In a previous blog, I wrote about how asking myself the question, “What am I afraid of?” can be useful to diffuse feelings of anger. This was the beginning of my journey to discover the value of asking myself questions in a range of emotionally challenging situations.
Here’s a quick summary of the situations and ‘angry’ questions covered last time.
- When I’m angry- “What I am afraid of?”
- When I feel angry and it isn’t fear- “What emotion is this anger being proxy for?”
- When my feeling of anger is actually anger- “What is the actual thing I am angry about?”
I have found value in asking myself questions in other emotionally charged situations. Here are some examples.
If I feel wronged
When I feel wronged or hurt by another person, I ask myself: “What could that person have done differently?” This question has the effect of putting me in the other person’s shoes and that is never a bad thing. It surprises me how many times my answer to this question is “nothing”. Often, any other options may have been no better. If I can’t come up with an alternative, how could I expect the other person to do so? Hurt feelings can easily happen in close relationships. There is a lot at stake and angry reactions are damaging.
Sometimes, I can readily identify what (I think) they should have done differently! Having an ‘answer’ allows me to be constructive and give them options. They may have acted in haste without thinking about the effect on me. It may be outside their natural personality. However, they are less likely to empathise and ‘hear me’ if I am being angry and accusing; they are more likely to be receptive to my suggestion for ‘next time’ if I offer it in calmness and love.
Sometimes, I discover that the hurt or injustice has arisen purely from circumstance, rather than the other person’s action. This answer to my question redirects the blame away from that person. Rather than lashing out, “How could you do that to me?” I can either accept that sometimes bad stuff happens or, if it’s within my power, I can take action to avoid or prevent a similar circumstance in the future.
If I’m feeling off
If I’m feeling irritable and out of sorts with the world and everyone around me, I can ask: “What can I do today that will make me happy?” This isn’t a selfish question. Joy refreshes the soul. Make a list of things you enjoy doing and pick one. It can be something quite simple and inexpensive, like reading a book, playing a game of cards (or scrabble), or walking with a friend. The first time I tried to make a list, I could not think of one single thing I could do that would make me happy. That was very sad! But I persevered, and gradually my list began and grew. I intentionally set about doing things that make me happy, and it made a huge difference to myself and those around me. The world looks much better when your spirits are lifted.
A good question for every day is: “What am I grateful for today?” This is an ‘oldie but a goodie’. Being grateful turns our focus away from our immediate problems, and we see how much good there is in our lives. It is well documented that gratefulness has many other benefits as well. And if I let people know when I am grateful for them and what they do, it will lift their day as well as mine.
Asking these questions has been empowering for me because it allows me to deal with the real issues, instead of directing my emotions towards a person or a circumstance that is not actually the problem, but just a trigger. Hopefully, you will find value in asking yourself questions too.
Lexia Smallwood MOPS Office Coordinator