Ever have one of those weeks when there is palpable, anger-inciting tension between you and a family member? Or you have had a crushing misunderstanding with one of your dearest friends? Or there is an incident at work that has had you mumbling obscenities under your breath and double-checking your pension benefits?
As a result of some emotionally incendiary experience where you feel wronged, not valued, misunderstood, or crossed, you can often find yourself on one wild ride of emotions.
You spin round and round and round, until eventually you are spent.
Your feelings can spike to new highs. You can feel turbo-charged with fury. You feel the blood coursing through your veins and throbbing at your temple. You are vibrating with anger, injustice and hurt at the maddening insensitivity, sheer stupidity, or blatant passivity that has been bestowed on you. How could they?
And, before you know it, you are off again on the careening roller coaster of painful feelings--up and down, swinging widely to the left, twisting up, crisscrossing to the right, and zigzagging to a final, lurching stop. You start talking about it again and off you go, up, up and away in a fiery fury. How could they?
You spin round and round and round, until eventually you are spent. There is no more; simply the crumbling, white-ashed embers of a fire gone dead. You find yourself a rag mop. You are exhausted, drained, and totally depleted from the emotional highs and lows of your charged days. You have no energy; you feel like a truck has used your body for parallel parking practice. You are a pulverized mass of once-quivering emotions.
This is an emotional hangover.
There is no hair of the dog for the morning after. There is no specialized rehab. Copious amounts of water to hydrate your burned-out system are of little avail.
What's a suffering fool to do?
As with any good recovery effort, you need to acknowledge that you have a problem. Yep, this is your problem. "But they did it to me," you howl. And so they did, but, you, my friend, and only you, are responsible for your reactions.
Remember the Boy Scouts and their motto of always being prepared? That is good advice for preventing more of these emotional conflicts. Whether you stirred the pot or someone else came after you with a figurative cleaver, there is value in understanding the dynamics. Without awareness, the emotional set-to simply dissolves into a long line of yet-another debilitating incident of high drama.
So, let us armchair quarterback and deconstruct the set-ups and triggers to an emotional hangover. To that end, here are some questions and considerations for you to ponder in order to prevent another crazy ride on the high-speed emotional Tilt-a-whirl:
1. Are you too emotionally attached to the outcome of the interaction? Do you have to win? Do you need to be right?
You know the expression: would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy? I can say, and I believe, that being right is overrated, but, boy, howdy, where I feel I am right, that's Right with a capital R, it is very hard to let go and consider another viewpoint.
Are you able to ask for what you need or say no without feeling guilty?
It takes some emotional maturity to get off that high horse and to find common ground.
2. Is the emotional event the result of a power struggle or a need for control?
There is a saying that comes from sales: the one who cares the least has the most power. In other words, the more emotionally detached you are, the more you can see the big picture, be open to alternatives and respond with reason.
3. Did you create decent boundaries and clear parameters so that you protected yourself?
One of the tenets of good self esteem is the ability to be assertive. It is not always easy, but it is clearly important. Further, one of the tenets of effective communication is being able to state your needs clearly. Are you able to ask for what you need or say no without feeling guilty?
4. Are you aware of what buttons are being pushed?
There is that old therapy joke about the patient telling the psychiatrist that his mother was pushing all of his buttons. The psychiatrist responds, of course, she installed those buttons.
Seriously, though, be it family, friends or astute observers of the human psyche, most of us can detect the soft, squishy places in one another. We are all more alike than we acknowledge. Are we feeling respected and heard? Are we being rejected or abandoned? Are we considered loveable? Are we worthy?
5. Are you willing to walk away, say no and choose not to engage in the tension?
There is always choice. Choice serves as the grace note to every interaction. You can choose to struggle, not fight, see it another way, speak your truth, state your case, agree to disagree and so forth.
There is a certain elegance in being able to disengage from drama and choosing not to play the game.
Like most experiences in life, emotional hangovers can be good teachers. You can learn how to protect yourselves for future interactions. You can train yourself to move away from the victim place by following the three A's. You can change your action. You can change your attitude. Or you can learn to accept. Automatically, you have empowered yourself. Isn't that a far better feeling than an emotional hangover?
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