Just the thought of them is enough to get your hackles up. And you have to see them soon so you’re already working out your strategy. You find them entering your thoughts at random times of the day, you imagine what you will say to them when you next see them – you long to put them in their place once and for all. You’re secretly seething and you still don’t know what you’re going to do about it.
You fantasise about yelling at them and telling them in no uncertain terms all the things you’ve always wanted to say, but you don’t want them to know they’ve got to you, so instead you work out how you can intellectually outwit them instead. Or perhaps, this time, you will be more subtle in how you show them your disappointment in them. These thoughts whir round and round in your head, and you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about them.
We suppress our emotions, yet they still disable us
For many of us, having grown up in an era of personal development and with the phrase ‘emotional intelligence’ being in common parlance since Daniel Goldman coined the term in the 90s. We have learned to contain our feelings about our obnoxious work colleague, family member or neighbour. Or at least self-manage in their presence so we don’t appear to be the one with the problem.
So we may not be someone who is openly hostile, getting into heated arguments and forcing our opinion down someone else’s throat, but containing ourselves and keeping a lid on our emotions is still costing us. Instead of shouting and raging at them we may have managed to avoid having an outburst. However, these kinds of encounters leave us feeling drained, upset, vowing to avoid them or heading to the nearest bottle of wine to drown our sorrows.
It’s inevitable that, at times, we’ll come across other people whom we experience as unfair, incompetent, arrogant or simply downright annoying. And no matter how emotionally intelligent we are, the way some people behave would drive a saint to lose their cool.
Repressed emotion breeds conflict
You’re not alone. In almost every War to Peace® workshop I run, it only takes one person to talk about their feelings of pent-up rage about someone they work with, or encounter in their personal life, for a unison of nods from the other participants. We know it’s no longer acceptable to have an emotional outburst in the workplace or with our in-laws so when we find ourselves riled up by someone, we often feel doubly resentful that we’ve had to hold it all in – or we have an acute sense of disappointment about ourselves for letting them get under our skin in the first place.
Regardless of how incompetent, annoying, unfair they are, we know that resenting them isn’t the best course of action. Especially when it inevitably tips over into sniping or point scoring, either directly toward them, or to those closest to us.
And so you add another layer of conflict to the feelings you’re already experiencing. Meaning a whole lot of mental energy is being wasted and results in you losing focus, reducing your capacity to shine.
So if you’re secretly seething, what can you do?
- The first step is to be honest with yourself about what’s going on for you internally. We tend to think of conflict as being characterised by overt disagreements. This can be as forms of aggression or tonally like raised voices or sarcasm. But even if you are not externalising your thoughts and feelings, the fact that you’re seething inside is costing you.
- The second thing to remember is that this conflict and what you’re feeling about it isn’t who you are. It helps us to think about it as a place we visit from time to time – we refer to this as ‘being in the Red’ – which means it is also a place we can move away from once we learn how to. No matter how intense your internal dialogue might be at times, the “monster” who’s seething inside is not who you are as a person.
- The true person you are is someone at ease, with a clear head who is able to respond to others. Rather than react to them, even when they are behaving in ways that you don’t like or agree with. We refer to this as being in the Green. This may not sound familiar to you right now, but you will have experienced this many times in your life. Particularly when interacting with people you enjoy being with and you are simply being you.
If you want to learn what secretly seething is costing you, and how to find your way back to your true self, join me at one of the open-access War to Peace® workshops that anyone may attend.
Over to you
Can you relate to secretly seething? What impact did it have and what are your own tips for overcoming it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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Photo credit: Kyle Glenn via Unsplash