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    Relationships * Mindfulness * Spiritual Counseling * Dream Work

July 2009 Newsletter

Free Monthly Newsletter
July 2009

Keeping Your Cool When Others Make You Hot!!

by Dr. D. Royce Fitts,
Spiritual Counselor and Psychotherapist

Tel: 308.436.2224


I.  First a Story About You!

II.  How to be Coooool…no matter what!


I.  About You!

July on the prairie.  Temperatures soar into the 90s, even beyond the 100s.  Summer storms sweep across the land.  Rain.  Wind.  Hail.  Tornadoes on the Weather Channel! (Yea! We’re famous!)  And then, almost as if ordered by angels, calmness comes…quietly.  Early morning songs from tiny wrens, robins and meadow larks invite a kind of blessed meditation that life, even with all its harshness, heart-ache and pain is still “good enough”…

Can you believe that?

How do you handle your “inner summer”?  How do you deal with the normal and abnormal stuff of life?  How do you deal with those times, those minutes, hours, days and even months of strains and stresses that make a mid-summer’s storm seem like a small breeze in comparison to the way you are affected by others, your colleagues, neighbors, family members, supervisors, bosses?

How do you keep your cool when others make you hot?

A mid-summer’s nightmare?

No matter your present place in life at this moment, no matter how bad your job is, no matter how bad your relationship is, no matter how bad the bad is…you can survive it.  Not without scars, perhaps; not without tears, perhaps; not without deep pain and fear, perhaps.  You can survive.  Even thrive…

(“Cheeze! Royce!”, you may be thinking, “what kind of pessimistic newsletter is this, anyway?”)

I gave a seminar the other day with some salt-of-the-earth folks who are most extraordinary because they are so like you, like me, so ordinary.  Folks who, like you, like me are just trying to be and do their best in life.  Trying to earn a living, trying to pay bills, trying to enjoy life a bit, trying to raise children, trying to make some meaning in life, some purpose with beauty, adventure, joy…like you, like me.

These folks work for a small prairie city, employees working in public service to help a small town work…so toilets flush and waste goes where it is supposed to and not pollute the land, so water can be sprinkled on thirsty flowers and nourish the city parks for children and other living things, so the streets and alleys are safe and drivable, maybe without potholes, too!  So the graveyard is cared for and beautiful to reflect the beauty of loved ones who have gone before…so citizens can be protected by the police and live in safety…ordinary life, ordinary people…

Except, they get yelled at…by other ordinary folks, like you, like me…yelled at, put down, criticized for being “brain dead”, for wasting tax money on worthless projects…on and on.  One kind city employee described how she was verbally assaulted by a deli counter person at one of the local grocery stores for some decision the city counsel had made…what??  She, the city employee, handles some billing for some city department…not for what the city counsel decides.  But, it did not matter to the deli counter person…you know what I mean?  In a slight twist of an awful racist phrase sometimes used, “ya’ know, they all look alike, those city employees…”  Prejudice, judgementalism, cruelty, woundedness comes in all forms…

How do you keep your cool when others make you hot?

II.  How to be Coooool…no matter what!

Sometimes I am good at it, sometimes not.  Probably the same for you, as well.  Here are some ideas that I shared with these city employees.  Some of these ideas, not mine originally, are from a concept of communication and psychotherapy that is known as “family systems”.  I invite you to explore these ideas through you using your favorite search engine…it’ll be fun!  I love this approach in dealing with the difficult stuff of life.  I was trained in it in my doctoral studies a century or so ago.  Powerful stuff, it is…and simple and hard, hard and simple to get and do…

Here are some highlights and tips (revised a bit) from the seminar:

What is this all about??  I’m just trying to do my job, then someone yells at me and all of a sudden I can’t think clear!

1)  It’s a thing called “projection and displacement” …fancy words for saying “you just got dumped on…”

Projection is a normal, mostly unconscious process that we all do.  It is sort of like we all have a “movie camera” inside of us that makes up movie stories and projects the story on the movie screen that, also, just happens to be another person!  (Yikes!)

Example:  Your lover looks at you, then looks away.  What are you thinking?  He disapproves of something?  She is shy?  Your likely first reaction/thought is called a projection.  To stop the projection, you need to ask your partner, check it out with her…ask him what the looking away meant?

Displacement is a reaction when someone takes a feeling from one area of their life and “places” that feeling in another, usually unrelated, area of their life.

Example:  You are emotionally hurt at work by a comment from your supervisor.  You do not know how to solve this problem with your supervisor.  You feel insecure, hurt, angry, confused.  You go home and are distant from your husband, even act angry at him.  For once, it is not your husband’s fault!  (-:  This is displacement.

2)  Underneath all the dumps and the frustrations is an important, maybe the most important insight, of your job and life…it is called anxiety.  You are born with it.  It is an instinct for “fight or flight”.  There is no cure.  If you are human, you got it.

Example:  A sabre-tooth tiger lurks outside your cave.  Whaddayagonnado??  Fight or flight?  Anxiety is healthy!

3)  Our job, no matter what, is to manage anxiety.  Manage it, manage it, manage it.

Example:  Your partner was kindly helping you wash the dishes.  Her hand slips off the china plate and it goes crashing to the floor, breaking into many pieces!  You, for once, are one cool cat.  You act calm.  You do not get reactive.  It is just a (very valuable, rare, stolen artifact taken from the tomb of the last emperor of the Ming dynasty!) plate…you  manage, not cure, your anxiety.  Good luck with that…

Remember the kind city employee who was verbally assaulted by the deli counter person in the story above?  She had to deal with all of these things (projection, displacement, anxiety) from the counter person in the space of a twinkling of a star!  Plus, she had to deal with all of these things from within herself, too!  Crazy, huh?  We do it all the time…She got an “A”.  What do you think?  What would you get?

How to Keep Your Cool and Not Get a Heart Attack (and, maybe, even have fun doing it!)

1)  Instinct vs. Non-Anxious Response

OK, in simple terms that even I might understand:  Anxiety is an instinct.  A non-anxious response is a way to “put on the shelf” the instinctual anxiety and act in a calmer manner.  It is not about not feeling anxious!  It is about making a choice to act calm, even when I feel like I do not want to or that I can’t!  Here is a great thought:  Alcoholics Anonymous has a powerful statement that is, at first thought, kind of weird:  “Fake it till you make it.”

2)  Thinking vs. Feeling

I often tell clients and, even more, tell myself, that we cannot stop feeling the feelings.  We can, though, learn to coach ourselves to not let ourselves be ruled and act from our feelings.  We can learn to use our “healthy” thoughts to be our guide to act in healthier ways.

3)  Catch Calmness!  It’s contagious!

Remember, it is not about feeling to act calm, it is about choosing to act calm.  Anxiety is contagious, you knew that.  So is calmness.

Coach Yourself To Victory!

You are your own best coach.

Survival Tips:

Remember, all you can do is do your best.  Since you know that you will likely be a target of “projection and displacement”, plan ahead!  Have a calm response ready to use.  If you can improve your non-anxious responses by 10%, would that be OK?  Some family system folks believe that just 10% improvement can tip the balance for the best.  What do you think?  What if you could even move that percentage up to, say, 25%?

Use healthy humor (not angry sarcasm).  Humor works great to deflect other people’s dumping anxiety on you.

Yes, anxiety is an instinct!  It is automatic.  It is like an infection and it is contagious.

Calmness is a choice, not a feeling!  It is not an instinct.  Calmness is contagious, too!  Act calm, act calm, act calm.

Give up trying to change another person!  Change yourself!  Change yourself!  Change yourself!

Regulate yourself.  All you can control is you.

If there is conflict, this is a good sign.  Listen.  Be respectful.  Reflect what you hear the other person saying.  Manage/regulate yourself.

Keep yourself growing healthy.  Do things that help you grow.  Do healthy things that help you release stress.  It is sort of like this:  “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”  What does it take for you to be happy (healthy)?

Expect sabotage from others when you are doing the right thing.  Sabotage is normal.  Crisis is normal.

It is OK to take a stand for what you believe is the right and healthy thing to do.  This is healthy leadership.  Do not expect you can do this without conflict.  Do your best to keep the conflict healthy and respectful.  Keep yourself calm, manage yourself, regulate yourself.

Respond, not react.

Hang out with motivated people, not un-motivated.

Suffering is a part of life and often hurts. Spend suffering wisely.

May you do your best to choose calmness this day!


For a counseling session, to do a workshop, or for retreat info; please contact me at
D. Royce Fitts, D. Min.
PO Box 363  Gering, NE 69341  Tel: (308) 436.2224  Cell: (308) 631.2398

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