Overreactions Impede On Personal Relationships (And How To Fix That)
If I were asked a year ago to describe how I deal with conflict in just three words I could have said, “maturely, fairly and calmly”. If asked the same question today I’d have to answer, “emotionally, dramatically, and irrationally”, or to sum it all up with two words, “I overreact”.
Overreacting is responding more forcibly and emotionally than justified. Overreacting is what I do. I overreact to most things; little things, medium things and big things (as rare as those are). Overreacting is second nature to me now, automatically occurring if anything in my life changes, goes slightly wrong or deviates in any way from what I had imagine happening. Overreacting is what happens if there is any conflict in my life, something as tiny as a joke taken wrong, a tone which is slightly sharper than expected, or simply someone questioning what I am doing. Even minuscule changes can cause an explosion of emotion which is far and away more forcible than is justified for the situation. When these explosions happen, it is as if everything in my rational brain goes away, replaced with just pure emotion. In my mind, I liken these overreactions with the cartoons characters I’d watch as a kid. When they reached an overload point, whether mad or sad just overwhelmed, all of the sudden you can see into the character’s mind with all of their little ‘brain cells’ people freaking out and destroying everything, leaving just the raw emotions or burning fires.
I often feel as though I have nothing in my mind but that burning emotion, taking away my abilities to formulate my thoughts, attempt a rational conversation, or simply calm down.
As one can imagine, this method of just freaking out approaching some sort of emotional breakdown is not the best way resolve one’s issues. In fact, it quite possibly is the worst way (except, of course, more violent reactions such as murder and the like). Overreacting is not helpful for me personally, but it is also wildly frustrating and infuriating for the individual on the receiving end of my overreaction.
The overreactions I’ve experienced over the past six months have been ridiculous. They’ve harmed me and the people around me, causing further strain on many of my relationships. However, I have begun to work on controlling my reactions, and have found some coping mechanisms which seem pretty useful, including:
- Take a step back from the situation
- Go into another room and try to calm down
- Mentally replay the argument or situation back
- Try to take a more critical view on said situation
- Attempt to see the other person’s perspective
- Remember that I should not assume the other person’s words or actions are the worst case scenario. And consider and ultimately ask them what they actually mean
- Once calmer and having thought about the situation, go back to the individual
- Talk through the problem without forgetting to breath
- And, as always, hug it out in the end
These 10 steps have worked pretty well so far for me, though from time to time I do not follow through with these steps and the overreaction takes control. But most of the time lately I have stepped back from the situation and thought it through, which really has done wonders. I hope one day in the future, I will be asked to describe in three words how I deal with conflicts, and that those three words will once again return to “maturely, fairly, and calmly” and that it will be my honest answer.