How to Stop Reacting
Have you ever caught yourself getting mad at the sky for raining on you? There’s really no reason for you to get mad at nature, is there? Reacting is a habit and it’s not a good one. It leads to unproductive anger and unnecessary frustration.
We react because we want to blame someone or something for bad things that happen. You feel hurt, injured or victimized and you want to lash out at the person who made you feel that way. But when we do this, we’re actually blaming somebody else for our own feelings of anger.
The Benefits of Blaming
Blaming others for what happens is wonderful. It puts the responsibility solidly on somebody else and you’re off the hook. One of the reasons we love to blame is that it gives the illusion of control. If somebody’s at fault, this means the bad thing could’ve been prevented. For example, if there’s a big car wreck and we can identify one idiot who started it, we all feel better knowing it wasn’t us or blind chance.
It’s much harder to actually take responsibility for your reaction and the feelings that go with it. If somebody cuts you off on the road, you react and fly the finger. But should you really get mad? They’re a jerk and they’ll continue being jerky to everybody and eventually get theirs. Your frustration isn’t actually caused by them; it comes from within you.
Slow It Down
The best way to stop reacting is to slow it down. When you get mad, you lose all sense of perspective. You lash out as a knee jerk reaction. But would you have said or done something different if you’d had time to stop and think about it? The answer is probably yes.
When you feel your anger rising, quickly disassociate from the situation. Look at it as if you’re outside of it. Try to put your anger in its place. Tell it to wait a minute while you think of the appropriate reaction.
Write a Letter
If you’re likely to say something you’ll later regret, don’t respond verbally. Instead, write it down. Writing down your thoughts helps you vent anger and it gives you plenty of space to get in touch with your feelings. You also get a chance to organize your thoughts.
You can send the person the letter or email when you’re through, or use it to as a script when you talk to them next. Or you can simply write for your own sake, so that you can clarify your thoughts and understand how you really feel.
Think about Others
When you get angry, it’s all about you. That feeling of injustice and injury burns you and leads you to react. You’re setting things right for yourself. But what if instead of thinking about yourself, you focused on other people?
If someone is rude to you, for example, think about them. They’re the one with the problem and they probably rub everybody the wrong way. Think of all the stress their impatience and rudeness causes them. Respond to them with patience, recognizing that your retaliation isn’t ultimately going to change anything.
It’s important to realize that you have a choice when it comes to reacting. You’re not a slave to your emotions. Consider all the different choices you have in reacting to particular situations and choose the right one before the situation occurs.