Fools React, Leaders Respond

“So what the hell am I supposed to do when she says something so stupid that I want to beat the hell out of her?” 

My response to the rageful question was not what he wanted to hear: “Feel the feelings… And do the right thing!“

My response is wisdom I learned from my stellar mentor, Dr. Pat Love, years ago.

As I’ve been sharing over the past few weeks, our lives are being propelled upward or onward to greater things, or downward and backwards to places no one truly desires to go.

Although for years we thought we had no control over the propellers, new breakthroughs and neuropsychological research has revealed that we all actually have more control than we ever imagined.

Does it require some incredible emotional maturity? Yes it does! But the truth is, we can reach goals, achieve things, and realize dreams we never imagined possible. Yet… And it’s a big yet… We will be required to do what it takes to manage the direction of our propeller.

As shared over the past couple of weeks, there are four blades on our life‘s propellers: 

1. Potential

2. Responses

3. Decisions

4. Beliefs

Last week we looked at the potential blade, and the six qualities and characteristics we can develop that will bust us out of (or through) any limits placed upon our potential.

This week our focus is on propeller blade number two: RESPONSES.

I am certain that at times in your life, you have had responses to some things that are actually knee-jerk reactions, and is what reversed your propellers into nose dive mode. Those responses are truly things that we can prevent, reverse, and/or accelerate our momentum upward!

What happens that causes us to react (rather than respond) and create downward and/or backward momentum?

There are three things that normally create reactions. And when I say reactions, what I mean is: ”Responses that are not processed, thought through, and maturely initiated.” Quite often they are knee-jerk reactions based on more than just the moment we are in.

The three things that normally initiate reactions are:

1. Greatly adverse situations

2. Our history

3. Carried feelings

I want to share how pressing pause between any response whatsoever, and evaluating the above can reverse your propeller from downward to upward momentum, or catapult your upward momentum to even greater places.

1. Greatly adverse situations

Sometimes things that occur are out of our control, but we find our selves reacting. That is totally normal. But I train individuals, couples, companies, families, and business leaders that unless it’s a 911 emergency, the healthiest thing that you can do is press pause.

An adverse situation can be anything from being in a car accident, to having your wife say some thing that hurt your feelings at dinner.

You do not have to let your reactions send your life into a nose dive. When you find yourself in an adverse situation, and all is safe, take a moment and follow the following steps:

A. Ask yourself what response could bring resolve to the situation?

B. Ask yourself what you need to do to get to a place where you could respond in that manner?

C. Let your words and actions align with that.

Recently, I had a couple in my office. There had been an adverse situation in their family where a teenager was asking for permission to do something, and the parents (the couple I was seeing) were on different pages. 

Instead of excusing themselves to have a conversation behind closed doors, a reaction domino effect started. And it was NOT a good one!

When asked about spending the night in a hotel with a bunch of other 15 and 16 year old boys, the dad had chuckled, and said: “of course! Boys will be boys.“

The mom disagreed and began the reaction war. She snarled: “and you wonder why our other son got a DUI?”

And you can imagine where that conversation went after that!

I invited her to consider the three steps above. I walked through them with her and said, “Do you think that response brought any resolution to the situation?” She said: “Of course not! But it made me feel better for a moment.” We all chuckled because many of our responses are for that reason. To make us feel better for a moment, but initiating a war! And left unchecked, it’s a “common“ response. Not healthy, not helpful. But it happens often.

Next I asked her what response could have brought resolution or at least opened the door to it? After a thoughtful moment, she responded wisely: “Perhaps if I had laughed and said I’m sure I would’ve loved to have done that too when I was 14 or 15. Let dad and I talk about this and we will get back with you later this evening.“

Then I asked her to look at step B. “What could you have done to get yourself in a place to respond In that manner?” She said, “I would have needed to lay down my judgment about his response, and keep the focus on what I believed was best for my son. rather than being right.”

Then as we looked at step C together, I pondered: “Do you think your words and actions aligned with that? And led things to resolution?”

Her response was one I hear often! “NO! But that’s so hard to do!“

She’s absolutely right. It’s hard to do. I asked her if she thought that doing what she just suggested would have been more difficult than cleaning up the mess that turned into an all out war in their home for a week?

As most do, she acknowledged that the week had been a “living hell.“

It is hard. But when you are facing any adverse situation, if you want your life to go onward and upward, you must press pause and evaluate how your response could bring resolution. Or war if you choose to “feel better for a moment.” Then choose accordingly.

I closed the session with this admonishment: “Feel the feelings of your disappointment and disbelief about your husband’s comments, and do the right thing. Respond in a way that can bring resolution.” 

What about you?

Is it worth pressing pause in order to reverse to upward and catapult yourself to even higher heights by responding in a way that brings resolution or at least opens the door to it?

I would love for you to press pause, and ask yourself what would you do in the future in adverse circumstances or situation to respond in a way that does not send your life into a nose dive?

2. History

Another thing that tends to elicit knee-jerk reactions is history. When your reaction or response is above and beyond an appropriate response or reaction, you have likely been triggered by your history.

What do I mean by history? Things that happened to us (usually early on in our lives), or other traumatic things in our young adulthood or adult life. Things that hurt us. Things that disappointed us. Things that traumatized us. Things that shut us down.

At the moment we may have no conscious recall of what has triggered us. But when you know your response is out of proportion, take a moment to press pause.

A. Ask yourself when you have felt this feeling previously

B. Ask yourself if there was a time before that you felt it

C. Make note of those things that were triggered, and enter into a process of bringing healing to those listed events

A. Ask yourself when you have felt this feeling previously. It may take a moment, and the situations could be totally unrelated. But you would not be having an out of proportion response if there was not something similar to that feeling in your history.

Research tells us that when things affect us, especially early on in our lives, we often have no means to process through them.

What occurs is that we store those feelings/memories at a cellular level. They are underground warting to be released. When they find something to hook onto, they are glad to do so. And they immediately begin directing our reactions and responses. Which when connected to history, are 99% of the time way out of balance!

B. Ask yourself if there was a time before that when you felt a similar feeling. Keep asking yourself until you find the earliest time you can remember feeling it. 

Each incident you can remember will likely be totally unrelated events. But once again, it’s something being held at the cellular level, and that requires a tremendous amount of energy daily. And remember, it is searching hard for a way to be released.

It will raise its head in anyway possible. It’s not a bad thing at all, unless you allow it to direct your life. It is simply something in you, begging for attention and healing.

C. Make note of those things that were triggered, and enter into a process of bringing healing to those incidences or situations. 

Sometimes this requires a counselor, mentor or coach. But often, just journaling about it can bring enough healing. Here is the journaling outline assignment I give clients as a place to start:

  • Write about what happened
  • Write about what you felt at the moment it occurred
  • Write about how you think it has affected your life
  • Write about how you think your life would be better without that being stored in your body
  • Write a letter to “it“ (the situation, the circumstance, and/or the feeling).
  • Tell it that you know it needs to be released.
  • Tell it that you are setting it free.

Sometimes in my office, I will use biodegradable helium balloons for people to write on with a magic marker. Then we actually go out and release it. Do something that is symbolic for you in order to release it.

Client and workshop participants are often astounded about the increase in their energy levels once they release these things.

What will you do to begin to write about these things so that history does not create reactions that send your life into a nose-dive?

You were born to soar, to go to higher places than you imagined. Begin to do what it takes to release history that sends you into nose dive mode!

Feel the feelings, and do the right thing!

3. Carried feelings

The third thing that feeds reactions that create nose dives, instead of healthy responses that create upward momentum toward our dreams and goals, are carried feelings.

What are carried feelings? Carried feelings are feelings we picked up from early caregivers (parents, nannies, teachers, coaches, extende family, etc.). As young children, we have not yet established the ability to use boundaries. So feelings that are in excess or over the top, as well as feelings being stuffed down, make their way right into our very being.

New scanning technologies actually allow us to see places in the brain, and other parts of our bodies, where these archaic feelings are stored.

To place more clarity on the carried feelings concept, you could look at it like this. If you had a caregiver who was on blood pressure medication … that was a good thing (if they were taking it as prescribed). It was good for them.

But if it had been handled carelessly (left on the kitchen counter with the childproof cap off), and you had taken one, it would NOT have been good for you! As a matter of fact, it could have had long-term health consequences for you.

The same is true with feelings that are handled carelessly. They have the potential to be gifts to the one who is spewing them or stuffing them. But for you, they have the potential of long term physical, mental and emotional health consequences.

Every feeling is meant to be a gift. For example,

  • The gift in pain is healing, reaching for help, hope
  • The gift in anger is power, strength and motivation
  • The gift in fear is protection and wisdom
  • The gift in guilt is course correction, living in alignment with our purpose
  • The gift in joy is fulfillment, happiness and purpose
  • The gift in passion is drive, dedication, commitment, connection
  • The gift in shame is knowing we are imperfect, but striving to become better and grow, knowing we need God

But many of us do not experience the gifts at all. As a matter of fact, we experience the symptoms that tell us we are carrying feelings.

Here are the symptoms of carrying feelings. You do not get the gifts mentioned above, but instead you experience these difficult things:

  • If you carry pain, you may experience depression, sadness, despair
  • If you carry anger, you likely have rage issues, fear of anger, or go into the silent rage (cold as ice) mode
  • If you carry fear, you likely struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, terror, always expecting the worst to happen
  • If you carry guilt, you feel guilty all the time about everything
  • If you carry joy, you are likely sarcastic, don’t get jokes, feel like a victim or martyr
  • If you carry passion, you feel overwhelmed, over sexual, shut down sexually, uncommitted or over committed, lacking clear direction
  • If you carry shame, you may feel worthless, like a mistake, or like you add no value to your home, your work or the world, like you are taking up undeserved space

Anytime you find yourself regularly struggling with symptoms on the “carried feeling” list above, you can be assured you are carrying someone else’s feelings. And their feelings create reactions that cause you to take nosedives in your life. Or at least major steps backward.

What are you supposed to do about that? Well, there are many powerful exercises I do with my clients to remedy this. But here is one you can do yourself, and find great release from being triggered by carried feelings.

A. Guess which caretakers could have been guilty of handling their emotions irresponsibly. Whether emoting them everywhere, or stuffing them. Even if you are wrong, it will still be an effective exercise.

For example, if you find yourself raging (or shutting down) when anger occurs, ask yourself who was irresponsible with their anger.

Recently, I was helping a young woman with what she called her “river of rage.” She didn’t act it out often, but her physician had suggested it could be the cause of her high blood pressure. I asked her which of her caregivers were irresponsible with their anger. She immediately responded: “ALL of them! My gymnastics Coach yelled at us for the entire two hours we were there 5 days a week. My Dad was a minister and everything was hellfire and brimstone. My Mom believed ‘good girls don’t do anger’ so she stuffed hers no matter the cost.” The list went on.

Take a moment and make a list of who was irresponsible with the emotion that you see symptoms in yourself from on the carried feelings symptom list.

This isn’t about blame. It’s not about confronting whoever was irresponsible with them. It’s about identifying the root. Not to hold grudges or blame, but to get yourself freed from them triggering you into responses that result in nosedives.

B. After you identify them, write a sentence or two about the following:

  • How their irresponsibility with their feelings affected you when you were young
  • What programming you took from their irresponsibility with their feelings
  • What the long term results are in your life
  • How it affects you currently
  • What you wish they had done differently

C. Now write a letter to each one (ALERT! This letter is NOT to be sent).

Include these things in the letter:

  • What feelings you saw them be irresponsible with
  • How it affected you then
  • How it affects you now
  • Why you need them to take them back (even if they are deceased)
  • Then this sentence: “I am upset that you were irresponsible with your _______(name the emotion). I have a right to be upset! And I give you back your _______(name the emotion).”

D. Seal each letter in a separate envelope. Write their name or role on the front. (Example: Mrs. Thornton or Gymnastics Coach).

Then do one of two things:

  • Drop it in a mailbox. (Sorry to any Postal Workers who might read this). But there is something about dropping it and knowing it is going somewhere else. (Probably to the “dead mail file.” But it won’t be with YOU any longer!) Many tell me that they actually feel something powerful when they drive away from the mail dropbox.
  • Drop them in a fire (safely, as in a fire pit or a fireplace). Watch it until it is totally burned, and all that is left is ashes. There is power in watching something that has controlled your life be reduced to ashes.

The key here is to feel your feelings, and do the right thing. But when your feelings are stacked with someone else’s, you are unable to isolate yours from theirs. Stacked and carried feelings will hijack you every time and take you to places you do not want to go!


You can have healthy responses, ones that will sky rocket your joy, fulfillment and success. Intervening in this blade of “responses” is a powerful way to reverse nosedives and catapult you forward.

I began this week with what may have sounded like a scary story where a man had blurted out in a rage: “So what the hell am I supposed to do when she says something so stupid that I want to beat the hell out of her?” 

This brought up many issues that were addressed (physical and emotional safety in the relationship, disrespect, judgement, etc). But I would like to share how I intervened in the “response” blade.

I worked with him to acknowledge that he was being “triggered” and making destructive choices with his responses. Responses that were hijacking everyone’s feelings to unhealthy escalation, and bringing destruction to his marriage.

I learned he was being triggered to unhealthy responses in all three areas mentioned above.

1. Greatly adverse situation – He had recently learned that his wife had done a consult with a divorce attorney.

2. History – His marriage falling apart was triggering the early experience of his mom trying to leave his dad, and him holding her, him and his siblings hostage.

3. Carried feelings – His dad was a rageaholic, and his mom stuffed her anger (due to fear).

We addressed all three of these in the ways I have laid out for you. When I brought them back in together to do couples counseling, I literally saw a miracle before my eyes.

I reminded them of the moment, where in rage (driven by fear), he had burst out with a question loaded with anger, judgment, disrespect, condescension and threat. I suggested we work through that moment, to bring healing to it.

He asked if he could speak, and began a tender, sweet and remorseful statement. His voice cracked as a well of tears and sobs came forth. Confessing how ashamed he was, how he had no idea he was being triggered by things he had “tucked away as ancient history,” and how much he wanted another chance to be the kind of husband she deserved.

It was what I call  “a sacred moment.” Not one that was orchestrated, but one that organically sprung forth from what was once a stone, cold heart locked behind steels walls.

The work on his “response” blade alone reversed a failing marriage into one that is thriving. It has catapulted his business forward, as he has begun managing differently. And their marriage is quickly becoming one that is a beautiful example of being catapulted from the brink of divorce to a story of restoration.

In what area of your life do you need healing? Restoration? Reversal to something good?

Intervening in your “response blade” can do all of that for you! Do it for yourself first, then pass it on!

Caitlin Crosby wrote a book called: “You Are the Key.” In it, she talks about her “giving keys.” The concept is about buying a key on a chain (or some men keep them in their pockets.) Power words are inscribed upon their key. Words like: “Love” or “Kindness” or “Powerful” or “Purposeful.” The concept is that you wear the key (or keep it in your pocket) until you become what your word is. Then you look for the opportunity to give it to someone who needs it more than you do.

I currently have one that says: “Fearless.” I LOVE that key. It was a birthday gift from someone I love dearly. But I am fearless, and I know someone who needs it more than I do now, and I am preparing to give it to them. It will be a very special moment.

I am asking you to take in this information and get your life going in an incredibly powerful upward direction, where even the sky is not limit. But remember, the real reward is in passing it on, to someone else who needs it!

Feel your feelings, and … DO THE RIGHT THING!