Strength Through Softness


Storms brewing

Are you a “fighter”?

I have been a fighter in my life, an arms-swinging-spit-flying-noise-making fighter.  You know, when the knee jerk reaction is to hiss and scratch rather than lay down.  Not that laying down is ideal either, right?  We connect with our true strength somewhere in the middle…not too hot, not too cold…but just right.

Easier said than done.

Intense anger comes with a surge in energy making us feel powerful when we are not.  At the same time, letting go of anger can feel like losing.  When rage strikes, the urge to retaliate can grab ahold of us, blinding us and yanking us in directions we do not want to go.  Standing still in the face of these urges is like allowing another person to shoot some sort of octopus ink in our faces while we do nothing.

It’s a Catch-22.  We argue to protect ourselves and end up paying an unwanted price.  Much like a hangover leaves us asking ourselves if a bottle of Merlot is worth the pounding head. If we are honest with ourselves the cost of an unbridled fury doesn’t seem like much of a victory.

Real strength isn’t found in crushing another or running away.  Real strength is the opposite of these.  We connect with our power when we stand steady in awareness and see the situation rather than get caught up in the fray.  We stay on solid ground. We don’t get sucked into the vortex.  This allows us to make choices rather than react.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Our thinking brain helps pull us back from our emotional brain much like an approaching stop sign makes a driver press the brake.

See it coming and slow it down.

Notice when vexation strikes and begin strategically engaging your logical side by talking yourself out of the storm. Put into words what is happening and ask questions as if you were the lead investigator for the FBI terrorism unit.

  • “I’m feeling pissed right now.  My heart is in my throat.  I could scream.  I’m just super angry.”
  •  “I don’t need to take action right this minute. The problem will be here when I’m calm.  The situation isn’t going anywhere.”
  • “What happened?  How am I interpreting this? What am I afraid of? What can I do here?  How do I want to proceed?  What do I need?  How will I address this?”

Stay with it until you start to settle, gently ease yourself to the ground.  You continue to gain traction as long as you see what is happening without getting swallow up by it.  Focus on noticing what you are experiencing and/or talking yourself through the darkness.  Awareness has our back.  Use it on purpose.

The main thrust of this practice is skillfully directing our attention to something that supports us rather than slipping into the highly automatic emotional habits we all have.

For the times when you cannot step away from the heat and indulge in slowing everything down, create a plan. Decide exactly what you will do and say when emotions begin to swell. Perhaps have a few scripted lines memorized like the scent of a lovers cologne.

  • “I’m not comfortable with that.”
  • “Let me think about it.”
  • “I need a minute.”

Weave a verbal safety net.  It is always okay to leave the room or say we are not going to respond at that moment.

When we don’t engage in the rumble, we stay true to our values and we skip the hangover.  There is tremendous strength in this softness. We still respond, just not in a blaze of ill tempered rage.  We decide on our terms from a place of stability.  It’s not tied-up-with-a bow perfect. Nothing is.  But know for sure, that with each annoying episode we successfully navigate, we step a bit closer to being the faithful leader of our own emotional landscape.

After a while, caving to the fight starts to feel like losing and slow conscious responses start to feel like winning.

May all of your fights be productive:)



Blue skies

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