Do you ever find yourself fussing at the people you love most? I do this frequently, and if you’re anything like me, it never seems like your fault. The problem is 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.
The other day, I was listening to a podcast hosted by spiritual guru Dr. Wayne Dyer, and he used a simple metaphor about an orange to illustrate the importance of looking inward before blaming others. While we often believe that our anger and frustration are a result of what other people are doing, if we really take a step back to look at ourselves, we’ll see that our response to frustrating situations may have less to do with them, and more to do with us. He said:
“When you squeeze an orange, what comes out? Everyone with a pulse knows the answer is orange juice, and no matter how hard you squeeze, grapefruit juice will never fill your glass. The same is true for your life.”
In other words, when anger is inside you, anger is what comes out. When anxiety, stress, frustration, or fear is inside you, that’s exactly what comes out when you’re squeezed. Just as 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 full of negative feelings.
And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t really matter what or who 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, what comes out? Orange juice.
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 you were filled with frustration and anger from something else that happened that day—a botched project at work, bad news about a good friend, having no clue what to eat for dinner, etc.
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 refusal to clean his plate at 6:00 p.m., it would have been your partner’s refusal to take the trash out at 8:00 p.m., or a frustrating email from your sister at 9:00 p.m.
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. That traffic jam from yesterday didn’t make you angry. You had anger inside you long before that. The next time you start 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 pokes you. We’re only human, and we all get frustrated. My way of keeping ugly emotions at bay is with meditation and yoga. There’s a direct link between the days I meditate for ten minutes and the number of times I fuss at the people I love.
Most importantly, the next time you feel like you’re being squeezed, think about what’s about to come spilling out and why it’s there in the first place.
Unlike a piece of fruit, you do have control over what’s inside you. Orange you glad you’re not an orange?