I left school at Grade 10, so my vocabulary was not the greatest. When my partner and I first started dating, I would share my thoughts and ideas and at times would feel him withdraw, so naturally I would withdraw in response. After a couple of days, we would talk and it would become clear that I’d hurt him with what I said. It usually only took a couple of sentences to get him to understand my actual intended message, which wasn’t meant to be hurtful at all.
I got so fed up that I gave him an ultimatum: “I love you. If I say or do anything that goes contrary to that statement, ask me about it right then.” My lack of language skills coupled with some insecurity on his part meant that I was unintentionally hurting him and he would spend days in emotional pain and having doubts about our relationship. Sorting out this issue early was very important.
Language is tough because it is an imperfect way of conveying our thoughts and ideas to one another. The main reason for this is that the multiple layers of meaning around our words create particular perceptions for both the speaker and the listener which interfere with the intention of the message. It seems that our default perception is that other people are out to cause us pain. Every conversation is put through this unconscious filter and we pay the price of continual emotional pain and drama.
There is one thing I want to be crystal clear about: there is nothing in this world outside of yourself that you can directly control. You can’t control other people’s thoughts, emotions and behaviours, including those of your partner and children. You can’t control the environment, the government or even your workplace. The only thing you can directly control are your own emotions and how you respond and react. That is it!
Unfortunately, most of us tend to assume the worst of people and develop a negative default perception that people are out to hurt us. So, when someone says something, we take it personally and suffer. Therefore, we spend our lives examining and analysing the words said to us and living and reliving the emotional pain caused by what we think people have said. This can be very exhausting and emotionally painful. This will hurt you not just once – at the time the words are spoken – but a hundred fold as you mentally relive the experience. This decreases self-esteem and worth until you are so overwhelmed with negative emotion that you can’t see a way out.
How to control negative emotions?
Firstly, change your perception. Assume “people love me and wouldn’t do anything to hurt me”. Therefore, your conversations will involve freely sharing each other’s thoughts and ideas, with no negative emotion attached.
Learn to trust in yourself to take what people say to or about you and examine it. If what they say has merit, you can choose to change your behaviour. If it isn’t true and was only meant to hurt, then let it go, let it slide past you. You cannot control their choice of words, or their actions, only your own.
If you struggle to manage your emotions, and your relationships are suffering as a result, contact Sue on 0439 294 532 to learn how you can control how you react to your environment in a healthy and productive way.