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Respond Instead of Reacting: Speak Your Truth, Not Your Fears

“Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” ~Laurence J. Peter

Finances, relationships, responsibilities, and life in general can certainly create a great deal of noise in our heads. However, if we truly want to feel inner peace, we must take the time to learn to be mindful instead of mind full. This, and only this, will allow us to respond to life instead of reacting to it.

I have tons of happy memories from my childhood and a few harsh ones too. Unfortunately, the harsh memories are those that we replay over and over again, until we heal them. A difficult memory that stuck with me for a very long time was my mother’s pattern of despair.

She would appear agitated or frustrated about something and soon after she would yell, “One of these days, you’ll come home and you’re not going to find me!” (There’s still a part of me that shudders a bit when I hear those words.)

As a child, this was a clear sign that my mom was angry about something and if I didn’t hurry up and make it better, she just might leave.

All I knew in my youth was that I didn’t want my mom to be mad and I surely didn’t want her to leave. As an adult, I have a very different view.

I am the youngest of four girls in my family, and I was born eleven years after my next eldest sister. My mom was in her late thirties when she gave birth to me, and she had been a mother from the age of seventeen.

When I think back to my own life at the age of seventeen, I certainly did not have the worries or concerns that my mother did. 

I wasn’t worried about finances, a marriage, or taking care of a young child. Instead, I was worried about what to wear to school the next day and when I was getting my braces off! One memory that sticks in my brain that happened when I was seventeen, was the day my mom stopped saying she was leaving.

I remember sitting at our kitchen table when my mom asked me to pull a turkey out of the oven for her because she had recently hurt her back and needed some assistance with this simple task. I was busy writing in my journal so I responded, “Sure mom, in a minute.”

She repeated herself again (because I’m sure she was nervous about her turkey burning or drying out).

I was engrossed in my journal and I just wanted to finish my entry. She raised her voice and once again said the words I dreaded to hear, “One of these days…”

I didn’t even let her finish her sentence. I jumped out of my chair, flung open the oven door, grabbed the turkey, and threw it on the stove. I turned to her and said, “Yeah mom, I know. You’re not going to be here. Well, there’s the door, don’t let it kick you in the ass!” 

The room fell silent as our eyes met and our hearts raced. Within a few moments, she looked at me with tears and I reflected those tears right back to her with my own eyes. No words were spoken, but in that moment, we both got it.

I understood that she never intended on leaving; she was just angry and frustrated and honestly didn’t know how to handle her emotions. She understood that those words hurt me and that she was putting her own pain on me.

We both understood that speaking with anger was never going feel right in our hearts.

My mother is a loving, generous, caring woman who, at times, spoke from a place of anger and fear with her children. What was she angry with? Well, my mom is currently in her seventies and she’s been raising children from the time she was seventeen.

Prior to getting married and having her first child at a young age, she felt unloved and invisible all too often in her life. Her anger came from not only feeling totally unseen, but by never feeling truly and totally loved.

As an adult, I now know and teach that you must love yourself before you can love another.

All too often, we give too much of ourselves only to feel agitated, annoyed, and empty. This is when we react to life. We speak out of anger instead of love.

When we feel these negative feelings, it’s extremely difficult to respond to life because we are too busy reacting to our painful emotions. On the other hand, when we respond to life, we take the time to quiet our minds and silence the noise before we offer our words of wisdom.

Of course, we don’t set out to hurt others with our words, especially those whom we love. Hurtful words come from hurting hearts, and although we think it will feel better once it’s out, it never does.

I’ve learned a great lesson from this childhood memory that I’d like to share with you.

When you feel words of anger bubble up inside of you, take a moment to walk away and take a deep breath. I mean really, take a deep breath. Then, imagine yourself dumping all of the noise in your full mind out into the Universe.

Replace those thoughts and worries with more deep breaths and this one beautiful affirmation: I am loved and I am mindful.

Once you’ve taken the time to calm down, look within to see who it is you are really angry with before you move forward to speak your truth.

My mom wasn’t angry with me. She was angry with herself and quite possibly life. When the anger would bubble up, she wasn’t speaking her truth. Instead, she was unknowingly releasing her frustration on an innocent child.

It is important to speak your truth. However, you want to be sure it’s your truth that’s coming out and not your fears.

Be mindful of your thoughts, your words, and your actions, because words of anger will never heal the human heart.

Photo by Damian Gadal

Avatar of Vicki Savini

About Vicki Savini

Vicki Savini has been empowering children and adults through individual consultations and group workshops for over a decade. She is a Science of Mind Practitioner, Reiki energy worker, and talented intuitive guide. Join Vicki at the ICDI-Ignite San Jose conference on March 15th-16th where she will inspire and empower 9-12 year old girls to believe in themselves and speak their truth.http://www.hayhouse.com/event_details.php?event_id=1952.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Judy

    Excellent article. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/CarmeloBryan Carmelo Bryan

    Thanks, Vicki. Such great advice that we need to hear more stories like yours. Too often we speak without that “pause” and breath that you speak of. We don’t want to hurt as you say although we THINK we do. We think we want to get back at them for what they just “did to us.”

    A little pause and a breath allows us to realize we don’t really want to stab back at them. Recently I had to fire a a virtual assistant (who I’d only just hired) because he simply didn’t get started, missed his promised deadlines, and didn’t communicate at all.

    He wrote a bitter email accusing me of impatience and suggested I would never find someone as good. At first I felt like being defensive but I waited. Then sent an email saying I could have made a mistake and that I wished him well. He responded with contrition and said he’d love to try again.

    Acting as you suggest in your post would surely make the world a friendlier, kinder place!

  • http://profiles.google.com/semayawi.toadcottage Beth Gallagher

    Thank you for this post, Vicki! You’ll never know just how appropriate this is for me at the moment. Thank you!!!

  • lindsay39

    Thank you Vicki! Your post was perfect for today! I too had a mom who lashed out with her anger, and my greatest fear has always been that I will be like her. Thank you for the reminder to take a different path. I linked to it in my post at
    http://radioactivecats.blogspot.com/2012/10/post-holiday-lessons-keep-coming.html if you want to read my take on it, too. And again, thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/mcmama McMandie

    I really love this. But how do we get to a point when we CAN take a moment. I so often find myself reacting before I have the chance to think to slow down and respond. Often, the thinking comes in the middle of reacting and I wish I could run the clock back 5 seconds.

  • Cinder

    Thank you for sharing your story. I nearly cried when I read it because those are the same words my mom used to say to me and my brother. He blew it off, but at my young impressionable age, I thought that I had to be perfect or my mom would leave us all. That’s a lot of weight to carry around when you’re 5 or 6. I love that you now understand that your mother was young, stressed and probably feeling unapreciated for all she did for others. I’ve found peace now and I’m glad you have too.

  • KCLAnderson (Karen)

    This is extremely powerful for me…I have come to understand the very same thing about my mother and it has helped me immeasurably. As of right now, however, we are estranged and I am not sure how or when we will be able to repair our relationship.

  • Irving Podolsky

    Hi Vicky,

    Your story just reminded me of one of my stories.

    My mother, a good woman like yours, got stretched to her limit one summer afternoon and just lost it. I can’t remember if it was me or my five year old sister or both of us that got to be too demanding. But SNAP, Mom marched out of her bedroom with a packed suitcase and said to me, “Take care of your sister. I’m going away! And when your father comes home, tell him YOU made me leave.”

    And she left.

    No, Dad did not chew me out for being a bad boy. He knew what Mom was going through and would have left if she didn’t.

    The next morning Mom was back to make us breakfast and get Dad off to work. The memory of that incident dissolved away long ago until reading your post today.

    Since then, my mother has apologized to me many times. And I have forgiven her for more breakdowns she tells me about which I don’t remember.

    Mom and I are close friends.

    Irv

  • http://zenpresence.com/ Zenpresence.com

    Hi Vicki,
    I really like this post. I included a link in my weekly list of the best reads on the net.
    http://zenpresence.com/2012/10/modern-zen-stories-vii.html
    Thanks,
    Dan Garner
    ZenPresence.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Irv, thank you for sharing. Hey, no-one ever said being a parent was easy, right? It sure would be nice to get a manual at birth! I’m so happy that you and your mom were able to talk about this and resolve the pain. Many blessings to you. Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Karen, I’m sorry to hear that you are currently estranged. Imagine a double solid line in the road, that sometimes becomes a broken line. This is how relationships and life work. Sometimes, we are solid and other time there are gaps in the line. Surround yourself in light, forgive your mom and most of all, forgive yourself. Even if you never speak the words, the healing will take place once you set the intention. Forgiveness is powerful. Namaste’, Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Cinder, yes, I’ve found peace as we do once we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. However, I’ve carried this lesson forward with me through life and I am conscious that my words and actions affect everyone around me. It’s a powerful lesson that I am very thankful for. Wishing you joy & peace, Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    McMandie, when we are driven by fear, it’s difficult to find Love in our hearts. Know that there are only 2 forces that drive you…Love & fear. Throughout your day, ask yourself, what’s driving me now, Love or fear? If it’s fear, it’s time to take deep breaths and nurture and love the little girl within. I have some great exercises for this. Please feel free to contact me at vicki@vickisavini.com Love & Light, Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Lindsay- I LOVE your post! You are not your mother. You are you! Focus on who you are and what you want to be as opposed to fearing what you do not want to be. You are a beautiful being of light and you will know when you are ‘out of balance’ because you’ve already learned this lesson from watching your mom. Blessings, Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Carmelo, yes it certainly would! ;) Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Thank you Judy. I’m honored that you enjoyed it. Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    The Universe has an amazing way of sending a message just at the right time. Namaste, Vicki

  • Beth

    This is me! A Mom with so much emotion, pain and fear. I lost my daughter because of it. She was adopted at 3 and came with her own traumas and biological traits. We were a solid family but the teen years became so emotionally charged it led to her hitting me. She is completely estranged from me and her family. I wish this article would have come to me a few years earlier, but I know through my practice now that things happen as they were meant to happen. I am desperately sorry for the pain I took part in.
    Beth

  • Val

    Thank you for this wonderful and honest post!
    I feel this is coming to a time when I needed to reflect on my own actions the most! I am this very mom you’re describing.. and I’m so done with feeling angry and letting it out on my kids, who happen to grate on my nerves with not listening and acting up and then I explode!.. :( I am so deeply afraid that I’m messing my kids up by the words I say in anger!.. (“I have enough of all this!”, “I wish I could just leave!”,…)
    I will take your advice to heart and make an effort to not only remove myself from the situation before words are said but also find out the roots of my anger! I know, I’m not in a very happy place right now…

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Beth, perhaps it’s time to forgive yourself. Forgiveness is a gift that we give ourselves when we are ready to heal. Forgive and move forward. Your daughter will find her way back to you. Love, Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Val…give yourself some ‘me time.’ A little bit of me time can go a loooooong way. It sounds like you are running on empty. When the light goes on on the gas gauge, we usually get to the gas station so that we don’t break down on the side of the road…your E light is going on…time to gas up! Fuel your tank girl…find some time for you and you will be a much happier person and mother. Lots of Love, Vicki

  • Bobby

    I was the forth, the youngest. I remember when my mom would leave. It was complete tumult to me. When she called my dad for him to come and pick her up because she’d given up, even THAT brought me sorrow – - as though she was ‘stuck’ with us and couldn’t make it anywhere else on her own.

    It sure could get messy all around. We had lots of love in our family though. Always saying, “I love you,” and meaning it…and this after screaming, “I hate you,” and not meaning it.

  • Pam

    Wow this really hit home for me. I am the oldest of 4 girls and we lived with a mom who was always angry. We never knew from one day to the next what kind of mood she was going to be in. Her anger was directed mostly at my dad in her sarcasm and hateful words. For her growing up with little attention due to a sick sister, not living her life to her fullest potential and she was a consummate pianist and college educated woman. She had much to be angry about and never got in touch with any of it. I feel that I may be a bit like my mom, except I don’t take out my anger on others, I take it out on myself. I am the poster girl for “caregiver”. It doesn’t surprise me that we both have/had weight problems.

  • Janet

    Thank you for a beautiful, insightful article. It was so generous and kind of you to share your very personal experience to try and help others. You have helped me re-appreciate that love and kindness heals much. Thank you.

  • Carol

    I cried when I read this because it sounds a bit like my own story. I’m the youngest of 4. My mom was 39 when I was born. My memories of her as a child are that she was always very sad and angry. Mostly at my father, but at the world too. There was not much love expressed in my childhood. A hug on your birthday or christmas… I can probably count on one hand how many times (I remember) my parents said they loved me. My mom would say—quite often that one day she was going to blow her brains out (with a gun) and we would find her. I got tired of hearing it as a teenager and sometimes wanted to tell her in my anger “if she was going to do it, then do it”— but never would, fearing she might do it out of spite. I felt she said those things out of desperation to control us with fear and guilt. I resented her for it. She would always speak bad about my father. Then at times she would tell me I’m just like him, sending a message to me that I’m a terrible daughter. (But I was actually pretty good kid and longed for my parents approval). Long story short, I have a lot of resentment for my mother and I struggle to have a good relationship with her. We see each other a lot because she lives closest to me and she always needs something. She is now 78 and I feel a lot of guilt that I get so angry, frustrated and impatient with her. I feel like a terrible daughter, but I know it comes from the resentment of my childhood. I don’t know how to overcome it. I don’t enjoy spending time with her because I feel like she sucks the life out of me. She is so negative, criticizing of everyone and expects everyone to do stuff for her in a moments notice. I am very reactive with her and have difficulty not being that way.

  • Carol

    Wow, I wasn’t expecting the reaction I had when I began reading this post. I had a similar childhood experience, with a mother who yelled because she was frustrated and angry from her childhood, and didn’t know how to properly handle her emotions. My sisters and I dealt with her outbursts, and we’ve all responded in different ways. I still remember the day second oldest sister spoke back to my mother. It was a turning point in my life as well as my sister’s. She and I still discuss our childhood, discovering who we have become as adults. I’m learning coping skills to deal with my anger and anxiety and fears because I don’t want to suffer like my mom did. My relationship with my mom has calmed down since then, and she doesn’t yell as much. We’ve had many heart to hearts over the years to better understand where each other was coming from. That has been helpful. Thank you, Vicki for your post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Thank you for reading my post! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Oh Carol…you sweet sweet woman. You are reactionary with your mom because you still see her as the mother who wasn’t there for you. See her as a child for a moment. Try to put yourself in her tiny little kid shoes and imagine her pain. Then, go to your own childhood and LOVE that little girl the way she needed to be loved and wasn’t loved. There’s so much to write here, but not enough space. Please feel free to email directly vicki@vickisavini.com Lots of LOVE and tons of light, Vicki

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Yes Janet…love and kindness. It’s really the solution to the problems of the world. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Pam…GREAT! You are at the first step…awareness! I teach a course to help people to move through their ‘core beliefs’ and make new ones to move forward in life…step 1: Recognize…become aware Step 2: Realize…alternatives…now you’re ready for that step my dear. You always have alternatives. When will you begin to love yourself? The answer to releasing that anger in within loving yourself. Please email me if you would like to chat more. Love, Vicki vicki@vickisavini.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/vicki.savini Vicki Scalzo Savini

    Hmmmm…confusing messages huh? The lesson WE can learn from all of this is…’say what you mean…mean what you say.” Blessings to you! Vicki

  • Pam

    Thank you for your comments. I love a lot of things about me but am ashamed at how little self control and discipline I have. If you don’t gain these things (along with self-esteem) as a child then it is majorly more difficult to achieve them as an adult. Unfortunately as someone who has been in customer service for 40 years, I have had to “eat” a lot of —- burgers and I think that between that and the stress it has taken its toll on me.

  • Leah

    wonderful article

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  • Alina Romanova

    Brilliant & so helpful…

  • preet

    Hi vicki
    I can very well relate to this as i keep on doing to my husband.
    I try to hurt him by saying this that i am leaving because i want to reassure myself that i am loved and he would stop me
    But i have realized that may be getting this assurance hy creating a fear in his mind about me leaving him
    What if someday he does not stop me and everything ends up?