Thoughts from Annie
Our Inner Toddlers
Transforming my anger also requires that I find out what need of mine was not being met by the offending email. And to find a way to meet that need. It may be a need to resist injustice or just be heard. In the case of my story, what the sender of the original email wrote to me didn’t meet my need to feel like I mattered. So I recognized that and had a choice. I could ask for clarification on the email and find out whether my assumptions were right, I could decide I don’t want to interact with this person anymore, and/or I could let myself know that I mattered to me. Once I could recognize the two toddlers inside of me, I would have had some hope of taking a skillful action.
I also needed to see how easy it was for me to dump a slightly abusive email on someone. After decades of mindfulness practice, there’s still a good possibility I will react when I am triggered. All my conditioning as a human being for the last 56 years and even into previous generations, primes me to be reactive when I think that I don’t matter. It feels like survival to some part of me. I don’t like that I am capable of this, but I am.
So why should it be any easier for the person who wrote the original email? Why should I hold them to such a high standard? They also have causes and conditions that prompt them to act out of anger or simple lack of awareness. This email was grounded in all of the past moments in the their life. It really doesn’t have much to do with me personally. Even if they had consciously wanted to make me suffer, it would still be a result of all that is inside of them, not me.
After sitting with myself and my feelings, I eventually wrote a new and much clearer, email, and all is well. One friend of mine practices being with her inner toddlers by letting the angry one get it all out. She writes a full-on angry email, but she doesn’t send it. She waits until she has taken good care of her anger, and then she goes back to the email. By the time she sends it, the email is clear, direct, and compassionate. I’ll consider that practice next time my toddlers gets control of the keyboard.
There is so much joy in being present and clear enough to make a wise decision. The only way to get there is to develop the ability to be present. Present for ourselves, for the other person, and for email writing. To know what we are doing in each moment, and choose to do it in the best way that we can. We take care of those inner toddlers – our feelings – with attention and loving kindness (try Focusing as a mindfulness-based technique to practice this). And we never let them drive our lives or write our emails.