Jean Paul Sartre said, ‘Hell is other people.’ This feels especially true if that person is grating on your last nerve, nudging you ever closer to a Chernobyl-scale meltdown.
It is so easy to absorb the energetic resonances of others, and then blame the heinous jerk for ruining your day.
There’s nothing more contagious than anger. It’s the chicken pox of emotions.
Once you’ve been “infected,” it’s easy to feel victimized by it. You’ve been wronged. You’re seeing red. And so the name-calling starts, in your head, or out loud.
Can you believe this idiot?
What an epic jerk.
It takes time to cool down again and to get some perspective.
Wouldn’t it be empowering to get hooked less often?
Here’s a 5-step system that can help.
1. NOTICE: How is your body signalling you that you’re about to go Hulk? Maybe your stomach lurches, or your jaw tightens. When you recognize that you’re having a reaction, it’s your cue to change your state. It’s impossible to change direction if you don’t notice that you’re being triggered. Start here.
2. BREATHE: Give yourself some space before reacting. This is the old chestnut about counting to ten (though I never remember to do that). An easier solution is to breathe. I’ve created a mental link between noticing that I’m hooked, and activating the word ‘BREATHE’ in that very moment. Now it pings up automagically when I feel myself clenching.
3. TENSE AND BLOW: Once you’ve diffused the initial impulse to react with a few deep breaths, you can train yourself to release the anger. My friend Dominique Antiglio is a Sophrology therapist and sound practitioner. She suggests tensing the entire body for a few seconds, then releasing as you exhale. ‘When you release the muscle tension, make a blowing sound with your breathing to get rid of the anger.’ Visualize the anger dissipating. Repeat several times.
4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR BELIEFS: Getting hooked often happens when we feel that someone should behave differently. Your kids should be polite. Your client shouldn’t shout. Your lunch date should be on time. Your partner should read your mind. Then we play the blame game, and decide this interaction means something about us.
Byron Katie says, ‘Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience.’
Instead, pause and ask yourself, what meaning am I attaching to this behaviour? Asking that question can remind you that you’re deciding this means something. You’re deciding. That also means you can make a different decision.
5. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: How someone behaves towards you reveals their current state. If they are expressing anger and frustration, they are struggling. Brian Johnson has an excellent Philosopher’s Note about this, called ‘Don’t Take Anything Personally.’ Watch Brian’s 3 minutes of goodness here.
Here’s the anger-diffusing process on fast-play:
- Notice you’re being triggered. Your body will help
- Create a mental link between feeling triggered and breathing
- Tense your entire body and exhale by blowing. Repeat
- Ask yourself: What meaning am I attaching to this?
- Don’t take it personally.