Who Are You Really Mad At?
Read this article by Peter Bregman early this morning and I wish I read it when I was much younger. Being aware of this would have helped me become a much better person for the people I’m in relationship with.
The article starts off:
“A man and two children, a boy about nine and a girl about seven, were walking ahead of me in silence. The boy looked up and said something to his father. Whatever he said set off his father who started yelling at the boy. I could see the boy’s pain as his father’s words hit him. It was heartbreaking.
What happened next took me by surprise, but shouldn’t have: As soon as his father stopped yelling at him, the boy turned to his little sister and hit her.
As I thought about that boy, I realized how often I — and so many people I know — do a version of the same thing. We say or do something to someone when, really, it’s meant for someone else.“
That sounded like me. I take out on others the pain others have caused me. I may think I’m more mature, but in this area, I’m a 4-year old.
The author admits to his own immaturity:
“It’s hard to see that kind of behavior in yourself. At first, I didn’t notice anything. But I kept looking. I even spent a couple of days trying to talk less, just noticing my urge to talk and then examining where the urge came from. Was I speaking to the right person?
A pattern began to emerge, one I’m embarrassed about but that became hard to ignore: I do and say things specifically to impress people, even people I don’t know.
Put aside for a moment that trying to impress someone is highly unimpressive. Why do I do it? Do I really care what complete strangers think of me? Who am I truly trying to impress?
As I tossed that thought around for a while, one person kept coming to mind: my mother.
As a kid, like most kids, I wanted to please her. But we grow out of that as we become adults, right?
Apparently not me. I try to show people that I’m succeeding — even by bragging or showing off — because, somewhere in the complicated recesses of my mind, I believe it will deepen my mother’s love for me. In other words, I try to get other people to notice the things that are important to my mother.
It’s crazy, I know. But so is hitting your sister because you’re angry at your father. It might be crazy but it’s what we do.”
Now it really started to sound like me, not just because of the anger, but of the pattern of wanting to achieve because of a lifelong desire to honor my parents, which isn’t a bad thing, but respect can lead to being trapped by another person’s expectations when taken too far.
The point is, many of our reactions come from far deeper than just that moment’s trigger. If we are in a situation that is triggering us, we need to start disciplining our mind to take control of our thoughts and actions. We need to recognize what’s happening, and not just react – no matter how justified our reason seems.
On the other side, if we are on the receiving end of someone’s reactions, we, again, need to discipline our mind to take control of our thoughts and actions, and not react back, but respond appropriately, which means responding in a manner that saves the relationship.
You can read the full article here. I highly recommend it.