3 Reasonable Responses To Steady Us When Life Feels Unstable

by Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Live Love Now

Because I wrote a book called LIVE LOVE NOW, you might think I am going to tell you how you can live in a constant state of love and positivity now and forevermore. That is not the case, nor is it realistic. As we live life, we inevitably encounter distressing situations and tough periods which can bring forth unloving responses. But when we begin practicing living love, we learn over time how to choose empathy and kindness for ourselves and others, even during times of conflict and instability.

Living love is often messy, and it’s not always easy—but it becomes a recurring gift we can give ourselves and the ones we love. Take a look…

While working on breaking a long and unhealthy relationship with diet soda one summer, I had an emotional outburst. At the time, my head was throbbing from the caffeine withdrawal, and I was mad at myself for not listening to my urologist when she said it was imperative that I stop drinking soda.

As I grumbled to myself in the kitchen that morning, every crumb on the floor glared at me. I hollered at my daughters to help sweep and was met with a very lethargic 10-year-old who had a sore knee. She half-heartedly pushed the broom across the floor in no particular direction.

After watching for a few minutes in irritation, I aggressively instructed her to “put some muscle into it!”

When she made minimal improvement, I spouted off a tirade of complaints. As the harsh words tumbled out of my mouth, I cringed. I sounded so unreasonable. So erratic. So irrational. So unhinged.

But in my state of duress, I could not pull it together.

The mediocre sweeping stopped abruptly and the girl pushing the broom began to cry.

My older daughter intervened calmly. “Mom,” she said, “we know you’re trying hard to break an unhealthy habit, but please don’t be mean. Avery is trying.”

My daughter Natalie saw to the root of the problem, and she responded compassionately and calmly—a winning combination.

“Natalie is being reasonable,” I thought to myself. “I am not. I should follow her lead.”

I instantly calmed.

Irrationality loses power in the face of reason.

Fear wanes in the presence of calm.

Conflict eases in the light of compassion.

This is what I know.

If it hadn’t been for the diet soda meltdown, I might have forgotten about my long and unhealthy relationship with ‘Unreasonable.’ For decades, I’d clung to it when I was fearful, anxious, angry, sad, or stressed. My sister, Rebecca, was the best one at spotting the deeper issue behind my unreasonable behavior and addressed it with a calm and steady approach, “How can I help, Rachel?”

Rebecca’s response had always had a profound impact on my anxiety.

Irrationality loses power in the face of reason.

Fear diminishes in the presence of calm.

Conflict eases in the light of compassion.

This is what I know.

Over the past several years, I’ve learned to detect when I’m starting to latch on to Unreasonableness. I start to feel it weigh down my body. My heart begins racing. I can’t breathe or think straight. I start barking orders at loved ones or myself, as if to control an uncontrollable situation.

Those unpleasant feelings and behaviors alert me to repeat my sister’s words. I say to myself: How can I help, Rachel? Those words help me stay in a rational place where communication opens up and help can be received.

Although it may sound odd, I’m thankful for my relationship with Unreasonableness. The growth and awareness stemming from it has prepared me to be a loving Guide to my kids as they navigate the teen years, a time that often seems to invite instability. Although I am still a work in progress, I am able to look past my daughters’ behaviors and see the deeper source of pain. As a result, they are often able to recognize it themselves.

One afternoon, I received a frantic call from my older daughter about a neighbor’s house key she’d misplaced. In her moment…

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