Coping Skills - #3A - Others Don't Make You Angry
Becoming angry at what someone has said and/or done to us, or about us, and exhibiting the behaviors that society has defined as an appropriate in response to such an offense, almost always uses up a lot of time and energy. Our time and energy are not unlimited and to waste these on such emotions as anger and its associated behaviors is seldom productive. This also holds true for becoming hurt by what others say or do. It is within our power to choose to feel and react differently, and to use the time and energy instead to improve our lives in any number of ways at home and on the job. Also, becoming angry or allowing ourselves to be hurt, is always stressful, so choosing not to become angry or hurt, even in situations where others think we have every right to do so, will not only save us time and energy, but will reduce our overall level of stress.
This is not to say that anger in not appropriate in some cases. Whenever I see reports of starvation, ethnic cleansing or genocide, I become angry.
Training ourselves to consistently feel and react differently in specific situations can be hard work. But once we master this skill, and internalize it so that it becomes part of how we conduct our life, the benefits in terms of our available time and energy can be substantial. When we exhibit feelings and behaviors in response to an offense that are different than expected, it can confuse, bewilder and frustrate those who are attempting to influence us. I've always found that observing the consequences can be not only interesting, but sometimes entertaining.
One of the best things about this coping skill is that we remain in control. Others cannot dictate, by what they say or do, how our scarce resources of time and energy are used. Neither can they control our state of mind. We become and remain our own person, more fully in control of our lives. This is liberating, and makes us stronger and more resilient.
But how do we implement this strategy? Coping Skill #1, the first blog in three parts [#1A, #1B, and #1C] in this series is the key. By constantly monitoring our interactions with others, we can often tell in advance when something potentially destructive is coming our way. By monitoring our internal condition, we can usually figure out, again in advance, the kind of response others will expect of us. At this point we can intervene on our own behalf.
If the response to an offense that is expected of you has the potential for being destructive, or if it is likely to consume a lot of your precious time and energy, you can simply choose to respond differently. You can select an alternate response that preserves your time and energy resources.
In the early stages of developing this coping skill you should not try to change all your emotional and behavioral reactions at once. Pick out a couple of likely candidates and concentrate on those for a while. You will probably continue to experience the "expected" emotional response for some time, for example: anger. If this occurs, the secret is to not let your anger show. You can withhold this expected emotional response if you have been monitoring your internal condition. Display, instead, the alternate behavioral response you have chosen. This may be hard to do when your old emotional response continues to flare up, but you can do it.
The remarkable thing about developing this coping skill is that you will soon discover every time you exhibit your new alternate behavioral response, your anger will dissipate. In time your emotions will begin to "follow" your behavior and you will no longer become angry. This is the point at which internalization of the coping skill begins.
This coping skill, if expanded to more and more situations and consistently applied, can reduce your overall level of stress substantially. It might preserve a friendship, making it stronger, or even a romantic interest.
My next blog in this series - Coping Skills Series - #3B - Other Don't Make You Angry - I will give you example(s) of how this coping skill has worked for me and others.
Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.