Do you ever find yourself cracking under pressure and fussing at the people you love the most? I do this frequently, and if you’re anything like me, it never seems like your fault. It’s always theirs. When you’re running a busy life, it becomes almost instinctual to point fingers at other people for making you angry, upset or annoyed. Your mother makes you mad, your husband irritates you, your son makes you so incredibly frustrated.
The other day, I was listening to a podcast hosted by the spiritual guru Dr. Wayne Dyer, and he used a simple metaphor about an orange to illuminate the importance of looking inward to examine yourself before blaming others. While we often believe that our anger and frustration is a result of what other people are doing, if we really take a step back to look at ourselves, we’ll realize that our responses to frustrating situations have less to do with others, and more to do that what we’re holding inside ourselves.
Brace yourself; here’s Dr. Dyer’s orange metaphor:
“When you squeeze an orange, what comes out? Everyone with a pulse knows the answer is orange juice, and that no matter how hard you squeeze, grapefruit juice will never fill your glass. The same is true for your life.”
When anger is inside of you, anger is what comes out. When anxiety, stress, frustration or fear is inside of you, that’s exactly what comes out when you’re squeezed. Just like it’s impossible for apple juice to come out of an orange, it’s impossible for peace and joy to come out of you when you’re filled with anger and frustration.
This metaphor helps to answer a question I hear from mothers all the time: “Why did I lose my mind and scream at my daughter last night?” The (very probable) answer is that they were filled with frustration and anger from something else that happened in their day — a botched project at work, bad news about a good friend, having no clue what to make for dinner, etc. You name it; the list is endless.
You were filled with those negative emotions and your child/husband/dog “squeezed you” by doing something out of line, and anger/frustration/stress or anxiety came spewing out like someone took the lid off the commercial-size juicer at Sunday brunch.
And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t really matter what/whom is squeezing you. If you smash an orange with a hammer, what comes out? Orange juice. If you stab an orange with an ice pick, what comes out? Orange juice. If you put an orange in a vise and squeeze it, what comes out? Orange juice.The external probe doesn’t matter. This fact is easy to see with oranges but harder to see in our own lives. It’s easy to say you yelled at your son last night because he made you angry, but the truth is that you had anger inside of you, so anger came out when your son “squeezed” you. If it hadn’t been your son’s inability to clean his plate at 6:00 p.m., it would have been your husband’s inability to take the trash out at 8:00 p.m., or a frustrating email from your mother at 9:00 p.m. No matter who or what squeezes you, what’s inside is what comes out.
So, the next time you start to fuss at your family over the smallest transgression, consider the following baby steps before you go into full-on combustion-mode:
Stop blaming other people for your anger or frustration. The traffic jam you got stuck in yesterday didn’t make you angry. You had anger inside of you long before the traffic showed up. The next time you find yourself losing your cool, look at what’s inside of you instead of what’s in front of you.
Find a way to get your stress or anxiety out before somebody you love pokes you. We’re only human, and we all get frustrated. My way of keeping those angry emotions at bay is through meditation and yoga. There’s a direct correlation between the days I meditate for 10 minutes in the morning and the number of times I fuss at the people I love.
Most importantly, the next time you feel like you’re getting squeezed, stop and think about what’s about to come out and why it’s there in the first place.
Unlike an orange, you do have control over what comes out of you when you’re squeezed. Orange you glad you’re not an orange?