In a difficult emotional situation, I have several options. Let’s say I’m trying to get out the door to drop my children off at school. My children are not yet ready and are not being cooperative. We are going to almost certainly be late if they do not hurry up.
I could lose my temper; yell at the kids to hurry up. I might get so upset that they break into tears and refuse to cooperate, furthering my frustration. I could be late, and then beat myself up over being late, yet again. Many of these types of actions are acting on fear, bad rationalization and are reactive.
Instead, I can try to approach a situation with a wise mind. This acknowledges both the feelings I feel and uses rational thinking. Basically, I think through things and find healthy ways to get control of my life. It’s not about being perfect or avoiding mistakes, but trying to be closer to who I want to be while acknowledging that I am human. I might decide that it’s okay to be late today, and not stress it, or I could find a little game to motivate the kids to get ready by themselves quickly.
Creating a wise mind acknowledges both my emotions and the reasonable mind, and learning to be effective; to do what works Wise mind combines both intuition and morality to make appropriate decisions.
To develop a wise mind, and live up to the wise expectations I set for myself, I can use the following steps: observe, validate, avoid judgment, describe the situation, set wise expectations, decided on appropriate action, and go for it.
Observing allows me to start seeing the situation correctly. When I observe, it’s often helpful to try to see outside myself: like I’m watching my life on a TV screen or as an outside observer. I can observe the situation, and observe how I feel and how I’m reacting.
After observation, I can validate myself. Validation is simply a matter of acknowledging my feelings. When I feel validated, I know that my feelings and emotions are heard, normal, and within my control. My feelings are valid and understandable. Validation can simply be a matter of saying: I feel frustrated right now because I think I am going to be late and the children are being slow. It goes back to the previous chapter of not fighting my emotions, but being open to that experience.
When I am validated, I can take control of my behavior, and experience emotions fully. It is a primary step to establishing a normal life and to be able to solve everyday problems. It leads towards fulfillment and connection.
After validation comes a lack of blame and judgment. It’s easy to judge and blame myself: If I just got ready a bit earlier…when will I ever learn…I shouldn’t have done that…I should be able to do this…or even shame: I’m a terrible person. Blame and judgment will not lead me to where I need to go.
Speaking truth instead can be a powerful remedy. It is objective and leaves the door open for appropriate actions. Saying, “I’m frustrated because we are late,” is a perfectly valid, truthful statement. Saying, “I hate being late all the time…I’m never going to do this again…It’s all his fault,” are not the truth, but rather my judgment upon the situation. They are subjective statements, judgments I often heap on myself and others.
During a difficult situation, it is very helpful to describe the situation to myself, using the tool of speaking truth. I get a clearer picture of what is going on. And there is no reason why I can’t say aloud what I see going on: it can be very helpful to the people around me to know how I see things.
After describing the situation, I can set wise expectation for myself and decide on the appropriate action. Wise expectations are developed when I balance what I feel with what needs to happen. I acknowledge that I’m not perfect, I have limitations, but I’m still going to try my best. My expectations and course of action are wise: I don’t make everything perfect, I just do what I can.
Expectations by themselves can be quite damaging. When things don’t live up to what I expect, then I’m frustrated. When I set expectations about a situation, other people, results or other events that I have little direct control over, it’s easy to get frustrated about life. Expectations about outside circumstances should be entirely abandoned.
Wise expectations, though, are entirely focused inward. I expect myself to work hard, keep a good attitude, set limits for myself or those under my care, and act or think in a certain way, I can usually follow through with these expectations regardless of outside circumstance. Setting and following through these expectations brings a sense of power and control over life.
For instance, I can go on a day trip to an amusement park with my family. If I set the expectation that my trip would go a certain way: the children would be extremely happy, I get to ride these rides in this order, or everything will just go perfectly, I am probably going to be frustrated in some way. I set the expectation that I will have a good time, and be flexible and happy. It might rain, a child might throw a fit, and my favorite ride might be closed. But all those circumstances do not prevent me from being flexible and having a good time.
When setting wise expectations, it is often necessary to realize my limitations and seek help. I can trust others and humbly acknowledge my own weakness. When other people help me, I can grow in ways that would not be possible otherwise. I cannot do it alone, especially when I am struggling with powerful emotions. I need the support of others around us and can foster relationships with the others that I can draw on for emotional support. It is helpful to recognize and ask for the help I need from others to thrive. Don’t just look to be okay, but look to truly thrive and be happy. Identify the people that you can rely on in your life when you need help.
When setting expectations for myself, avoid fear, and replace it with daring. Fear is a fusion with my thoughts, getting stuck or avoiding an experience or rationalizing my bad behavior. Daring is disengagement from unhelpful feelings and acceptance that I might feel some discomfort. It’s not seeking the easy way, but having firm values and action on realistic goals.
When I am deciding on my course of action, I also can remember that just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean I need to act on the feelings. I can validate and feel my feelings and still make effective decisions that not always act on my feelings. When I analyze my feeling, I can frequently do the exact opposite: and doing so can give me an added measure of control and growth.
After my expectations and course of action are set, I simply need to act, to participate and go for it. Because I have taken the preceding steps, I know my actions are wise and proper. I’m no longer reacting, I’m acting wisely.
When I am working with others, is often more difficult to work with emotions because I cannot change others. Perhaps the best way to be wise is to remember the serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Self-compassion is a natural result of acting wisely. I treat myself with self-respect and love: as I would treat a dear friend or family member. An effective way to develop self-compassion is to pretend that I am another person that needs help…what would I do if I was a loved one instead of myself? Can I treat myself the same way?
Having self-compassion and a wise mind does not mean I no longer care about the mistakes I make or that I am no longer striving for growth. Instead, I look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I take appropriate steps to close that gap.
There is resilience in a wise mind and self-compassion. At times, I fall apart or fail. A wise mind enables me to not be too hard on myself, pick myself back up and continue to try. It provides the resilience I need to keep going no matter what.
As feelings and thoughts work together, and they are united and equal, I experience pleasant and balanced emotions. My life will feel like is in my control. Giving in, ignoring or fighting feelings often lead to an out of control feelings. But living with a balanced mindset creates a unified being, working together to create emotions that are entirely within my control and positive.
Ultimately, I always have control over my life: and the best way to gain control is to believe I have it. As I believe in my ability to control my thoughts, emotions and actions and environment, I can be empowered to act in a way that will enable me to have that control and be resilient.
We can choose and change our expectations—and that is a whole lot easier than changing how you feel during an emotional moment. During one vacation, my expectations were appropriately low—I honestly had the expectation that the whole vacation might be a complete disaster. It wasn’t my hope, but I understood it was a possibility, and so anything above that was a success for me. The vacation was much more enjoyable that way.
I also don’t expect my children to clean up after themselves. I don’t expect that I’m going to be on top of it every day. I don’t expect that winter will end in March—I expect it will end sometime in May or June. I try to expect that everyone makes mistakes. I try to expect that I will have quite a bit of failure and rejection. Not that I’m pessimistic about the future—but I want to deal with problems as they occur a bit more rationally, and that’s a bit easier if I’m prepared.
When we try to clean up the house as a family, my husband is often frustrated because the kids don’t help. He has certain expectations that don’t get met, and so that causes a ton of frustration. I have experienced that same frustration a whole lot. But I want to realize that I can control what I feel, not what my kids do. And it’s okay if I feel frustrated because they never seem to clean up after themselves, but I don’t have to get angry and yell about it. I’ve tried to make a choice beforehand and what I’m going to do.
Even the fact of realizing that we’re struggling with a particular situation can help us deal with it better. When we expect something will be hard, we can think it through beforehand and better decide how we act. We might feel awful still, but we can act sensibly.
It can be helpful to make a plan on how to deal with common problems before they happen, instead of only dealing reactively to them. Being wise means to live intentionally, and if we always are making choices in the heat of a moment, we often don’t make the choices that we want to.
I once had an interesting experience: I went hiking with my four kids and some other family members. I was feeling overwhelmed and tired beforehand. But the hiking helped, and when I was coming down the mountain, I felt, in a way, powerful. I was still overwhelmed and tired, but I knew I was doing the best that I could, and I was more able to recognize the good things around me. It was hard, but I was excited that it was hard. I was tired, but I was not a bad mother (yes, I’ve gotten those confused before). I had a lot to do, but that did not mean I had to feel overwhelmed.
- Think of a current or upcoming challenge in your life.
- Take a step out of the situation and observe what is happening or will happen.
- Use validation, avoid judgment and speak truth, and describe the situation in detail.
- List expectations that are wise and acknowledge your feelings and limitation. Decide on appropriate action.
- Try to hold yourself to those wise expectations as you go through the challenge.