I was harshly criticized a few days ago. That was putting it mildly, let me try again. I was sent a four paragraph message informing me of multiple flaws in my work ethic, the quality of my work, humiliating me in front of the entire team (it was a message sent to the group chat) and disregarding all the effort that I had painstakingly put into my work claiming it was not up to standard.
Coupled along with the disdain and spitefulness oozing out of the message. I was hit by a maelstrom of negativity. First was the shock like a lighting strike. Next was the tsunami of anger, crashing into the very depths of my soul. Then came the waves of loathing and hatred. Adding on to it was sorrow that flooded me. Finally were the self doubts that slowly crept in.
The swirl of emotions was needless to say extremely unpleasant. I wanted curse, scream, attack, deny and also strangle him. Yet I did something which even surprised myself.
I did nothing.
I was so furious that I could hear the blood pounding in my ears and hammering in my head. Nausea struck me also, as if my body could not hold the disgusting concoction of emotions any longer.
Yet I still did nothing.
The easy thing to do was to let it all loose, the pain and sorrow, and inflict twice as much as I got. That was what I would have done in the past.
This time was different, I managed to forcefully stop the turbulent emotions from being expressed out. In a sense, I chose not to react. These are very important words. Choosing not to react.
The theory of choosing how you react to your situations wasn’t foreign to me. In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a much recommended book), Stephen Covey mentioned being proactive as the very first habit. The theory was that if you cannot change your circumstances or situation, you can at least chose your reaction to them. Yet, I had always been a passionate person, unable to contain my emotions or expressions. Therefore, the skill of being proactive had always eluded me.
Covey illustrates the habit being proactive through the metaphor of a circle. He notes that everything within the circle is our sphere of influence and everything outside is not under our control. Therefore, we should only focus on things under our sphere of influence. Coincidentally, our reactions and behaviors all fall within that category.
The theory of being proactive is all nice and good but the book doesn't tell you HOW to do it. It comes naturally to some people, they are able to keep their cool through numerous disasters, but I wasn’t one of them. So, I had to do a lot of experimenting with plenty of trials and errors before I finally found a few methods that might benefit others who feel emotions rather strongly like me.
Much research has been done on the topic of meditation. I decided to try it for a few weeks and surprisingly, it does help in controlling your reactions. Meditating seems to allow me to separate myself from my emotions and become more aware of them. You become more conscious of yourself, allowing you to sense when your emotions are about to overwhelm you.
Being mindful of my own thoughts and emotions allows me to create a tiny gap between feeling and reacting. By clinging onto that gap (albeit desperately), I am able to prevent my emotions from hijacking my body.
People have always said to me to take deep breaths and calm down. Unfortunately, that technique wasn’t very effective to me. So I discovered an alternative method of breathing. When I feel the negative emotions coming, I focus on my breathing. Follow your natural breathing rhythm and focus entirely on the breath. I realized that when I do this, I temporarily block out everything, including those negative emotions, thus giving me precious time to escape from the situation or else risk getting a lawsuit due to assault.
Practice not getting angry. In other words, seek out more situations you find annoying, irritated or angry. Then before heading in, tell yourself it is a practice session for emotion control. Being aware that it is a practice creates a distance between yourself and the situation. You can then prepare for the onslaught of whichever emotion the situation creates.
I did this by rereading the four paragraph message over and over again. It really hurts the first few times. Nonetheless, after the fifth or sixth time, the intensity of the emotions weaken significantly. Perhaps after the eighth time, I would only feel a tiny prickle of discomfort.
I may have found a few methods to be more proactive and react less, but the backlash from those emotions still exist. The disgust still lingers, the wrath still simmers. The toxicity of these emotions still make me feel awful. Furthermore, the grudges don’t vanish. Frankly, if that group member of mine was set on fire and I had a cup of water in my hand, I would drink every drop in the cup and then go find some gasoline to douse him with. Hence, just because you don’t cave in to your emotions, it doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and butterflies now. Nevertheless, mastering the technique of being proactive can prevent conflicts from escalating and situation from blowing up. Hope this helps! Peace out.