I could feel it in my temples, and my forehead. The anger started boiling, to the point where my face quite literally felt hot.
I’m not sure where it shows up for you, but for me, when I feel wronged, let down, disappointed, misled, attacked, accused, or the need to defend myself or convince you of my rightness, it shows up in my body first.
Before the angry words spill out.
This particular time, I was becoming angry about a work situation. An area where reality showed up in a way that totally missed my expectations.
“How in the hell is that even possible?”
Here it came.
The emoji for anger has a red face for a reason, I suppose.
I launched into a soapbox of what it “should be”, it was more like an episode, perhaps.
I listed all the reasons this particular individual missed my mark, how what happened is unacceptable, and ranted on and on about how it “should be” better. How that person “should be” better.
I felt so right.
Like the cycle always does, once the anger left my face and mouth, and projected all over this poor receiver of my energy, my face didn’t feel quite so hot anymore.
And the emotion moved its way into my gut, where I felt the shame, guilt, and remorse of my rant.
A phone call back, a few minutes later that started with, “Hey, I’m really sorry for the way I handled myself…”
In the space between the two conversations, I was reminded of a quote in a Byron Katie book,
“Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be free?”
Being right sure makes the ego feel good. But it assumes that someone or something is then wrong.
I’m right, you’re wrong. You think I’m wrong, so I’ll prove that I’m right. Your way is bad, my way is good.
And on it goes.
But doesn’t freedom taste better? Doesn’t it feel better?
Detaching from the judge and jury mentality, and entering into a place of peaceful harmony, where we can be honest about the reality of a situation, yet not get so damn wrapped around the axle of what it says about us personally, doesn’t that seem like a more caring and authentic way to live and work?
Here are five diagnostic questions to ask yourself (and Lord knows, I need to ask myself too) when the temples start burning, the need to be right emerges, and the ego crouches down to pounce on its next victim:
- What does my anger actually say about ME? Typically, the anger is a mirror that’s highlighting something in my own life I need to look at. A way of thinking, a way of being, a fear, an insecurity.
- What is the cost of this debate? Relational damage? Eroded trust? Increased drama?
- So what if I am right? Play it out. You win the argument. Then what? You feel powerful. They feel defeated or less than. One point for you. Scoreboard? Does being right deliver what you’re actually looking for? The funny thing about truth is it emerges over time anyway, regardless of our need to defend it.
- Can I be honest without having to be right? Everyone’s truth looks a little different. Everyone’s perspective is their own. This isn’t a call to hide, defer, or be spineless. But the phrase, “I’m just being honest” followed by an attack of another is not honesty, it’s defensiveness. Speak your truth, own your experience, but don’t let it accuse someone else.
- How can I usher this past the ego? Emotions come and go, they whip and blow, the tide comes in and the tide goes out. Past the emotions of the situation though, depth of relationship is available. How can I guide this conversation beyond the whims of the ego?
As Jim Dethmer said on his podcast with Tim Ferriss, “There’s a field beyond right and wrong, I’ll meet you there.”
That place sounds like freedom…