Factory Settings

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What is your default state?

For me, my default state used to be overwhelm. Frustration. Anxiety. Anger. Stress.

As strange as it might sound, I look back and realize I was comfortable there. I knew these states intimately; they were like a cozy, well-worn sweatshirt. I wrapped myself in them, and ironically felt that they protected me. I don’t know that I ever realized I could change what I believed to be my automatic responses and reactions, much less wanted to. I’m quite sure I would have told you I couldn’t change where I was at, even if I tried.

I never recognized that I could improve upon those places I automatically went to.

I believed it was simply part of who I was.

These states of being were a part of my story, something that I never thought to question. I believed they were intrinsically woven into my character, simply the way I was hardwired.

And I was damn proud of who I was.

Thankfully, I learned to ask questions. Through self-development, self-discovery and self-evaluation, and learning from a whole lot of external sources about how to focus on the internal ones, I discovered that unlearning these behaviors might actually serve me, and my family, better.

Now, I am damn proud of who I am, but even more proud of who I am becoming.

Those states of overwhelm, frustration, stress, anger and anxiety still linger around, showing up and knocking on my door from time to time; I haven’t been miraculously cured overnight. Sometimes, those deeply rooted default reactions bypass all the good intentions in a zero-to-sixty flash. I’ve noticed that this is especially true when I haven’t been focusing on myself and my needs first; when I haven’t been filling my cup before filling others.

Yet, there are times where I catch it in time, and that’s where I can see my progress. It’s taken a few years of focusing and committing to a different state of being to move myself beyond these mindsets. It’s a daily practice that I still fail amazingly well at. However, in those moments where I do manage to catch it, I glimpse what is possible and that gives me the fuel to keep working persistently toward new default states, creating my own factory settings.

Unmasking


I’ve been thinking about anger quite a bit lately.

I think it’s a fair assessment that I used to be a fairly angry person. While I still have my moments – my fuse can still be short and thin – I don’t necessarily identify with the woman I once was, who wore her anger like a shroud.

I experienced a situation last week where I took a bit of a different approach to anger. I could have let a bad situation fester, swell and ultimately ruin my day. I didn’t want that, but I was having a hard time releasing it. Or, rather, allowing it to release me.

However, I chose growth. I sat with my anger; I recognized it, and questioned it (thank you, Brene Brown).

The anger that I was experiencing was unreasonable, I could see that. So I asked myself, what is this anger, and why, exactly, am I so angry?

It took awhile – it could have been minutes or an hour, maybe even two – but when it hit me my breath left my body in a huff and tears pooled in my eyes.

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It wasn’t anger. It was hurt.

The hurt was tied to a situation that left me vulnerable to a few of my biggest insecurities.

While I’ve been working through this journey of self-discovery and growth, I’ve started to understand why I used to feel easily incensed, consistently angry and hardened. I used my anger as a shield; I used it to disguise what I was really feeling, and it in turn allowed me to turn a blind eye to things about myself I was not yet ready to recognize.

Have you ever taken the time to sit with your anger, and let it tell you what it is masking? Have you taken the time to understand your reactions to situations that arise that bring out emotions before you simply allow them to consume you?

Anger isn’t about anyone else but ourselves. It comes from within us, and it tricks us into thinking something was done to us, that it is about others and their actions or their words. But, if you sit with it and turn it over, it will reveal itself as something else altogether, and it is always trying to tell us something from within. That message is usually a challenging one to hear, because it most likely speaks to our greatest insecurities about ourselves. If you can open yourself to the message, you can use it as an opportunity for strength and growth, not pain.

Diving into your anger, and then peeling back the layers to reveal what it truly is – such as fear, anxiety, hurt or sorrow, which are difficult emotions to connect with and understand – will help you understand yourself, your thoughts and your actions. If you make a practice of it, that practice can help you identify and change your patterns. It will help you to address difficult conversations, and circumstances. It can provide a foundation of strength, and of empathy.

So I challenge you to question yourself. What was the last thing that made you honest-to-goodness angry? And what might it have been, instead?