Week 9: What do you do when you get mad?

When you get mad/bad/angry/stressed/upset/embarrassed, what do you do to distract yourself? Here are my personal top 5 techniques:

  1. Get out of the situation (fast!)
  2. Go for a run
  3. Have a hug (or several)
  4. Play some loud music
  5. Eat chocolate…

Fortunately 4 of the above 5 techniques are scientifically proven to reduce the immediate impact of negative emotions and prevent a damaging negative spiral (and I’m working on positive benefits of chocolate!). Joking apart, as our negative emotions and beliefs are such a major disruptor on the journey towards positive change, learning to recognise, understand and manage them is essential.

The 3 ‘D’s – Distract…Dispute…Distance are three important strategies, each with a distinct use. Distracting yourself when you’re in the midst of high emotion (or ’emotional hijacking‘ as Daniel Goleman called it) is a vital first stage. Don’t even start to reason with yourself in this state (or, dare I say it, try to rationalise with someone else in this state), it won’t work! Exercise, music, meditation and writing are the four proven, powerful distractors.

When you are able to think more calmly, disputing your negative beliefs is about exercising your mental powers and challenging the belief and testing for evidence. “What’s the evidence for the belief?” and “What alternative ways can I look at this situation? ” I call this the ‘revolving door’ technique. Imagine you’re going through such a door and with each rotation you’re able to see the situation from another point of view.  Its a great way to move from rigid, black-and-white thinking (“I can’t…you are…you should…I have to, etc.”) to a more flexible approach.

The third stage is to put some distance between yourself and your negative emotions, that is, to put some perspective into the situation. You might then ask yourself  “What does this negative event really mean – is the outcome as negative as I am making it out to be?” or ask yourself  “How useful is it for me to dwell on this negative event or belief?” Even better, “what can I learn from this situation? How can I improve? How can I use this learning to improve my relationships with others?”

So this week, test out the 3 ‘D’s for yourself. What distractors work for you? Practice disputing your negative beliefs and gaining emotional perspective – essentially, exercise your mental flexibility! David Caruso suggested: “it is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.”

‘Til next week, Lucy.

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About positiveinsights

serial juggler; trainer; coach; mum; positive psychologist; elvis backing singer (yes really); writer; well-being curriculum designer; perennial pragmatist; triathlete in training...
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