I was thinking about some of the most common problems my clients face, and I wanted to create a podcast episode examining how we can recognize our triggers in our most challenging relationships to make change.
Our relationship are our greatest teachers. They can also be our most emotionally triggering.
Relationships don't just include the people in your life. We are in relationship with every aspect of our life.
We have a relationship with our goals, with alcohol, money, shopping, driving, your calendar, your practice.
Anything you can think of, you have a relationship with it.
If you're walking your dog while you're listening to this, you have a relationship with your dog.
You and I have a relationship.
That's because relationships are made of thoughts.
Specifically, relationships are made of our thoughts about the other person, place or thing that we are thinking about.
They're made of the interpretations that we make of how we interact with each aspect of our life whether it's a person, place or thing.
Every time we have a thought about our partner, a client, opposing counsel, money, our calendar, our business, the air we're breathing, we generate a feeling.
If we think our partner doesn't love us, we feel unloved.
If we think our partner loves us, we feel loved.
Our thoughts aren't necessarily true. But because we have that thought, we feel a feeling.
Your partner can tell you a million times that they love you, but they can't make you feel love.
Only your thought that they mean it can create the feeling of love.
And even if  you think they mean it, if you don't have the thought that you love them, you can't feel love.
Our thoughts about our experiences — our relationships — in the world are what generate emotions.
I'm narrowing the scope of this episode on using relationships to emotions that are traditionally considered strong negative emotions like anger, frustration, aggravation, guilt, shame because these are some of the emotions they come to me with on our calls.
These feelings are coming from thoughts we have about what's happening in our life.
When we become aware of how we're thinking about our relationships in the world, we can start to use them as teachers.
When we use them as teachers, we supercharge our growth. We supercharge our ability to take action to get the result that we want.
This is not comfortable work. It requires thinking differently than you have probably ever thought before.
Let it be okay to be uncomfortable.
Let it be okay that your brain hurts.
If this episode hits a nerve, I want to urge you to listen again until you understand why.
I encourage you to go back to every podcast episode that triggers you and listen to it again. And every one you avoided, I urge you to go back and listen to it.
Those feelings we try to avoid are the ones where we can get the biggest lessons.
The more you practice sitting in those emotions that are uncomfortable, the more you realize that they don't have to control you.
But we become so afraid of feeling bad that we do everything to avoid them or numb out, and those are the behaviors that interfere with us getting what you want. We react, we snap at people, we over-eat, over-shop, we do all those things because there's a feeling that we're avoiding.
This episode is really designed to challenge you just like I challenge my clients. I want you to be able to experience that for yourself as you examine how you are in relationship to your world.
Every relationship we have is a lesson to learn if we're looking for it.
Our easiest access point to those lessons is how we feel in that relationship.
Those feelings give us information about our relationship. THey're not good or bad. They just are.
Sometimes someone will ask me, “Aren't the ones we have that lead to us behaving how we don't want to behave bad?” No. In fact, that judgment that anything you do or feel is bad is creating a lawyer of shame that makes it more difficult to see the lesson.
We were placed on this planet with all of the emotions. None of them are bad and wrong. It's how we observe them and see how they show up in our life that matters. They're the best tools for our growth.
Instead of looking at feelings as positive or negative, good or bad, try looking at them as information.
Here are some examples:
  • when you wake up in the morning, do you feel angry, rushed, pressured – that's information about your relationship with your morning.
  • when you get emails from certain opposing counsel, do you feel annoyed or angry – that's information about your relationship with them.
  • when you feel shame or guilt because you didn't follow through on something you said you'd do — that's information about your relationship with yourself
  • when you don't hit your target for the month, and you feel disappointed and worried — that's information about your relationship with your business
We can gain a lot of wisdom about how to change our relationships and have the relationships we want, but we need to be open to allowing that wisdom.
Dismissing our emotions or labeling them as good or bad blocks us from gaining access to that wisdom.
Here are a few ways we dismiss our emotions without even recognizing it:
We think things like:
  • “Well, that's just the way I am.”
  • “That's just the way that they are.”
  • “That's the kind of person he is or I am.”
When we think these kinds of thoughts, we skim the surface of the relationship. It's like watching a bird skim the top of the ocean to grab a snack. They don't dive bomb, they just stay along the top picking up the little fish with their beak.
It limits our ability to have a perspective different from our own or have a perspective than is bigger than the one we currently have about ourselves and what we're capable of.
For example, once in a great while I'll offer coaching and have a lawyer tell me something like, “Well, I just don't see how that applies to me.” They feel closed off and defensive when they think that thought. If we take that approach to the world it limits what we're capable of because you're not looking for how it does apply to you.
I guide my clients through this, but you can do this on your own too.
When you feel closed off or defensive about anything in your life, ask yourself something like, “What if they're right?” “How might they be right?” “How might that apply to me?” You will gain access to so much wisdom simply by asking these questions.
Another thought that doesn't help us gain access to the lesson is thinking the thought, “I don't have control.”
Now, control is a total illusion. There's no such thing as control. But there's a helpful way to think about control and an unhelpful way to think about control.
The unhelpful way of thinking about control is the equivalent of thinking, “Well, that's just the way it is, and there's nothing I can do about it.”
That might be true. For example, we can't make people behave how we want them to because we all have free will.
What is also true is that there may be a lesson there for us to help us take responsibility for our actions, and that that lesson may help us influence other people and outcomes in the future. Taking responsibility, without judging ourselves or the other person's behavior, is the helpful way of looking at control.
Can you hold both of those thoughts at the same time? That we have no control, and we can take control of our behavior to influence our relationships whether it's with opposing counsel, your business, your calendar, and any other experience in your life?
You can't control if your child is sick in the middle of the week, but you can control how you are in relationship with your calendar and yourself, so that you know you can make your life easier no matter the unexpected circumstances.
This is something that in business we must do all the time if we want to grow.
You can't control whether someone hires you.
What you can control are the lessons you take away from a consult or networking interaction, so that you see what worked and didn't work for the next time you have a consult.
You may think you can't control what work comes your way in the firm, but you can take control of how you are in relationship to the people in your firm and how you communicate what you want, so that more work comes your way.
Another block we can have is our disconnection to our feelings.
That's why one of the things I with my clients on and one of the things I stress on this podcast is accessing those feelings. Especially when you're feeling intense emotion. Emotions like aggravation, anger, annoyance, fear, frustration, shame. Those kinds of feelings are great tools to learn the lessons from those relationships. We have a relationship with ourselves too. Our bodies, our minds, our self-concept, our emotions. We can shut down and open up.
Most of the time we shut down and ignore our relationship with the world. No one ever really taught us how to open up. Opening up has even been discouraged in our society because it's not “productive.” We feel things, but we ignore them because we're “too busy.” We're disconnected with what it means to connect with ourselves. We can't even notice the impact of being disconnected from ourselves.
You'll know you're disconnected if you ruminate, blame others for what you're feeling, or complain about how busy you are or complain about other people, but you're using that information about your behavior to make any changes. Disconnection really stalls us out in our life. It feels disempowering because we feel at the mercy of the world instead of recognizing that we are in relationship with the world, and we have the ability to impact that relationship.
For example, when we feel angry at an email we get from opposing counsel, we have thoughts creating the anger. Those thoughts create the relationship that we have with the email, with the opposing counsel, with ourselves, with our job.
Let's say counsel tells you in that email that you're behaving unprofessionally. That you shouldn't have done something that you did. Your first reaction may to think, “He's such a jerk. How dare he. He shouldn't write something like that to me. He should know better.”
But if you take a moment to reconnect and simply notice that you're having a feeling in your body — anger, defensiveness, shame — then you can get awareness. All you need to do is notice it.
That's your trigger to get the lesson this experience is offering.
In the moment that may be hard. You may want to snap off an email telling him what he can do with his email. Instead of reacting, I'll offer to you that there's a better way.
  • feel the feeling in your body
  • name it
  • does it move fast or slow
  • where is it in your body
  • do you feel open or closed
  • are you breathing shallow or deep
Asking yourself these questions will help you become an observer in this relationship.
It will help you slow your brain down, so you're not reacting and instead you're reconnecting with yourself.
Once you become conscious of the emotion, then it's time to get curious.
Ask yourself where your brain might agree with what opposing counsel said.
Maybe you see their perspective. Maybe you don't. It doesn't matter.
What matters is that you take a moment to open up your perspective instead of shutting it down.
What do you feel?
When my clients have experiences like this, and when I've had experiences like this, the first feeling we have is anger, but when we take time to notice where our brain agrees with what they said, we feel the true emotion which is shame or guilt.
We have a quiet thought that says, “I should be better,” or “I don't know what I'm doing,” or “I did something wrong,” and we can't even notice it because we're not reconnecting. We only feel defensive when we're agreeing with something someone says. That's why emotions are such a great tool to get the deeper lesson.
The lesson may be what your true thoughts about yourself are, and there may be more work for you there.
The lesson may be that you become more compassionate to people because we never know everything that's going on in their life or what's happened to them.
Another benefit of this work is opening up our perspective. It's easier for us to get into problem-solving mode. Problem-solving mode isn't looking for who to blame. It's looking at problems objectively and without judgment for either party. When we close down our perspective, our brains want to be reactive and often we take actions that we feel guilty about later.
Recognizing these relationships and feelings doesn't mean we have to be perfect and control them.
We can react in the situation and then later on, w/o judgment and w/ compassion for ourselves and that we're not robots, we can look at our relationship with the situation whether an angry  opposing counsel or we overspent that month or we're seeing that we're not going to the gym every week or following through with our calendar, whatever it is, we can look at our relationship with that and say , “Huh, I wonder why I did that? What was happening?”
This gets us into curiosity instead of judgment. Remember, judgment blocks us from growth.
What if you just looked at the facts, and ask, “I wonder what it would have looked like if I had more compassion? What might that look like int his situation?”
For example, I hated the way I felt in the morning. I felt rushed and pressured, and it was really setting my day up to feel more of that. When I exampled my relationship  with my mornings, I asked myself what was happening and what I wanted to do about it.
If I let my brain wallow in the knee jerk answers to that questions, I wouldn't have changed anything.
This work is about seeing your blindspots – and that's what I do with all of my clients
If you want to take this work deeper, book a call with me. You can go to dinacataldo.comstrategysesssion to book.
Alright my friend, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week, and I'll talk to you soon.