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How To Control The Way You React (part two)

How To Control The Way You React (part two)

    In part one we began to look at how we deal with, or react to, the various happenings in our world. I observed that we have reacting and we have thinking and for some of us, the two don’t merge very often. And therein lies the problem; something happens and we respond without thinking, planning, assessing or considering the consequences of our reaction. If we are serious about creating the new-and-improved version of us then we need to find a way to insert some reason, logic and consciousness into our reactions. Of course I am talking about reactions to significant events and challenges here, not our incidental, daily blips on the radar.

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    Positive and Negative Reactions.

    For many people, their biggest day-to day-challenge lies in learning to react differently. For some their inability to control their reactions may one day ruin their life. They are often volatile, irrational, inconsiderate, unaware and self-centred. At one end of the scale a negative reaction might temporarily damage a relationship or create some kind of short term problem between friends or colleagues, while at the other end of the scale, an irrational, unthinking reaction (brain snap) might see a person spend the rest of their life in jail; a life ruined (and possibly another one ended) because of a reaction.

    Creating Better Outcomes

    In order to create better outcomes in our world and turn those negative reactions into positive ones, we must learn to put some space between the event (the thing we’re about to react to) and our response. A little thinking music of sorts. They say that “time is the great healer”, well it can also be the great “preventer of regrettable and stupid reactions” when we insert it between the stimulus (event, situation, circumstance, problem) and our subsequent behaviour.

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    We’re all Different

    As with any prescription (exercise, food, medication, psychotherapy), there’s no blanket solution for this challenge but there are certain things we can do to minimise our chances of doing something we’ll regret; reacting negatively. I can’t provide you with a three-step process which will be universally effective for combating negative reactions because we’re all wired differently and what pushes our buttons varies greatly. What will stress me, won’t bother you and vice-versa. What will cause a ‘reaction’ in you will go un-noticed by me.

    Here are my suggestions. Use what’s relevant and meaningful for you.

    1. Embrace calm. Obvious I know, but the more stressed, anxious and volatile we are in our general living (thinking, behaviours, conversations, habits, relationships), the more likely we are to react inappropriately in those moments. Calm, peaceful, balanced people rarely become axe murderers. And you won’t see too many Buddhists jumping out of their car with a baseball bat either. Even if you did cut them off. Do Buddhists even play baseball? Sorry, I digress.

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    2. Put space between the event and the reaction. I remember one of my school teachers telling us kids to count to one hundred when we got angry. She was pretty smart; she was teaching us to put some space between the event and our reaction. Of course different things work for different people but you and I need to find a way to create a time buffer so that we don’t do something regrettable. Once you’ve punched your neighbour in the mouth, you can’t really undo that! Finding that time buffer might mean hanging up the phone and calling back in ten minutes, it could mean going for a walk, or it may mean completely shifting your attention to something else for a while and then coming back to that issue, situation or person later. These days my self-control is pretty good but when I was a young (insecure) alpha male, I would often walk away from a (potentially volatile) situation and address it later when I was in a better place (emotionally). It worked for me.

    3. Ask different questions. I have spoken many times about how the quality of our questions affects our behaviours (reactions), the quality of our outcomes and in turn, our life reality. When we ask better (smarter, more thoughtful) questions, we typically create better outcomes.

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    4. Invest your emotional energy wisely. Earlier this year I wrote an article on how and where we spend our emotional dollars. Let’s just say that many of us don’t invest wisely and as a result, don’t get a great return on our investment. You might want to re-visit that article when you have a chance.

    5. Wear a wrist band. Call it your calm band. Call it your positive reaction band. Call it whatever you want but wear it as a reminder of what and who you’re becoming; someone who reacts differently. Someone who creates better outcomes. Someone who manages their emotions rather than someone who is managed. Someone who is more aware, more evolved, more balanced and more in control. It’s about raising your consciousness and awareness. Of course the band is symbolic but used the right way, it can help you keep your head – thinking, attitudes, internal dialogue, reactions – where they need to be. I have worked with many people who firmly believe that wearing their wrist band helped them in a real, practical and measurable way. It was a constant physical reminder of their commitment to do, be and create better in their life. For some people, a band is a simple tool that will help them stay aware, conscious and productive. For others, it’s simply another stupid idea. Funny that.

    Okay, I’m off to find my baseball bat.

    Clearly, I’m not the Buddhist I should be.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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    This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • They rile up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    The Bottom Line

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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