Have you ever freaked out on someone, only to ask yourself later what the heck happened? The offense just didn’t warrant the emotion you displayed, but you can’t understand why you got so upset.
Problem: You’re carrying around a card file—a list of hurts you carry that build up over time, giving you messages about a person’s emotional safety.
Think of it like this: I go to the soda machine at work for a drink. I put in my dollar, push the button and no soda comes out. I report it to the manager. She assures me that the machine is broken but the repairman is coming tomorrow to fix it. I don’t a get a fefund, but I leave content that the problem will be solved.
The next day, I return for much-needed refreshment. I insert my dollar, push the button, and no soda. Now I’m irritated. I can feel the tension in my gut. I go back to the manager. She informs me the repairman was ill, but will certainly be there tomorrow. Merciful person that I am, I leave feeling bad for getting irritated.
Believing the third time is a charm, I go back the following week for a drink. Same drill, and guess what? NO COKE!
I don’t have to notice my anger: I can feel it physically. My heart is pounding, I’m overheated, and I’m holding my breath. Thinking I need to chill out before I do something rash, I head back to my office, vowing to never visit a soda machine again.
A month later, one of my colleagues wants to get a soda after work. I cautiously agree. Again I find myself facing the dreaded machine. My friend puts in her money, and out comes her drink. Figuring we’re on a roll, I do the same. Guess what? NO COKE!
I start ranting, raving, and freaking out. My friend looks at me and calmly says, “Rita, it’s only a dollar.” But what she doesn’t know is that machine has beaten me out of $10 over the past month. I’m not simply reacting to the situation, but to the meaning I attached to it. The card file I had on the machine told me:
- I can’t trust you
- You’ll disappoint me
- You’re not safe
These are the types of beliefs we form about people in our lives who hurt us. With those beliefs percolating under the conscious surface, it’s easy to see how a seemingly small interaction with someone can cause us to explode.
How can we chill out when our anger is hot? Here are a few tips:
- Address it. Your anger is your responsibility
- Notice your anger signals
- Calm yourself through relaxation breathing (see http://www.ritaschulte.com/acategory/exercises)
- See if you’re making any thinking errors (http://ritaschulte.com/think-this-not-that/)
- Forgive (see http://www.siftedaswheat.com/lord-teach-me-to-actrather-than-react/)
Don’t let your anger get the best of you, learn the skills necessary to manage it so you can keep your cool. Maybe go have a soda.
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P.S. We’d love to know your thoughts, so please be sure to comment below. Each of our commenters will be entered in a drawing for this month’s FREE book giveaway, Mothers & Daughters: Mending a Strained Relationship by author Teena Stewart.
Rita Schulte is a licensed professional board certified counselor. She received her B.S. in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Rita has a private practice with offices in Fairfax and Manassas Virginia where she specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders as well as grief and loss issues. In April, 2011 she launched “Heartline Podcast” where she talks with top leaders in the Christian counseling and literary world about cutting edge issues affecting the hearts and lives of people today. She also airs a 1 minute devotional spot Consider This on 90.5 FM in NC and 90.9 FM in Lynchburg, VA. Heartline airs on Saturday evenings on 90.5 FM NC and will be heard on Christian Life Internet Radio in the coming months. Her book, Sifted As Wheat: finding hope and healing through the losses of life is currently with Hartline Literary Agency. You can follow her at http://www.siftedaswheat.com or Twitter at Heartlinepod.
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