When is a reaction an overreaction?

When bad news gets delivered at your doorstep, or when you find yourself in a stressful conversation, how do you generally handle it? Do you quickly respond by escalating the situation? Do you waste no time in defending yourself, your actions or your behavior? Does it seem like you don’t even have time to think about what else there is to do, but simply react in a perhaps emotionally driven way—with anger, fear or sadness leading the charge? Or do you stay calm, cool and collected? A veritable Clint Eastwood in the wild west of difficult and disabling conversations?

So what is going on? And how can you make these events less significant, less of an obstacle that you must hurdle yourself past?

No one likes criticism; no one likes to be on the receiving end of a complaint, or a problem. No one. But being in that place does not relegate you to the status of a victimized scapegoat, or a guilty person with no options.

One of the first suggestions I would make is that no immediate reaction is the best option. Listen. Really focus your attention on hearing what the other person says. It is not necessarily the best time to argue the merits of what is or what is not the truth, or your fault, or the cold impartial universe’s fault. Really, it will be okay. Listen to what the person is saying to you. And breathe. You are being presented with a situation that will allow you to show all those involved how wise, how smart, how patient, and how charming of a human being you really are.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s talk about triggers then. We all have them. They are the subjects, people, situations that cause us to have a very real emotional reaction whether we want to or not. Triggers make us vulnerable. And when vulnerable, people tend to do one of two things. Fight or Flight.

So what can be done about triggers? First, we have to be aware that they exist. That part is easy, because a person just has to think about all the conversations they have had where they were not acting like Clint Eastwood. Once the trigger is identified, you work backwards to identify what the emotional reaction caused by the trigger is. And once that emotion is named, more work backwards to try to find the hidden internal belief, or story we tell ourselves (sometimes automatically and wholly in our unconscious) that gives fuel to that emotional reaction.

It is serious, real work. But as everyone knows, if you truly want react to a stressful situation in the calm, cool and calculating way of Clint Eastwood, you have got to know who is pulling the trigger and why.

About Therapyisdandy

A dandy therapist
This entry was posted in anger, Anxiety, Mental health therapy, Therapy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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