I’ve written before about my strong belief in the power of words and the meaning we attach to them and I’m continuing to notice real shifts in this area for me.

In that one phrase, I notice and now feel, that the power is not in the words, it’s in the meaning we attach to the words and that’s a small but potent shift which is really helping me. I therefore wondered whether it could help you too?

If someone says something or does something that might normally cause me to react, outwardly or inwardly, I am getting better at pausing. Pausing to first stop myself from that amygdala hijack (a chemical reaction in the brain linked to the flight or fight response) and then to assess the meaning or story I am attaching to their words or actions.

In doing so, I calm myself – always a good thing – and then allow myself to really think about whether I will choose to and how I will choose to react.

Reaction can be an external action, what I do and say or an internal reaction how I think and feel.

I recently received some feedback that I absolutely know in every fibre of my being that if given to me even only 6 months ago I would have outwardly reacted and it would have probably looked something like this

  • Explanation
  • Questioning
  • Justification
  • Disagreement
  • Projection and even possibly some blame

This time however I hardly flinched; partly because the feedback was very vague and non specific to the extent that I couldn’t even remember the occasion being referred to and partly because I simply chose to accept what was being said without attachment or meaning. I simply said OK and thank you.

I concluded that it wasn’t worth my energy to go into analysis mode and so I chose to acknowledge what was being said and then move on.

This shift in choosing my response felt genuinely liberating. I add the word genuinely because I did feel calm, OK and neutral I wasn’t just thinking I’m OK.

Choice is a big thing me for and it’s because freedom is one of my core values, which is why this topic crops up regularly in my blog posts.

Even though we may think we have no choice we almost always do.

We may not be able to choose how others behave or what circumstances show up, but we can choose how we act and I mean ACT v react. What’s the difference? Conscious choice.

  • You might choose to enjoy the freshness of rain in the middle of July versus complain about the British weather.
  • You might choose to let pass a gruff response from a waiter and send him kind thoughts for a better rest of the day versus being gruff back to him.
  • You might choose to be curious about feedback given to you versus being defensive.
  • You might choose to accept what is in any given moment versus wish it was different and feel upset.
  • You might choose to shift from the need to be defensive or offensive to being in a more neutral position.
  • You might choose to be curious and seek true intent v assumptive and attach your own meaning to any words, actions or circumstances.

There are so many opportunities for us to be offended and tell ourselves stories about what other people say or do. Those opportunities could also be seen as openings to shift our perspective.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

I believe that phrase can be applied to every feeling. No one else can make us feel happy, sad, frustrated, angry, unworthy, ashamed, content or beautiful. So if we shift how we think, we can shift how we feel and then we might act differently too.

“Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind.
The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun.” Don Miguel Ruiz

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