Has someone ever said or done something that made you feel bad? Well, unless you have pointy ears and your name is Spock, the answer is yes, you've had a negative emotional response to the words or actions of another. And if it was an intense reaction, you may have even felt like you'd been zapped with an emotional-chemical cocktail from the dark side, and before you even consciously realized it, you were giving someone a piece of your mind, or physically taking things into your own hands, or both—it was automatic.
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to get angry and do what needs done. However, when autopilot kicks in and hauls you down roads you know you're going to regret later—and we know which ones those are—it's probably because there's a three-year-old in the driver's seat. It's not really about someone treating you badly or the unfairness of a situation—it's about the old subconscious beliefs and unresolved feelings from long ago that the incident triggered.
The good news is we don't have to keep running those old scripts and experiencing those same old unpleasant situations and feelings. We can change them—if we want to. And if we don't willingly choose to hop on the self-improvement and personal development train, we'll get dragged along the hard way whether we like it or not. The former is the better plan; the latter is the one I chose for a while.
There was a time in my life where people were frequently "making me feel" a particular way. The following example of "button pushing" is adapted from The Hardline Self Help Handbook (Chapter 7—Where's the Remote?) where I talk about a tough time in my life.
I was really unhappy and angry—I hated my life and made sure everyone knew it—but I wasn’t strong enough to do what I knew I needed to. I felt trapped, and I think that’s what made me the angriest—that I’d subconsciously set my own trap, methodically stacking the deck against myself to ensure that it would be virtually impossible to leave my marriage.
Because I was programmed from birth to stay married no matter what, it wasn't an option to not be married so I found ways to express my anger that had nothing to do with the actual source of my problem. Just about anything could trigger me, but the most reliable and frequent source was found on the roadways.
I could be driving along, minding my own business, and out of nowhere, a car would appear on my bumper. Being a vigilant, conscientious and thoughtful driver, I, of course, would slam on my brakes to kindly alert them to the fact that they were following at a very unsafe distance.
Tailgating wasn’t my only problem. Merging into one lane in construction zones and during rush hour subjected me to droves of stupid selfish people cutting in and zooming around on the shoulder to force their way in farther up the line. It infuriated me and I did whatever I could to keep them from it. Nobody was going treat me like that!
It isn’t a pretty picture, is it? So, what was really going on with me back then?
If you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you that I hated where I'd been forced to live and that it was full of inconsiderate, selfish people who didn't care about anybody but themselves. I would have told you that what I wanted had never mattered to anyone, ever, and I would have gone on with my sad tale of pitiful victimization as long as you would have listened.
With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that I would view the world on the road as I did. The big Suburban I drove gave me a way to level the playing field. Behind the wheel, I might be invisible, but the vehicle wasn’t—it couldn’t be ignored and what I wanted did matter. For a few precious moments, I had a small measure of control over my life.
My road warrior experiences perfectly mirrored what was going on at home. I felt helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t face the truth about my personal situation, so I found ways to address it externally. They certainly weren’t good ways, but they kept me focused on others as the “problem,” so that I didn’t have to deal with the real issue or make any changes in my life. My limiting beliefs about marriage kept me stuck in a Ground Hog Day loop of unhappy experiences until I, like Bill Murray, figured out—it was me.
Once I realized that the limitations I put on myself weren't even ones I consciously believed—they were subconsciously programmed in childhood—I also realized that I could change them if I wanted to. And not only would I not die as the old programming had made me believe, I would find peace—I could be happy! In fact, freeing myself of that old belief system and making different choices was the only way I could.
If you're in pain—if you keep finding yourself in unpleasant situations where you're fighting the same battle over and over—stop and ask yourself why. Even though you understand that they aren't making you feel any way at all, you still have to ask the questions and let the old programming run its script so that you know how to rewrite it. So, ask yourself why, why do you feel attacked or picked on? Why is the person or situation making you feel that way? Ask the questions and let the answers come.
Soon you'll find yourself having fewer and fewer "encounters with idiots." Not because everyone else has changed, but because you have, and you no longer need those experiences. Then, instead of old subconscious programming giving you a blast from the dark side, you'll be consciously living your joy!
Paula Renaye is a certified professional life coach, motivational speaker and trainer, regression hypnosis practitioner, award-winning author and consultant. Her latest book, The Hardline Self Help Handbook, has been called "a tough-love Chicken Soup for the Soul with a do-it-yourself roadmap for getting unstuck. The book is available at http://www.amazon.com http://www.hardlineselfhelp.com and on Kindle.