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Listener Mail: How Can I Control My Mood And Not Be Affected By The Actions of Others?

Erin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hotter Than Ever Listener Mail. I'm your host, Erin Keating. And in these new short weekly episodes, I give you my opinionated and not at all officially qualified feedback about the questions, problems, quandaries, and dilemmas that you have posed to me about love, sex. relationships, career, aging, ambition, divorce, and anything else that's on your mind.

One of our amazing listeners wrote in and said:

"Hi, enjoying your show, wondering if you would consider doing an episode on how to control your mood and not let it be affected by the actions of others."

Oh my God, would that I were not affected by the actions of others, would that my mood remain [00:01:00] steady and even regardless of the storms swirling around me in life. You did not sign your name, but let us call you "In Control".

Well In Control, I am not going to be able to tell you how to do this. I am not going to be able to tell you how to do this in every context of your life, how to control your mood and not let it be affected by the actions of others. Mindfulness is obviously the answer. It is the answer to everything.

How do we cultivate mindfulness? If we follow what the wise people say, who get this right, we journal, we take care of our bodies, we meditate, we cultivate a practice of being present in the moment. But there are people in our lives, [00:02:00] (and this happened to me two days ago with my ex husband) there are people in our lives who know where all the buttons are located, and they don't hesitate to press them. They know our sensitive parts. They know what's going to make us crazy. They know how to get our goat to get us to lose our cool.

And whether or not they are trying to do that, sometimes because you have built patterns and neurological pathways in a long relationship, like a marriage, and I'm just going to make this real personal because I do not think that I have a macro answer to this question beyond, I need to find someone to interview on the podcast who knows more about that, and I will do that.

I wanted to tell you though, the story of my buttons being pushed, [00:03:00] and how I fucked it all up and made everything worse because I could not control myself. Because I do not have the level of self mastery that I would like to have. My daughter and my ex husband got into an argument. It blew up into something bigger. I was called on speakerphone and brought into the mess. Why? I don't know. Why didn't I nip it in the bud right there and say, I think you guys need to solve this yourselves. I allowed myself to be pulled in by the magnetic pull of historical drama in this dynamic.

My ex blamed me for my daughter's behavior, which is his way. He likes to make it my responsibility. He likes to pull me into the mess and I allowed it to happen. [00:04:00] One, I picked up the phone when I saw him calling. Two, I picked up the phone without preparing myself for what might be on the other end. And I think there may be something to this. This the idea of preparing yourself when a triggering person reaches out to you.

Is there something I could have done? Is there something you can do In Control? Is there something you can do to prepare your nervous system for potential conflict? Yes, I think there is. I think there is. In 12 steps, I learned that you could just say a prayer before you walked into a potentially stressful situation. I used to say a prayer before I would walk into a meeting with someone who I wanted something from at work. I would take time for myself in the bathroom and I would say to myself, God, can you please handle this? [00:05:00] God, can you take this conversation from me? Can you walk into the room before me? Now this is as prayerful as I have ever been in my life, and I was able to do this when I was deeply in touch with my relationship with my higher power.

I am less in relationship with my higher power these days, but fuck, do I not still use this sometimes when I am scared of a conversation, when I am nervous. When I was going through mediation in my divorce, I would say, God, please come into this conversation with me. So I think one thing I could have done to not get triggered and to control my mood and not let it be affected by the actions of others or this one particular triggering other in my life would have been to say to myself, God, be with me in this conversation. God help guide my reactions. That would have required stopping down for just [00:06:00] a second before I picked up the call.

And that is what a relationship with the universe or something more spiritual, bigger than ourselves. That pause, these practices of meditation, prayer, journaling, and all these things that I use very much in fits and starts and intermittently, I think like a lot of people, I am no paragon of self care practices, but I am aware of them. And I know, I know that when I have used them more, I have been better. I have felt better and I have been less reactive.

So, if I had taken a second to acknowledge to myself that these phone calls don't always go well, and if I had reminded myself of my boundaries and my limitations of the fact that I am divorced because I am no longer interested in having conflict [00:07:00] with this person and that I am in charge of myself and my life and my communication. If I had been able to insert even a half second of pause, I would not have reacted in the way that I did. I am a work in progress.

So how I fucked it up was I picked up the phone, I got involved in the conflagration, I made it worse by being reactive and when my ex blamed me for the conflict he was having with my daughter, our daughter, I flipped. I flipped. I felt the button being pushed, and I felt the circuits connecting, and I started yelling. And look, I'm not proud. I am not proud of being this reactive. In fact, I [00:08:00] am fucking embarrassed.

I'm 52 years old. I left this relationship and yet I'm still in the throes of disentangling from the circuitry that was created in this relationship, right? So I made it worse. And then we did that thing where we hang up and then one of us calls the other one and then we're texting and. My daughter's calling and she's texting. And it got really yucky and really messy. And I made it worse because I was not the master of my emotions. I was not in control of myself. I was not thinking, how am I making this suck for my daughter? How am I making it even more challenging for them to have the relationship that I want them to have, which is happy and harmonious?

Oof, God, it's so embarrassing. [00:09:00] And then after the fact, once I have said to him, I'm not talking to you anymore. Once he has said things that I cannot accept having someone say to me. Once that happens, then I'm just in my head with it. Then I'm replaying my behavior. God, and look at all the time that is passing that could be spent doing something more productive, feeling good, feeling happy, doing things to take care of myself, my business, my family, my life.

But, when I behave in a way that I'm not proud of, when I'm not in charge of my emotions, I let it take up a lot of space in the aftermath. I churn over it. My nervous system is all messed up. I feel uncomfortable in my skin. I feel like I don't belong in relationship to my children, in relationship to [00:10:00] my friends, my lover. I feel just alienated, um, because I'm ashamed of myself.

I imagine that you feel that way too when you lose control, when you allow yourself to be affected by other people's behavior, when you are not that calm, still, peaceful paragon of communication that you wish you were, who is not reactive, or who could laugh things off, or take things light. That is what I aspire to in life because as bad as the conflict is the aftermath and the self recrimination and criticism that I hear from my inner critic who is real loud and opportunistic and loves to kick me when I'm down is unbearable, right? And I can be derailed for an entire day, and then I choose how much space to let this have.

And I had the [00:11:00] good conscience to pick up a pen and to write a bunch of stuff in my journal and to thankfully be in therapy. So the next morning after this happened, I had an early morning therapy session scheduled and I was able to talk it out and I was able to have the benefit of my therapist's long view of my relationship with my ex and my self criticism. And my tendency to be reactive to him and how much that push pull was a part of our marriage and part of my patterning and conditioning from childhood and my exes patterning and conditioning from childhood.

And so that allowed me to really get through to the other side of having lost control and then having beat myself up over having lost control and I owned it with my [00:12:00] daughter and I apologized. I owned it with my ex and I apologized. I cried. I went to bed early and then I woke up the next day feeling fine, happy, better, well adjusted.

But my hope for you In Control and my hope for myself in the future is that we don't lose all that time in the cycle of conflict and letting someone else's voice in and being reactive. My goal for all of us. Is a kind of mastery of self where we can choose how we walk through the world and we can choose what we let in and we can choose what affects us and what makes us feel deeply and we can choose how much we give over to the darkness when these conflicts happen, [00:13:00] we are sensitive, women are sensitive.

I look at my boyfriend and how he deals with Emotion and discomfort and in the moment, it seems like he's not feeling anything. And afterwards, it takes him a long time to process and to understand, like, what am I feeling? And what is it that's going on with me? And then how do I want to talk about this? And how can I talk about this? And what's okay for me to say? And what's not okay for me to say?

Like his work of self mastery, I think the work of self mastery of Men is so different than ours because they are not trained to be tuned into the nuances of every piece of every dynamic and every relationship. And especially if you grew up with any kind of conflict in your home and trauma, you might be super empathic. You might be [00:14:00] super tuned in to how other people are feeling. You may have had to accommodate people in your life growing up and you may have learned some survival skills that then, as an adult, don't serve you very well, don't put you first.

I think midlife is so much about learning how to put ourselves at the center, to center our own experience and our own goals and our own desires and our own self mastery, so that we can live happy lives of our own design. But a lot of what we're trained to do and be as women is about being reactive and about being responsive and about being empathetic and about conflict avoidance. So I hear you In Control. And I hope that me talking about my own experience isn't self indulgent, but in fact is helpful in that [00:15:00] I hope you can see, we all struggle with this.

We all want to not be reactive to others in our lives. We all want to not be derailed and we are all a work in progress. We are all a work in progress, but let's put some structures in place in our lives that help us to work through these things as quickly as possible and to anticipate when we might need a little extra support from the universe or whoever we're calling on in that moment, before we pick up the call, before we walk into the room, before we have that interaction.

If it's possible to preempt things in a way to take care of ourselves. Not just to steal ourselves or to prevent something that will happen, we can't prevent what's going to happen with other people, but we can [00:16:00] know when we might need a little extra support because we're walking into the lion's den or we're walking into a potential conflict situation. I hope this is helpful for you. I really appreciate this question, and I'm going to look for someone to interview who can help us both.

Thanks for listening to Hotter Than Ever Listener Mail. How can you ask a question that I am either successful or unsuccessful at answering? answering. I'm so glad you asked. DM us @hotterthaneverpod on Instagram or leave me a voicemail or text very easy to text the Hotter Than Ever Hottie Hotline at 323 844 2303. That number again is 323 844 2303. I would love to try to answer your question in a future episode.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Girard and Podkid Productions. Our associate producer is Melody Carey. [00:17:00] Music is by Chris Keating, with vocals by Issa Fernandez. Come back next week for more Listener Mail. And come back on Thursday for the next full episode. Love ya!


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