I was sitting in a session with a client on Friday morning, in the church library I borrow every third Friday of the month. Things were going well. I felt dialed in on what my client was saying, we were exploring things, the session was meaningful. About ten minutes before we were finished, I see a head pop up through the door’s frosted windowpane and saw the doorknob turn. An ancient-looking woman opened the door and I said, “Hi! We’re in the middle of a meeting, would it be possible for you wait ten minutes until we’re finished?”
As you might guess, the woman replied that she couldn’t wait, she needed to return a book, and it would only take a minute. I offered to take the book from her, and she begrudgingly handed it over, saying that it went on a specific table. So I placed it on the table and said something like, “Alright then,” and sat down.
Apparently I don’t know how to place books on tables. The woman marched across the room, picked up the book, and forcefully placed it twelve inches (TWELVE INCHES!) from where I had laid it, but it was standing up. You might be thinking that it was at this point that I wanted to hurt the woman, but I was stupefied that she had the gumption to care so much about how a book was placed. Again I said, “Alright then?”
The woman began to leave the room and said “I’m sorry to interrupt your meeting.”
THIS is when I felt the strong urge to hurt her. We’re not talking a fleeting thought. I was so pissed my face got hot as every ounce of self-control I could muster held me to the chair so I wouldn’t tackle her. When the woman shut the door, I looked at my client and said, “She’s not sorry she interrupted our meeting,” with ire dripping like molasses from every word. My client shrugged and replied that it was the polite thing to say. I grimaced and said it didn’t matter if it was polite, it was wholeheartedly untrue. Then I took a deep breath, and we continued our session.
Almost immediately I started to be curious about my reaction. I’ve sat with this noticing for five days and am still quite amazed. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten that angry about something. I didn’t act on my anger, but I felt it burning white hot. I’m surprised the chair I was sitting in didn’t catch fire I was so irate. I noticed the absolute fury that I had at this woman because she said something that was so transparently false. And then I was able to release it so that my client and I could finish our session.
One of the things noticing provides is a bit of distance so we don’t cling to the emotion or thought. We observe the feeling, thought, or sensation with a detached reverence, knowing it’s part of us but not what defines us. Noticing and observing provide the separation we need to not get tangled up in the heat of the moment. It offers the opportunity to take a deep breath and make an intentional choice about how we want to conduct ourselves and be present in the world.
This skill is incredibly valuable in today’s climate where we have so many things vying to make us have strong emotional reactions (political ads and headlines come to mind…). We need to be present to ourselves so we can make conscious choices about our lives. Your challenge for the week is
1. To notice when something fires you up. What are you feeling? Do you feel attached like action is needed or desired? How is this feeling manifesting in your mind and body?
2. To intentionally let it go. Whether with a deep breath, a shake-it-off dance move, or a sigh, get rid of the emotion and refocus on something else.
Good luck and stay curious friends!
PS- Make sure you send us an email with what you’ve noticed, we love to hear from you!