Lets think about our natural, involuntary physiological responses. Someone pours cold water on you, and you shiver. They jump out of nowhere to scare you, and you let out a scream. Someone drives rudely, cuts you off, prevents you from passing, and you get upset. These are natural and understandable reactions to external events.
But who we are is not revealed in how we react in those moments. It’s revealed in what happens next.
It’s in that space between stimulus and response that shows who we are. Do we speed up and follow dangerously close behind the person that pissed us off? Do we shout and scream and carry rage with us all day? What you do next speaks volumes.
Here’s a simple technique I’ve adapted over the years used that is often used by family therapists with children who get into uncontrollable rages. I used this exercise when I was working as an executive dealing with stress.
Close your eyes and allow yourself to feel what it’s like when you’re overwhelmed with fear/anger/shame etc. Remember something that makes you feel like this and allow it to fill your whole body. Feel the emotion on your skin, in your chest, your mouth, your muscles, and your mind. Once you feel full of it, imagine holding up a big, red STOP sign in your mind and allowing the feeling to dissipate completely, relax your muscles and let the angry feeling leave you.
Practice this until you feel you can use it in real life scenarios to stay calm. We put in the work now. We stock the pantry before the storm comes. So when the rude or distracted driver does cut us off, we don’t respond by having a frothing-at-the-mouth shouting match with a car moving 65 mph. We STOP, and let the angry feelings leave us, rather than let them ruin our day.
It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress.
Let anger pass, take time to reflect, and embrace the power of being you.
By Brian Nadon