It could be the most innocuous of actions, a chance comment; perhaps a single word. It might be something you normally wouldn't react to, but for some reason, this time was different. It might not even be what someone said or did, but rather what they didn't say or do.
Whatever it is, it got your blood boiling and you can feel yourself having a stronger than usual reaction.
Whatever the details, these situations can lead to all kinds of harm — in some cases, irreparable harm — if we don't handle things well. So before you react and later regret it, pause and ask yourself the following 3 questions.
1. What am I feeling and/or experiencing?
Sometimes our reaction can be so intense, it becomes a bit of an overwhelming blur. Before getting caught up in the emotions and possibly over-reacting, stop and ask yourself: what am I feeling?
The very act of standing back to look at things will help to ease the intensity. And you'll be able to get a clearer picture of what's going on and what you're experiencing. "Intense" can be a lot of things: anger, fear, shame, or countless other emotions. When you know what it is you're dealing with, you are better equipped to respond appropriately
2. Where are those feelings really coming from?
Let's say someone made a comment that annoyed you greatly, and you can't put it out of your mind. Once you're clear on what it is that you're feeling (annoyance and irritation), it's time to ask yourself: where are those feelings really coming from? Is your annoyance solely based on the comment, or is there more to it?
When we take the time to examine where are our feelings are coming from, we often find that the current situation is not the root of the problem. The current situation may have triggered our reaction, but only because it touched on an underlying wound or sensitive area that has been present for awhile.
3. What is my ultimate goal in responding?
If we're honest with ourselves, we have to admit that our responses in sticky situations often aren't all that high-minded. We may simply want to prove that we're right and the other person is wrong, or we may be lashing out to get something off our chest. Perhaps we want someone to get in line with what we believe is correct.
By recognizing where we're at, we can stop and think about our ultimate goal. For instance, if your ultimate goal is to build intimacy with someone, do you really want to lash out at them, which is far more likely to create distance rather than intimacy? If your ultimate goal is to keep someone as a close friend in the long term, do you really want to over-react because you're disappointed with something they've said or done?
This doesn't mean you don't respond or that you sweep things under the carpet; that doesn't resolve things or make them go away. But by giving thought to what your ultimate goal is, you position yourself to choose a response that is in line with that goal.
There's no need to deny what you're feeling, or to hide from a strong reaction you're experiencing. However, you don't necessarily want to speak or act in haste when you're all wound up in this kind of emotional state. These 3 questions will help you slow down and get tuned in to what's really going on inside of you, enabling you to get a grip on that strong reaction, so it doesn’t get a grip on you.
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