Over the years, I’ve noticed how my annual theme often seems to attract real-life opportunities to test what it is I say I want to learn about. As explained in my January 2012 Musings, my theme this year is “Embrace My Soul.” I want to explore both the light and the shadow within me, my strengths and my faults. And, sure enough, the Universe recently presented me with a vivid illustration of some of my weaknesses. It all started with a small squeeze bottle of dish detergent sitting in a puddle of green liquid soap. Jim, my wonderful beau whom I often suspect is a Martha Stewart groupie, had kindly filled the bottle the night before and left it out on the counter. When I discovered the gloppy mess, I immediately attributed it to spillage. Jim denied that was the case, claiming he had been very neat and left a full, clean bottle.
What happened next is embarrassing to admit, but I do so in the spirit of learning. My mind immediately went to a “story” I have about Jim, that he “sometimes” fails to clean up after a job. When Jim countered that the plastic bottle must have a leak, I went into full investigative mode. I examined it and saw no holes. I wiped it off, and felt no seepage. Jim insisted that the puddle was not his fault. That he would not even concede that he might have spilled some of the green goop made me see red. I was completely hijacked by my emotions (and oblivious to the fact that I was unable to admit that I might be wrong in my assessment).
Then I made the mistake of acting (further) out of those negative emotions. Jim bet me $5 that he was right. Just his use of the word “right” fed into one of my other stories about Jim, that he always thinks he is right. (He has made his living as a consultant, so being confident in yourself and your actions is as natural and necessary as breathing in that world.) The next thing I knew, the competitive Sharon (who by then was wresting control of my mind and my mouth) had bet him $100 the bottle had no leak. Ten minutes after Jim left for work, I found the bottle again sitting in a pool of liquid detergent. Before leaving for the bank, I spent 45 minutes journaling, to reflect on and process my thoughts, emotions and actions.
As one wise friend pointed out, some pretty valuable lessons only cost me five Jacksons. If I had slowed down, stepped back to observe myself, unpacked my thinking, kept my emotional balance, and not acted out of anger, I could have headed off a silly argument with someone that I dearly love. Fortunately, I was also able to learn about how to be a gracious winner by observing Jim in the aftermath. And, we both emerged from this rare clash with deeper understanding of one another. We were able to talk through what happened, and why. We can even laugh about what I now refer to as the Soap Squirter Squabble.
How do you detect the early warning signs of an emotional hijack? What circumstances, people or behaviors push your hot buttons? What helps you to slow down, step back, and regain your balance in a trying situation? How can you use some of these lessons in your own work? If I can support you in this area, please let me know.
Sharon Keys Seal