NOTE: If you missed introduction, this is my disclaimer regarding the specific use of profanity or unusual words from this point on. I chose these particular words because using a common language most often used by patients themselves, especially when in distress, makes the rules much more accessible. Also, the use of rhyme and these specific emotionally-charged words ensures that my patients remember the rules. If you find profanity to be offensive, then my guess is that you are actually breaking one of the rules (most of them!) and not just in this context but across other areas of your life. I challenge you to explore this distress as it may suggest that you have a tendency towards judgment.
Review of the “BUCKET”: By now you are probably catching on. The bucket is you and all the things that you actually have control over and are thus responsible for – your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Past the edge of our bucket, we have no control. Bucket-jumping is tempting or irritating (depending on who is doing the jumping!), but ultimately does not serve us well in our relationships. We are only responsible for what we have control over. Period. Remember, CONTROL/POWER = RESPONSIBILITY.
Handle your own shit. If it’s not in your bucket, then fuck it!
Explanation: We established in Rules #1 and #2 that it is futile and frustrating to try to control uncontrollable things, i.e., the future, other peoples’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So let’s bring the focus back to us. Handling your own “shit” means working on your own thought processing. This is critical, because how we think and what we think determines how we feel. Remember, feelings do not fly out of thin air and land in our laps. Feelings (ALL FEELINGS) are manufactured, created by thoughts. And thoughts that lead to feelings then dictate our behaviors (or lack thereof often). So, if you have an angry thought, then you will feel angry, and this may lead to an angry outburst, angry body language, or violence. This is a lesson I started teaching my two nephews and my niece from a very young age so that I might plant seeds that could grow and hopefully help them navigate their interpersonal lives, and also understand responsibility and locus of control. So they now understand (at under 10 years old) that nobody else has the capacity to make them angry. If they are angry, or sad, or scared, it is because they are having thoughts that are making them feel that way.
Let me also clarify the second part of this rule since it is often misunderstood or misinterpreted by my patients. When I say fuck “it” it does NOT mean fuck them (or him or her). It does NOT mean that we do not care. It simply means that investing your emotional energy or effort in other buckets (that you have no control over) is futile. And I will extend this idea to an equally salient issue. When we are able to stay in our own bucket and not bucket jump by telling people what they should do or how to fix their situation, then we actually allow them to own what’s in their bucket. There is less confusion about boundaries, and we are able to truly not only be mindful for ourselves but also offer support to the other person. If you find in an interaction that the other person is becoming defensive, then that signals to you that you may be bucket jumping. Then next task would be to make sure you don’t let them jump into your bucket either. This rule seems to be one of the most helpful rules for my patients, likely because we (humans in general) seem to have great difficulty with setting healthy boundaries with other people.