6 Ways to deal with other people’s “Big Feelings” by Mheyah Bailey
I ran out of compassion, curiousity and courage the other day. All the important relationship principles were here in my heart and head, and then in a flash they were gone and I mean gone.
I am again reminded of how hard it is to stay grounded when someone else is yelling, upset and angry. I think I should qualify that. Anyone can yell and it doesn’t affect me, however if someone I love and care about yells and is upset, that is a completely different story.
I have a tendency to fall into complete trauma when anyone yells at me and appears to be angry with me. I interpret angry loud communication, which in our family we call Big Feelings, as very threatening to the relationship, could possible mean the relationship is over, I have been bad in some way and I am not loved. It hits me in my most vulnerable place of fear of losing love, not being good enough or not being loveable.
That is my old story and sometimes my history really jumps up and bites me, as my brain seems to have a mind of it’s own and just goes off into this weird place of threat and fear. I felt blindsided by my vulnerable self and couldn’t hang onto my adult, mature self. Counselors are human after all.
Well the truth is that our brains actually do that. If anyone has been the recipient of trauma or abuse then the trauma is most likely hardwired into the brain. That is essentially what PTSD is and sometimes when I am surprised by what I perceive as an attack I melt down just like I would have as a child in the face of abandonment and rejection.
I know in my logical brain that isn’t true but in the heat of the moment I have to talk my way into a calmer more rational place. So how does one self soothe during relationship conflict, stress, trauma or drama? I believe it is much the same for a lot of people and is how arguments start because both parties feel they must defend themselves from attack. The trick is to self soothe so you don’t fall into defensiveness and attack back.
It is particularly damaging to live with negative emotions such as contempt, judgment and anger and is up to both parties to learn to be responsible for their reactions and responses.
This article however is for you, while dealing with an upset person.
Here are 6 actions you can do to help yourself when someone else is really upset.
- Cry and run away. Just kidding, that was my 6 year old talking
- Set a Boundary and take a time out- hold up the hand and say I need time out and I will talk to you when you stop raising your voice and I feel calm.
No one deserves to be yelled at and you don’t need to take responsibility for someone else’s feelings. It is their responsibility to learn to share their feelings in a positive and healthy way. Your part is to set a boundary about what kind of treatment you will accept. The person with the Big Feelings is most likely not able to soothe themselves yet, so it is up to you to create the space for everyone to return to calm. It doesn’t mean the issue has gone away, it just means both parties can return to the conversation and find resolution. A time out is essential so that you have the time to self soothe, calm down, become conscious of your own feelings, needs and values and return to a place of commitment, curiousity, compassion and courage. Remind yourself ‘I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings’
- Don’t take it personally As you are taking your time out remember and repeat ‘this isn’t about me’ ‘this isn’t about me’ ‘this isn’t about me’
Someone who is upset, angry and expressing themselves loudly is most likely feeling hurt, in pain and feeling threatened in some way themselves, so it is vital to not make up any stories about what it all means and remember that it says more about them than it does about you and repeat ‘I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings’
nothing anyone says or does means anything about you
- Breathe deeply, concentrate on breathing from your stomach and as the old saying goes count to 10 or maybe even 100. We forget to breath and when we are faced with conflict, stress or trauma we start to breath very shallow which deprives the brain and organs of much need oxygen. If you notice you are breathing in your upper chest, stand against a wall and breath through your lower abdomen. It will increase oxygen and automatically relieve stress and repeat ‘I am not responsible for someone else’s feelings’
- See a counselor or coach to work through your brain wiring, communication skills, boundary setting and other roadblocks to contentment and successful relationships.
Some counselors and coaches including myself offer crisis management if you need to connect with someone for support either through email or phone calls. I have found it can be very beneficial to support my clients through conflict in the moment rather than wait until the event is over. It can help uncover those hidden core tapes that are usually the cause of our reactions.
There are many techniques to achieve calm in the face of stress through meditation, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitizing Reprocessing) hypnosis, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) just to name a few and repeat ‘ I am not responsible for some else’s feelings’
- Meditate for 10 to 30 minutes. There are many options out there for meditating and is probably the most valuable tool for soothing oneself and changing the state of your brain from stress to calm. There are abundant resources for guided meditations or meditating on your own. Either way meditating is the best solution for taking a step back, self soothe and reminding yourself ‘you are not responsible for anyone else’s feelings’
- Remind yourself what you are responsible for. You are only responsible to stay responsibly connected. What does that mean? Well I can tell you what it doesn’t mean first. It doesn’t mean, that you accept abuse, disrespect, contempt, judgment, accusations, blame, criticism, name calling etc.
What it does mean is that you recognize and can discern that someone is just upset and lost their ‘stuff’ You know that you trust them and yourself to remain in the relationship until it is resolved, that you are responsible for your own reactions, responses and feelings and have learned communication skills that creates connection rather than disconnection and that you really, really get, that your are not responsible for some else’s feelings but you are responsible for responding with awareness of yourself, compassion, curiousity, love, courage and are committed to collaborating to resolve the issue.
Love Mheyah ♥
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