A while ago, I posted a blog about how without realising it, we can misdirect our bad mood towards someone else. Now more than ever, I feel it might be helpful to re-visit this topic because I don’t know about you, but emotions in my house can run high at times during these strange strange times and that’s when it’s important to figure out what's at the root of it (obviously COVID-19 is the overarching issue but what is it specifically).
Sometimes, the person on the receiving end of our ire may not be completely innocent in the situation – maybe they know exactly how to press our buttons but quite possibly, their words or actions were what tipped us over the edge and all our wrath about something completely different, was aimed at them.
The situation we're in right now is surely a breeding ground for that kind of scenario to take place. There may be feelings of anxiety, frustration and disappointment and someone in the house does one little thing we find irksome and that’s it, we blow a fuse and that person is left dumbfounded at the somewhat over-the-top response.
The reason behind the reason
A friend of mine messaged me last week, feeling very aggrieved by her neighbour’s behaviour. Apparently, the neighbour had close family round for tea in the garden. My friend didn’t feel they were strictly observing the social distancing guidelines and were blatantly flouting the strict advice. Her texts to me got more and more ranty and she went ‘off on one’ for quite some time, going on to list other people she knew who she didn’t believe were doing the right thing. I don’t disagree that maintaining social distancing is crucial and the new slogan from the government along the lines of ‘It’s slowing, let’s keep going’ is great to keep front of mind that although statistics seem to show the number of cases each day is lowering, it’s crucial to keep lockdown guidelines in place to continue the slowdown. However, reading my friend’s messages, I felt there was an element of her misdirecting her frustrations. Yes, her neighbours were perhaps being irresponsible in terms of not following the advice, but I know my friend and her husband are struggling due to their income freeze because of the current situation. This may be at the root of her mood. I may be wrong but it’s no wonder if worries about finances take their toll.
As my friend got more and more frustrated, I carefully pointed out that there’s so much we can’t control right now, except for the part we play in keeping ourselves safe and also, keeping our sanity intact; whilst this doesn’t help her with her income worries, it will hopefully help her to think twice before she rants to her neighbour.
Banishing that grey cloud
Feelings such as anger, frustration, anxiety and disappointment are often labelled as ‘negative’ emotions and often we’re told these aren’t healthy. However, all emotions are valid; they need to be acknowledged and processed but it’s when we build a monument to them, that’s when it’s unhealthy and prevents us from moving forward.
‘Over time’ are two key words which are important when we feel these emotions – time needed to process and decide for ourselves what we do next. Managing our thinking about the circumstances means we’re able to move forward but if we get caught up in a cyclical thinking pattern, we won’t break free and that does nothing positive to help us.
Of course, we’re all perfectly entitled to be in a bad mood but it’s knowing the consequences for that bad mood. If I sat here in a grey mood all day, banged some doors, slammed some plates down, the likelihood is that it won’t be a particularly joyous day or evening for all. After all, we’re all here together 24-7 so at the moment, my bad mood can have an even greater effect. If however I acknowledge my thoughts and emotions, process them and make a conscious effort that my children, nor my ever patient husband will not bear the brunt of how I’m feeling, it’s much more likely to be a calmer and more pleasant environment and this of course in turn, will help to feed my psyche and move me forward to a better place.
Choices and outcomes
No one is saying you should slap a smile on during this time, that just isn’t real life and when people say ‘think positive thoughts’ or ‘look on the bright side…’ – that’s just like trying to fix a leaky pen by wearing rubber gloves because you’re not getting to the root of the problem. If you’re feeling hacked off – you’re feeling hacked off, if you’re feeling deeply disappointed – that’s how you feel but how they manifest by way of your behaviour, well, that’s your choice and if you choose to take your thoughts and feelings out on others, there are going to be consequences because those people might not take too kindly to said behaviour. Certainly, if your reaction to disappointment, anger and frustration is habitually unpleasant for everyone else, those habits will not help you long term, you are writing a script for yourself that you might not want to become your story long term. Yet that will be the case unless you change the nature of your thinking.
We all have the same 24 hours – we each choose how we want to spend it. Daily, we are writing our Lockdown story – when you look back at yours, will it be one full of frustration, anger, disappointment, where there was friction with those you live with, arguments and bad moods; or, did you choose to use this time to have a sense of purpose, to choose to achieve, to be resilient, resourceful and solution-orientated? You only need to see the news or social media to see how people are using their time in Lockdown to attempt amazing fundraising feats, going out of their way to help others, learning new skills, making imaginative videos to entertain, etc. They are reframing their thoughts to produce different emotions therefore their behaviour is different and thus their building themselves different habits and a set of results they’ll look back on with pride.
Maybe you’re a keyworker and this period of time is about helping on the frontline whilst protecting yourself and those you love, plus keeping your mindset intact. That too is a conscious and intentional decision.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle is often quoted on the Winning Edge programme because he once wisely said: “Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
When we’re feeling those emotions which have us feeling blue or seeing red, it’s about stopping and assessing what the real underlying issue is. Maybe they are genuine emotions about a situation but there are times when externally, we might be exhibiting an emotion yet internally, the emotion could be entirely different and the problem is not the one we are vocalising.
Taking personal responsibility for our thoughts, emotions and resulting behaviour is the pinnacle of adult maturity. The moods we exhibit are our choice, no one else’s and it’s important not to misplace or misdirect the outcome of those thoughts and emotions.
Stuff happens in life. Some great and fabulous stuff. And then there’s the not-so-great stuff – like now for instance - when all kinds of thoughts, emotions and behaviours come bubbling to the surface. Maybe ranting and shouting are your default settings. Settings can be changed though. Set yours to find a way to work it out through acknowledgement, processing, reframing and gaining control to find a way forward.
Taking personal responsibility and holding yourself accountable for the way you think, feel and act moves you away from feeling a victim of what goes on around you. It puts you in a powerful position – one of control. It’s empowering and liberating.
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