Emotions are a powerful force. Often times, we can take on the emotions of those around us and it can affect how we feel, behave, and react. It can cause us to want to try to control, fix, or change someone else’s feelings and attitudes. However, if we try to just control our own reactions to others, we are much more successful in our emotional regulation and staying unaffected by others’ conflicts.
I distinctly remember the day I was visiting my daughter for parents’ weekend at college. We got in the car to go on a fantastic hike that my daughter had suggested. My husband and I got into a conversation that might have sounded to some like a debate, but we were enjoying the back and forth discussion. I do not even remember what it was about; however, as the discussion went on, my daughter started to complain and asked us to stop bickering. When I asked what was wrong, she said we were stressing her out with this discussion and that it created tension for her. I immediately told her that it was not our intent, of course, and was sorry that she felt that way.
I then observed her as she stayed somewhat annoyed. I did not say anything else about it. I continued on and did not let her mood or attitude disturb me. I kept reminding myself that there was nothing for me to do. This was not mine to fix. She took on an emotional reaction to someone else’s conversation and needed to work through it herself. Over time, she seemed to let it all go and enjoy the hike, the beautiful scenery, and, our company.
The lesson here is that very often people take on an emotional charge from something they hear. This is where choice comes in. In order to stay true to ourselves, it is important to tend to, control, and nurture our own reactions, rather than become entrenched in someone else’s emotions and reactions. We can choose how we react to these situations and what we take on and what we do not take on. We can also observe, as I did today, how others react. Silence can be so powerful in these situations.