A starting point for calming down – FOCUS ON YOU.
In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, author John Gottman talks about certain couples who have agreed to be observed during intense marital arguments. These couples have cameras watching their movements and medical equipment attached to them to monitor their physiological changes.
They begin talking about normal things — the weather, the news, etc. Eventually, they come to a subject that one or both of them feels passionate about. As they slowly start to get worked up, their body language changes. They start to fidget and take aggressive, defensive postures. Their heart rates go up and their vocal speeds and pitches change. And yet, most of them aren’t at all aware of these changes as they are happening. They have to watch the videos of themselves just to see the signs and symptoms on display, which are things that seem obvious to anybody else watching.
The goal of the exercise is to help train people to focus on themselves. Because they are often too focused on the person or thing that upset them. Too fixated on another person’s actions to see that their own actions need restabilizing. You know that your spouse needs to calm down. But, shouldn’t you calm down too? Shouldn’t you calm down first?
Has it ever made the situation better to focus on his mood? Has it ever worked out for you when you’ve shouted, “You’re acting crazy! Calm down?” Hasn’t that always just made the both of you more excited? The solution is not to focus on him, or on any other bother or frustration around you. Rather, the solution is to focus on you.
There are many reasons why this can help. One, is that we tend to want to fix what we are focusing on. When you sit in front of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, you instantly start trying to find where the missing pieces go. Stare at a crooked picture frame, and you instinctively want to reach over and straighten it. It is almost as though we don’t know how not to make improvements to the thing we are focusing on.
Focus on yourself, and the same is true — you instantly start to see where you yourself need straightening. You begin to notice all of your own missing pieces, and you cultivate a need and desire to fill them in. This effect can be both powerful and positive.
However, it can be very negative when we focus on the wrong thing. When you look at things that you have no power to change, such as your wife, you typically only become more worked up and irritated. You make her faults seem larger than they are. You make yourself want to straighten her out and find all of her missing pieces, which is both futile and destructive.
Right now, you may not recognize the subtle ways that your upsetness is affecting you. You may be like those spouses who are being monitored, who focus on every problem except the one in themselves. You may feel sure that someone or something else is what needs fixing. But what needs fixing is you. Turn your attention on yourself. Work on you.
As difficult as this is, there is a certain beauty to it. It offers personal growth that doesn’t depend on anyone or anything else. Even if your wife never stops trying to give you directions while you’re driving, and even if your teenage son never stops acting like a know-it-all, you can change your response. That is as important as anything that can happen to you.
HOW TO DO IT
Pause for a moment. Try to find a nice, calm place in your vicinity where you have some space and time to reflect. Then, try to notice which thoughts and feelings are going through you right now. How might you describe them? As angry? Rageful? Irritated? How would you describe your state of mind? Startled? Cornered? Stunned? And, how would you describe your disposition overall?
How does it feel to focus on yourself? Perhaps, it invokes guilt. Maybe you were taught not to think too much or too highly of yourself, and a self-focus feels, well… selfish. Maybe you’ve grown up believing that anger and fear are bad emotions, and it’s easier to deny those feelings than face them. Or, maybe you feel that it’s silly to focus on how you feel — like doing so makes you a wimp or a pansy.
If so, try to realize what the real threat is here — it has nothing to do with looking silly or wimpy. It has to do with failing to recognize your tough emotions and failing to work through them.
As you spot your negative emotions, try to see how they are separate from you. They are not a defining part of you. They are just there — like signs, making suggestions. And, you do not have to do as they are suggesting. You can simply observe them. You can even be entertained by them.
Note: This probably won’t be easy, because you’ll be tempted to shift your focus away from your emotions and onto the person or thing that you think caused them. That would not be productive. The goal, remember, is to keep your eyes on you; not on some other person or thing.
You may even find it helpful to look in the mirror while you do this exercise. What do you see? Answer the following questions:
- What is my facial expression?
- What signs or symptoms of anxiety are currently showing?
- Which emotions might be behind those signs and symptoms?
- What is my body language?
- What is my posture? Am I tense and rigid, or relaxed and at ease?
- What sensations are going on inside me? Am I balanced, or am I off kilter?
Next, try to correct anything that is off.
Do you see a furrowed brow? Try to relax it.
Are your hands shaking? Try to steady them.
Are you breathing quickly? Try to control your breaths.
Is your heart racing? Try to sit down and relax your body. Return balance to anything that is imbalanced.
Congratulations. You have found the root of the problem. Great news… it’s one that you can fix!
… How To Calm Down. Quickly. Effectively. Before you Do or Say Something STUPID!!!