Tiffany consulted with me because she was unable to control her anger. Anytime someone told her what to do - someone she was in a close relationship with like her mother, her husband, or her best friend - she would instantly respond with anger. She was struggling with serious marital problems when she first consulted with me.
"Tiffany, what happens inside when someone tells you what to do?"
"I immediately feel trapped, like I'm being put into a cage."
"What are you telling yourself that makes you feel so trapped?
"That I have to do what they are telling me to do, even if I don't want to do it."
"And why do you believe that you have to do it? What are you afraid will happen if you don't do it?"
"They will go away."
"And then what?"
"I won't be okay."
"So you are telling yourself that you have to do what they want, or they will go away, and you will not be okay. Is this really true that you won't be okay? Are you certain that you won't be okay?"
She saw that as an adult this was no longer true, but that she was acting as if it was.
"If you operate from knowing that you will be okay if someone leaves, how does that make a difference if someone tells you what to do?"
"Well, then I can see that I'm no longer trapped. I can say yes or no rather than having to say yes to control how they feel about me. I think that if I didn't feel trapped due to my fear of their leaving, I wouldn't feel angry."
"So, what has been trapping you and putting you in a cage is not their demand, but your belief that they will go away if you say no and then you will not be okay. You are the one limiting your freedom, not them, is that right?"
"Yes, I can really see that. I think if I can remember that I will be okay if they go away, I will not be angry at them. You're right - I'm the one trapping me, not them!"
How often do you find yourself limiting your own freedom because you are afraid that someone will get mad at you, disapprove of you, or leave you? Are you convinced that you will not be okay if someone is angry, disapproving or rejecting of you? How often do you give yourself up and not do what you want, trying to control how another feels so they will approve of you? How often do you respond to another's demands or requests with anger, resentment, withdrawal, or resistance, because you immediately feel trapped by their request or demand?
Knowing that your worth and well-being is not dependent upon someone else's love or approval is the key to setting yourself free. As long as you believe that you need someone else's love and approval to be okay - to be worthy, to be a good person, to be lovable, to survive - you are trapping yourself and will likely feel angry. No one likes to feel trapped, yet most people believe that it is the other person's behavior that is trapping them, rather than their own false beliefs.
If there is violence involved, and you are limiting your freedom due to fear of someone else's violent behavior, then you need to find a way to leave the situation. If you need help doing this, then find a way to get the help. Again, you do not have to trap yourself by staying in a relationship with someone who verbally or physically violates you for your choices. Allowing this comes from your false belief that you need someone else's love and approval to be okay, when the truth is that you need your own love and approval to be okay.
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