down my cheeks.
He stopped the drill, wiped my tears away and said, “You know, I have a secret I’ll share with you about feeling pain.” Immediately I was interested–I had already read every Nancy Drew book there was, and loved them all; especially the ones involving secrets! He told me that if I told myself over and over again in my head “this is as bad as the pain will ever get; it won’t hurt any more than this, and I can handle this.” He asked me to try it out as he finished up on my tooth.
Well, son of a gun–it worked! Mind you, it wasn’t a lot of fun having my tooth drilled, but before I knew it, he was packing it and the drilling was done–and no more tears! I didn’t realize at that time how much I would use that same trick later on in life.
Years later when I was a karate student testing for my black belt, I had made it successfully through everything; the final test was sparring. Each black belt took a turn with me, and they didn’t make it easy, either. It felt like I fought for hours, but it was only minutes. I was so far beyond exhausted I wasn’t sure if I could even keep standing, never mind fight. So I said to myself over and over again, “I can do this–I have enough energy to get me through this, and I’m going to WIN.” And I did! I walked out of the dojo that evening wearing a brand new black belt, tired beyond belief but happy and proud.
This same principal is just as applicable in my life now as it was then. These are some of the situations I’ve learned to deal with rather than blowing up, swearing, shaking my fists and basically tilting at every windmill in my way:
- Unexpected traffic jam and I’m already late to <insert whatever here>? I can’t control it nor can I make things move any faster. So I take out my trusty harmonica I keep in the car, and play. Or I listen to books on CDs. Or I simply tell myself, ‘maybe if I’d been ahead of this jam I would have gotten into a terrible accident, so I am right where I should be.’ Or just ‘this, too, shall pass,’ and start singing or whistling.
- I’m on the phone with a customer service rep to get some help, and they put me on hold several times, and/or hang up on me. Well, I’ve been a customer service phone rep, and these things happen. I let any frustration I have fade out, and just call back later. How do I know that this person might have just a loved one, suffered a terrible illness, etc.? We just don’t know, so I try to give the benefit of the doubt.
- I’m standing in line at the grocery store; it’s hot, I’m tired, and I just want to get home. Suddenly someone’s kid has a meltdown nearby, and her earsplitting screams make me want to plug my ears with the spinach leaves I’m about to pay for. But here’s the thing: at this time of day, everyone’s hot, tired and just wants to get home, including that kid. She is only expressing what the rest of us wish to express! Just the thought of all of us throwing ourselves on the floor, kicking and screaming make me want to laugh my head off.
- Someone in traffic not only cuts me off, causing me to stand on the brakes and pray that no one rear-ends me, and then they flip me off like I’m the idiot! I allow myself three “dumb asses” aloud, and thank God nothing worse happened. (Please note: in order to clear my head, I had to put the “dumb asses” before the thanking God part.)
…and those are just a few examples. I’m no saint, but I have slowly and painfully learned over the years that getting mad at people only makes me feel worse and doesn’t affect them in the least. Good grief, if I let myself get rip-roaring mad at everything that makes me angry, that’s all I would ever be–mad all the time!
Fact 1: I can’t change how others behave. Fact 2: I CAN change how I react to others. Plus I can talk myself down; “It’s ok, I’m ok, everything’s ok, calm down.” It works!
Please realize how important you are to your family, friends, co-workers, and those around you who look forward to seeing you each day. You are the one and only you, and you DO have the power over your emotions and reactions. *Getting angry over every little thing and acting out when you are furious with someone is just about as effective as drinking poison, and hoping that the person you’re mad at will die.
But there it is, we are human and fallible and by our very natures we are going to screw up and lose it from time to time. Remember, we are all works in progress.
*Lest you think I am some kind of saint and never get mad–well, WRONG-O! I have done my share of throwing things, breaking things, yelling and screaming, shaking my fists and flipping people off. Sometimes I STILL do it! I’m not proud of it, but that’s my life-long imperfections showing. Like opinions, we’ve all got ’em!