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“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde
We have all had days where we were going along just fine and then we read the newspaper, get a call or get cut off in traffic.
A small incident triggers a series of unfortunate mind events and soon we are emotionally hijacked.
We place our attention on the matter and find more evidence to support our point of view.
And then there you have it: a very bad day when everything seems haywire and out of place. And as a result, we end up spending a lot of time and mental energy on things that we had no interest to engage with initially.
This effectively pulls us away from what we were trying to create and accomplish and soon we are behind schedule and overwhelmed.
How should you go about managing and handling a situation similar to the one described above?
If you feel challenged by time and attention wasters and grabbers, read on for a few ideas on how you can approach the issue…
1. Instead of trying to change people, try to change your perception of them
This is a big one.
You may have a million reasons why someone should change their behavior or act in a certain way. And that might be true from your perspective. However, people always behave in unpredictable ways.
This causes significant tension and lost brain cycles trying to figure out how to change a person or make them see your perspective. One thing to remember is that your perception of a person is based on a preset ideal image of them.
When you find the reality of interaction with a person to be different from the ideal image of them, you may experience cognitive dissonance. Simply put cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort created by holding and coming to terms with two conflicting attitudes.
Originally proposed by Professor Leon Festinger in 1957, cognitive dissonance can cause tension that demands to get resolved. Your mind usually attempts to resolve the tension and achieve similarity or agreement between the conflicting attitudes. In other psychology terms, this is referred to as the ideal-reality conflict.
Dr. Wayne Dyer, wonderful teacher and author described that his relationship with his mother was initially difficult at best. When he let go of his expectations and allowed her to be the way she chose to be, everything changed. They had a wonderful relationship after a long time.
When you change your perception of annoyances and issues, you broaden your perspective of finding possible solutions to deal with the problem. For example, the speeding auto driver who cut you off in traffic could be going to a hospital. You never know for sure.
What would happen if the driver who cut you off stopped at the next light, walked over to you, smiled and said sorry? Immediately, you would experience cognitive dissonance. Then you are left with the choice of either forming a new perception of fast drivers or choosing to believe that this case was an exception.
When you choose to come from a pre-conceived notion: all fast, brash drivers are arrogant people, you are engaging with your emotional trigger that wants to fire off. But backing off and allowing other perspectives to filter in dilutes the immediate jumping off with the trigger.
When you allow other refreshing perspectives in, you will be less inclined to ruminate and worry about how to change someone based on who you want them to be. Sometime it is just best to let other people be themselves. The realm where you have power and control is in your own behaviors and emotions and choosing to not get carried away.
2. Instead of trying to change things that are beyond your control, try to change your immediate realm of control
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa
Have you heard people arguing endlessly and getting very upset over things that they have no control over? While some of this is interesting and normal human nature, getting caught up in these issues and losing track of what really matters gets to be a problem.
The reality of the matter is that there are things that are within our realm of control and those that are beyond. Clearly recognizing where your influence lies and taking small and consistent action in that area is a lot more effective usage of your time and effort.
For example, at work you might be very unhappy about senior management but instead of leaving, you choose to be unhappy and complain about them.
Changing the senior management of your company may be beyond your realm of influence. However, focusing and taking action in small tasks that are enjoyable at work is certainly within your realm of control.
You get to decide if you want to complain and be caught up in the drama or choose to make a difference in the daily tasks that you are responsible for.
You may have heard of: “Think global, act local.” Let us modify that a bit. How about: “Think Global and let it go when you cannot make a difference, then think local, act local and make a difference.”
Instead of choosing to go along with the much repeated: “the economy is bad” mantra, how about we change it to: “I will creatively find small but impactful ways and means to make more abundance and prosperity in my immediate life.”
3. Instead of reacting, choose to respond
Yes, you may have heard of this one before. Reacting to something may be a lot of fun but it seldom gets you any brownie points.
If you are able to reframe the problem and change your perspective in the micro-millionth of a second that you have between an event happening and wanting to react, that is great. Please let me know how you are able to accomplish that.
But this is very challenging to you because when you perceive a threat in the form of input, your first action is the classic: fight or flight response. So where is the time to choose to respond to an event?
I believe that the reaction has already happened if you are coming from a certain prior established idea. For example, when you choose to see someone or something as a problem, your chances of reacting poorly to them magnify.
When you see someone or some situation in a positive light, you are more inclined to respond kindly or with more understanding. I think that how we structurally frame a person or a situation in our mind predisposes us to a certain form of reaction.
When you become aware of those emotional triggers and those ideas and perceptions of the situation, you are better equipped to choose to respond in a different manner.
4. Ease yourself away from the “friction of fictions”
Do you ever have an argument with a person in your head where you are holding an entire inquisition within the confines of your mind? Often, the person that you are having a mental problem with is walking around whistling tunes while you suffer in silence.
This concept became clear to me from the wonderful teachings of the amazing Rev. Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith of Agape. According to Rev. Beckwith, the friction between people is the result of fictional personas that they have assumed and has little to do with their inner light and radiance. Rev. Beckwith calls this “friction of fictions.”
I found that people sometimes engage in a “friction of fictions” within the confines of their head when they do not overtly want to confront someone or a situation.
In a situation like this, I find great solace in recognizing and becoming aware that fictional and idealistic personas are at play and battle here. I find comfort in withdrawing from the mental chatter and just taking a step back. I am more inclined to release a mental argument that is counter productive if I become aware of the meaningless drama that it creates in my life.
What about you? Do you have aspects in your life that emotionally hijack you and how do you manage those situations?
Michelle Dobbins says
I’ve have young children, so the two things that emotionally highjack me the most are when they fight with each other and when I feel like I don’t handle things the best way with them. I deal with it by allowing myself to feel the feelings but not to do the mental chatter. Without the mental chatter, the emotions pass quickly in most cases.
Thank you for your comment! I have young children too and I can totally relate to what you are saying. It is a great strategy that you mention of not doing the mental chatter and allowing the feelings to pass! It is a bit challenging to not engage in the chatter at times but it is certainly worth it.
Harish Kumar says
Thanks for your comment!
It is so tempting to lose sight of what really matters and within our realm of control and be tempted to engage in what lies beyond. I still get carried away sometimes with what I cannot change. But now, I am better able to put the brakes on that and bring myself back to where I can make a difference.