When something seems urgent, it is almost always just a feeling. Not actually reality. I’m not talking about fires or babies in traffic, but rather that sense we’ve all experienced that somebody needs to get set straight NOW or something needs to get bought NOW or that phone call needs to be made NOW or you need to confront that person NOW or get out of town RIGHT NOW.

Is someone going to die if you don’t address the thing right this minute? I doubt it.

In these situations an emotional response is happening that tricks our mind into reacting as if an emergency was occurring even though it’s not. But this biological response that clouds our ability to think rationally is an adaptive advantage of our evolution that we can learn to understand and work with, rather than against.

Feelings of urgency and conflict go hand in hand. If we learned to resist the strong emotional pull of urgency we would handle stressful interactions with others in ways that didn’t lead to serious conflict.  

Recently a mom call me to request a mediation with her teenage son because their relationship was strained to the point where the mom needed outside assistance in order for the two of them to regain basic communication skills and compassion for simply living under the same roof. She told me a lot of yelling was going on between the two of them, with increasing aggression and decreasing cooperation. This is normal for me to hear because usually when someone calls me to mediate that person has already tried everything they could think of and asked all their regular people for advice and assistance. So by the time I enter the picture the client is almost always feeling a considerable amount of stress, powerlessness, desperation, and/or urgency.

Going a little deeper into these feelings can bring new levels of insight into the emotional baggage we bring to the conflict and how that impacts the relationship. Here are some recommended self-explorations for getting closer to the roots of urgency:

  • What am I so afraid of?
  • What might happen if I did nothing?
  • What feelings would there be for me to feel if I did nothing?
  • What am I really hoping to gain by acting on my urgent feelings?
  • What if I don’t get that thing I’m hoping to gain? How will that feel? What will that mean for me?
  • Does this remind me of another time when I had similar feelings of desperation/urgency? What happened back then?

When you don’t actually have a gun to your head or need to pull your toddler out of the lake, the feeling of desperate urgency is simply that – a feeling. It is important to pay attention to the feeling and figure out what it’s all about, but don’t immediately heed its call to action if you don’t need to. I want YOU to be in charge of your decisions and your actions, not your limbic system. Humans can make much better decisions when they are fully informed by our emotions but made in our neocortex.

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