Frankly, it sucks. We've all been there, and know what it's like. I'm not going to lie and say I never get stuck in it. It's easy to let things add up and take over, and may feel like we're riding a wild, out-of-control, roller coaster. So, what do you do? Well...as usual, there are some answers and tips from the therapeutic couch that may help. These aren't necessarily the only things you can do, or "THE ULTIMATE COSMIC ANSWER" - rather, they're things you can try to help YOU feel better. Unfortunately, there's no magic wand to change the world around you, and we can't make your husband/kid/boss/coworker/"idiot on the road" change. That's just beyond our control. (In therapy I sometimes take a kid's pretend magic want, whap it on the table or chair and say, "See? It's broken - it doesn't work! NOW what do we do?")
Well...now what do we do? The first thing, in my experience, is to try and separate yourself from what's going on. You can't make your boss be nice, or make that person on the road or in the grocery store be polite and reasonable. You can't make your family members stop making comments about your appearance. However, you can set up some good boundaries and realize that you don't have to allow them to get you upset. I'll fully admit, though - some situations are easier to do this with than are others.
Easier said than done, isn't it? Trust me, I know - from tons of personal experience myself. And yet, it's important to know what's your stuff and what's their stuff. (Remember the definition of a boundary? It's where you end and I begin.) Eastern faith traditions call this compassionate detachment - you can look at what's going on and realize (or even say to yourself) that "this is what's going on for him or her. If I have something to apologize for, I can do it. But their anger or their irritation is NOT me."
It sounds a little weird, I'll admit. And it does take practice to become a habit. But if you think about it, it's incredibly freeing to realize that you're not responsible for someone else's anger, or even their feelings in general. Now, don't get me wrong - certainly what we say or do affects the way other people feel - this isn't a "get out of jail free" card to say or do whatever you want. In fact, our actions can be the tipping point for someone else - so it pays to watch what you say and do as well.
Anyway - realizing that you are separate from someone else's emotional reaction can help you deal with what's going on in a more rational "wise mind" kind of way. (If you don't know what "wise mind" is, see the post for DBT Skills, Part 1 )
So, knowing what's you and what isn't you helps. Another trick from the DBT bag is to try "opposite action" - this is where you do the exact opposite of what you want to do (part of the DBT Emotion Regulation skills). I know...it sounds hard, and it is. When you want to spit back a sarcastic response, you instead say something nice. "Thanks for your input. I hope you have a great day from here on." It might be the last thing in the world that you want to do - and it does help. You'll have to trust me on this one - but think of it this way - if nothing else, it confuses the heck out of the other person!
Another thing to do is just take a quick breathing break - practice distress tolerance skills (another DBT post: Distress Tolerance Skills) or relaxation and stress reduction skills: breathing, distracting yourself, self-soothing (a coffee or tea break can work wonders), a little bit of exercise (say a walk at lunch), or anything that helps you feel better (and doesn't harm anyone - including the person who ticked you off to start with ;p ). All these things can help. Finally - all the CBT stuff I talked about earlier will also help.
These may not completely turn around your day, but they can help you feel better. The key point is to remember that you don't have to let someone else's bad mood or bad day ruin yours. So...have a great day, and remember that someone out here is rooting for you!
Please Note: The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. This is not therapy, and if you wish to work in therapy, please contact your local mental health agency or your physician for a referral.
If you are in crisis or danger, please call 911 for immediate help. Please, again, realize that seeking out help really IS a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to be alone in facing these things – there are people who care and who will help. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org