How does the old saying go? They can’t ‘get your goat‘ if you don’t let them know where you’ve got it tied. With the goat representing a state of calm centredness, I am clearly in favour of not handing control of that to anyone. Yet I do, more than occasionally.
Recently, my own ‘old goat’ started pulling reactively on its tether in response to an angry written communication I opened in my inbox one morning following my meditation and yoga routine. The note was laced with distorted thinking, half-truths and inflammatory language crafted for the perceived self-preservation of the sender.
Without even taking a deep breath or reading until the end, I started mentally formulating my own equally reactionary response. I had been challenged to a duel of words and armed with my sharp vocabulary, was ready stand my ground and defend myself to the death. No one was going to address me like that and get away with it!
Then, almost as quickly as the thoughtless yet energizing emotional reaction began, a wake-up call went off like my cell phone buzzing to signal an incoming text. I noticed how high my stress level had spiked by an external source in a matter of seconds. In a blink of an eye, I had gone from zen to zany.
And for what was I willing to give up this precious calm I had cultivated through my practice? Distorted thinking, half-truths and inflammatory language from a clearly troubled person? And to what underlying belief was I clinging to that led me to get so defensive at the thought of someone being so displeased with me?
In a more intentional state, I read the words again and noticed where my anger showed up in my body. With each word, my heart rate increased and I felt anger rise from the pit of my gut, up through my solar plexus until my neck and face were warm with a simmering rage. I allowed myself to feel the tightness in my chest, the clenching of my jaw and the gave the feeling an audible voice in a few minutes of ranting aloud at audacity of the sender. As an added bonus, I gave myself a moment or two to nitpick the grammar and spelling and even engaged in one dramatic eye-roll at the ridiculous overuse of capital letters for impact.
With that out of the way, the knots in my chest began to slowly unravel. My jaw and throat became loose and free. My breathing deepened. What normally would have been fodder for a couple of days of deep resentment, contempt and chronic complaining was expressed and let go.
There was no need for questioning the reasonableness or rationality of my angry reaction. No need for hours wasted articulating a biting response that had nothing to do with the sender and more to do with my need to prove myself justified.
I had a feeling, felt it in technicolour then moved on. So that’s how that works.
In the game of feeling feelings: Goat – 1. Bitterness – 0.