Have you ever been frustrated with someone doing something that you didn't want them to do?
Have you ever searched every crevice of your brain to try and figure out a way to say something to someone so that they wouldn't act in a certain way toward you?
Maybe you wanted your parents to understand how they hurt you.
Whatever it is, if it didn't work, I'm guessing, you were frustrated. I want to share with you something that may help alleviate that frustration.
Find a piece of paper.
Draw a stick figure. This stick figure is you.
Now, draw a circle around the stick figure and a square around the circle.
Your drawing should look something like the picture embedded in this post.
Now, consider this: Everything on the square happens to you, but you have little to no control over it. When your partner does something you don't like, that's on your square. If you try to have a conversation with them about your sex life and they start to yell and get mad? That's on your square and their circle. You're not responsible for how they act or react; they are.
That's the good news.
How you act is on your circle. You are 100% responsible for how you act.
Most of the time, when you try to control something on someone else's circle (your square), you are manipulating.
This is often a great source of emotional frustration and angst for people. I will often ask clients, "Circle or Square?" when they are talking about a frustration. The question is designed to get them to explore what they control or are trying to control.
Too often, people will be at one end of two extremes.
The first end is, "I must be doing it wrong, because my husband always gets mad no matter what I do or how I say it." The opposite end is "What my husband is doing is wrong therefore I have an excuse for my poor behavior."
Both extremes are wrong.
Simply because your spouse feels angry with you or reacts poorly to something you've done does not mean that you've done anything wrong. Yes, you can and should examine how you approached the issue. You can even ask them how you might have said whatever it was you wanted to communicate in a way that they would not have been upset/angry, etc over.
But there reaction is 100% on their circle (they control it) and 100% on your square (you are not in control of it).
Conversely, if your spouse is engaging in poor behavior, that's on their circle (they're control) and your square (not your control.
Your reaction is still on your circle and their poor behavior does not ever excuse your own poor behavior.
I am always amazed at people who would never accept, "Well, they did it first" from their children and use the same excuse for why they treat their spouse poorly.
A natural question is what about feelings?
Feelings live in the place between our circle and square. We don't often control their creation. They happen faster than we can process.
But we absolutely control what we do with those emotions and feelings. We control what do after those feelings are created. Simply because we're mad, doesn't mean we have to yell or be mean. We control our actions and what we do.
So the next time you are frustrated or angry, ask yourself if you're trying to control something that's on your square or circle.
If it's out on the square, you're probably going to be stuck for as long as you try to control it.
So much of our energy is spent trying to control things we do not and cannot control that we fail to utilize the energy we do have to control our own lives.
If we want to find true satisfaction, we will have to start with controlling the things we control and accepting the fact that we don't control everything. Energy spent trying to control things we can't control is energy wasted. Energy wasted will not move us toward peace.
Find some time today, make your lists. Examine what's going on in your life. What do you control? What don't you control?