Almost all upsets are externally triggered, but internally driven. So it’s not what happens to you that matters. It’s how you choose to respond that is important.
The following are questions to help you get a better handle on your emotions whenever adversity or stress causes you to want to lash back unwisely:
o How small is this act in the grand scheme of life?
A cardiologist was once asked for his advice for reducing the stress that leads to strokes and heart attacks. He replied, “Rule #1: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule #2: It’s all small stuff.” We often have to be reminded about how small our personal worries can be in comparison to the bigger issues of life. At the same time, realize that life is too short to be wasting your major energies on minor issues. Whenever you’re faced with a potential argument, shrink it down to size by contrasting it with the more important issues of your life.
o Will this really matter much a year from now?
What seems significant in the moment may in fact be minor in retrospect. If you move ahead in time and look back on today, you may be able to regain your perspective on the current issue. You could find that once again you’re faced with a situation where you have put too much emotion on too minor a subject. By adding the time perspective of one year, you may be able to shrink the intensity of the current issue under debate.
o What have you respected, liked, trusted, or admired about this person in the past?
Sometimes you have to be reminded of what is great about the person you’re dealing with. That way, you can realize that they’re not all bad, and might even be wonderful. We’re all guilty of doing or saying stupid things. It’s smart to give those we’ve appreciated in the past an occasional break for minor screw-ups.
o Was this act really intended to harm you?
If you want to protect yourself from the actions and opinions of others, realize this fact immediately: People do things first and foremost for their own benefit. Also understand that what’s important or real to you may not be the same for someone else. Therefore, expect people to choose the quickest, easiest, or least painful pathway in order to gain pleasure or avoid pain. Rarely is an act intentionally meant to harm another person. It could just be that there is some kind of benefit for the one who is behind it. Remember that in almost all cases, men have no intentions of causing a woman they love any kind of real suffering.
o Does this kind of thing happen all of the time?
Repeated intentional acts of meanness should be promptly reprimanded, but an occasional mess-up should be given a temporary pass. Even when things do happen repeatedly, it may still be wise to refrain from saying the trigger phrase, “You always do that!” If you want to prevent your disagreements from escalating out of control, be sure to measure the frequency of an unpleasant act accurately.
o What is the other side of the story?
There’s a saying that goes, “No matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides.” In order to handle any kind of problem, it’s important to gather all of the facts first. That way, you can acquire an understanding of the other side of the conflict. If you can’t find that opposing perspective, delay your judgments and avoid jumping to conclusions. Hear out the other person so that you have a chance to evaluate the situation with more precision and respond in ways that demonstrate your increasing emotional maturity.
o How could this act be appropriate or even useful?
As wise and caring adults, we shouldn’t react or respond hostilely when someone’s actions are not intentional, excessive, and inappropriate for the situation at hand. And if we can see a long-term benefit from a short-term setback, we are able to convert the negatives we receive into positives. When there is indeed a real problem related to their actions, just make your perspective and needs clear to them in a cooperative manner.
o How can you vent the anger in a more constructive way?
Emotional upsets are stored in our physical bodies where they can linger and destroy our health. We can release this damaging physical and emotional tension constructively by exercising or talking with a caring friend. The alternative is to vent your anger in unhealthy ways like drinking alcohol, overeating, or verbally bashing others. A better way to handle your upsets is to change your mental focus by doing something that you enjoy like shopping, reading, or watching a movie. Another way to vent is to delay your reactions until cooler heads can prevail. Realize that you have many choices to release your tensions, some of which are healthier for you than others. By being in a better state of mind and body, you’ll handle your challenges with other people more effectively.
o What could be funny about this?
A creative alternative for handling upsets is to find the humor in an otherwise serious situation. If you’re really good at this, you accomplish three vital things: (1) you break your pattern of physiology by putting a smile on your face and a spark of joy in your eyes, (2) you change your voice tones and breathing patterns by laughing out loud, and (3) you change the words you use by referring to the situation from that point forward as being either funny, ridiculous, outrageous, hilarious, silly, or stupid. One trick that I often use when faced with a tough challenge is to ask out loud, “Am I on freaking Candid Camera or what?”
By managing your upsets, you’ll be able to prevent resentment from eating away at the love that you’ve worked so hard to enjoy. This process begins with a firm commitment on your part to respond in an emotionally mature manner instead of reacting foolishly.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Dating sucks when you have no control of your negative emotions and you gradually destroy the things you cherish so much in your love life. But dating rocks when you get a firm grip on your upsets and grow as a person who is deserving of respect, admiration, trust, and love.