Yes, I do take conscious breaths.
After that, I look to what my emotions are telling me before I take the next step.
Anger, for instance. I know how easy it is to react from it. I feel so justified because my sense of safety and values are threatened, and to protect myself is the instinct.
When someone doesn’t act or speak according to our values – think political thought, #metoo, veganism and other lifestyle choices – our judgment, defensiveness, and need to be right can easily take over.
We tear each other down, threaten, and convict because to not react would mean….
What would it mean if, instead of convicting the offender, I exercised just as much compassion for that person as I did for the victim?
What would it mean if I tried to see another side; become a true devil’s advocate? They say that there are at least several truths to every story.
Am I afraid of being complicit?
Am I afraid of losing myself over to the other side?
Am I afraid of facing what might come up that I haven’t fully dealt with? Am I afraid to peer more closely at that part of me that is reflected through the other person?
Am I afraid to lose the power I feel from the anger that fuels me?
Am I afraid of feeling vulnerable?
Am I afraid of being judged if I talk in the gray zone?
Am I afraid enough that I won’t even speak up?
Even with positive emotions, while I can jump up and down and do the dance and celebrate, I understand that as quickly as things go “up,” they come down. Everything really is temporary. So I’m grateful for the happy moments but also I understand that it’s not any more a gift, and maybe in some ways even less so, than the challenges that can follow.
Also, I realize that someone else might experience my positive moment as their negative one (the risk of comparison).
Before reacting, I find it pays to go in and figure that out first. But not stay there for too long.