Do you typically sail along through your days, feeling content and able to take life’s challenges in stride, but all it takes is a mopey or disgruntled attitude from your life partner and you find yourself in a downward spiral? Does this happen to you when your boss or your parent or child is in a less than pleasant mood? Maybe you are caring for an aging parent or someone with a chronic illness and the prevailing mood at home is strained or unhappy. You may find yourself wishing the other person would just get over it or put on a happy face and make life easier for you and everyone else concerned.
Sometimes, it seems that life would be a lot simpler if people were more like computers. If you don’t like the program (mood) running on your boss’s internal computer, it could be uninstalled and replaced with something more to your liking. Heck, why stop there, if you’re not happy with someone’s physical appearance, if people were like computers, you could move the programs and hardware to another computer case. Oh, and if your spouse is irritable and difficult to get along with, just have their motherboard replaced.
Yes, life would be a lot more simple… or would it? What if your partner doesn’t like your programs or your physical appearance or what if your best friend wants to yank out your hard-drive and give you a new one? Thankfully, we are not computers and truthfully, I think life would be pretty boring if we were all machines.
Since people are not computers, but are individual, unique beings, it would benefit us to find ways to relate to each other that respect and acknowledge each person’s right to be who they are and show up in life the way they choose to show up. So what can you do to prevent someone else’s ill mood from ruining your day? I’m not convinced unless you want to go live in a monastery, that there is a way for us ordinary humans to totally prevent someone else’s mood from impacting us in some way, but I do believe we can minimize the effect other’s have on our inner landscape.
5 Ways to Find Serenity Now:
Everyone is entitled to their feelings. To get along better, we must accept that the other person has a right to feel the way they do, think the way they do and to behave the way they behave. It doesn’t mean we have to like the other person’s behavior and it certainly doesn’t mean we have to hang around while they have their melt-down or pity party. If you find it difficult to let the other person have their feelings without it impacting the way you feel, putting some physical distance between you might help. Go for a walk, go into another room and read a book or listen to music, take a nap or do anything else that gives you a temporary reprieve from the other person or situation.
Changing others is not possible. We do not have the power to change another person. The only person we have the power to change is ourselves. Most of us know this, but we tend to practice the opposite. People treat us the way we teach them to treat us. If you find you are always giving in to your partner’s melt-downs or silent treatment, you have taught them that is the way to manipulate you and to get their way. The next time you feel yourself giving in to bad behavior, observe how you instinctively react and pay attention to the outcome. Was there another way to handle the situation that would have been more compassionate and allowed everyone to feel respected and keep their dignity without giving in or giving up?
Real change takes place in our thoughts. For many people, it is a lot easier to point a finger at another person and blame them for our discomfort than it is to look inward at our own thoughts and beliefs. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying that when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.
The most effective way to bring about change is to change the way you see the person or the situation. The way to do that is to acknowledge what your personal thoughts and ideas are about the situation. What assumptions are you making? In most cases, we are laying our own ideas about how things should be done or what we believe to be true over the conversation or event.
For example, I recently heard a woman complaining that people had turned their backs on her, no one calls to see how she is doing. In effect, she was pointing her finger at others and making them wrong, labeling them as inconsiderate and holding them responsible for her feelings. Another way for her to look at the situation would be to say to herself, “I haven’t talked to Julie in a few weeks, I think I’ll call her up to see what is going on in her life!”. Do you feel the difference in those two completely different ways of looking at the same situation? In the first example, the woman is playing the role of a victim and giving her power away to others. In the second, she is confident and in charge of her thoughts and her actions.
Keep outside disturbances outside. Recognize that outside disturbances (someone else’s bad mood) cannot get inside and upset us, unless we make a choice to let them inside. Healthy boundaries are the answer to keeping other people’s feelings from getting inextricably intertwined with our own and confusing us. Unhealthy boundaries are rigid or non-existent. Healthy boundaries are flexible.
Healthy boundaries can be compared to a soft fabric water filter that allows clear clean water to flow through, but traps impurities and keeps them out. When we have healthy boundaries, we are present, connected and compassionate with the people in our lives, we know who we are, we are responsible for our behaviors and we allow others to be responsible for their behaviors.
People do not need to be “fixed”. It is not your job to “fix” the other person because they are not broken. Sometimes people think they are showing compassion and being helpful, when in fact they are busting through someone elses boundaries and preventing their personal growth. We’ve all done it, rushed in to do something for someone without stopping to ask what they wanted or needed. We knew what we would want and so we just assumed we knew what they wanted. Maybe we were surprised that the person we “helped” got angry at us or didn’t seem grateful for our help.
If your partner, boss, parent, child or friend is behaving in a way that you find disturbing, chances are they just need a little time to adjust their thoughts. Hovering over them, trying to fix them or the issue or badgering them to talk to you about it, will most likely bring about results that you do not want.
Ultimately, you only have control over you, so make sure you are taking good care of yourself. If you are tired, sleep. If you are hungry, eat. If you are feeling distressed and anxious, do something to relax. If you need to talk it out, find someone safe to talk to who will keep your conversation private. If there is no one you can talk to, then dump your feelings in a journal. Writing is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.
If we believe that life is supposed to always go smoothly, that we are not supposed to have trials or challenges, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration. There are no special skills needed to be happy, peaceful and content when things are going well. Real inner strength comes when we learn to be calm and grateful even in the midst of money problems, health issues and other adversities. That’s when we learn what we are truly made of and where growth happens. This is not an easy concept to grasp, but try being grateful for the people and situations that challenge you. They provide opportunities for you to practice staying calm, peaceful and content even when your surroundings are the opposite.