By Jessica Glynn, LMSW
It can be hard to resist the urge to overindulge, or to become angry with our partner or friend when things aren’t going our way. The feelings that come up, such as hurt or anger, can cause us to immediately go on the defense and behave in a way that we end up regretting later on. For example, if you are having a conversation with your partner about wanting to make a change that you are excited about, and they respond in a way that feels inconsiderate or like a rejection, this can lead to us feeling hurt. The immediate response may be to yell or hurt back, leading to a very unproductive conversation.
Another example may be wanting to have a second bowl of ice cream or bag of Doritos while sitting on the couch watching television. Perhaps in that moment you are not feeling very fulfilled, and feel as though the food or drink will fill that void. Usually the chips or ice cream are consumed in a matter of moments, and we are left feeling the same way we did before we ate them, but with the added guilt.
It can be difficult to change these behaviors because we do not slow down and separate our physical emotions from the thoughts that are behind them. Our physical emotions are the physical sensations that occur when we are feeling sad, anxious, hurt, angry, etc. Some examples of these are racing heartbeat, knot in the throat or stomach, and shortness of breath. When this starts to happen it’s because there are unpleasant thoughts that are activating our flight or flight response. If we can slow down when we feel these physical sensations, then perhaps we can begin to recognize the thoughts that are coming up. With this awareness we can understand where the maladaptive behaviors, such as yelling at our partner with unproductive language or going straight to the cupboard and grabbing the chips, are coming from.
Next time you have some of these physical sensations try doing the following:
- Stop, breath, and identify the physical emotions
- Think about what feelings or thoughts are bringing the physical emotions to the surface (anger, hurt, sadness, disappointment)
- Excuse yourself from the situation or just take a moment with to identify and calm the thoughts that arise
- Come up with a reason why your initial impulse reaction was going to be unproductive and proceed with a more thought out and productive plan that will get you to where you want to go
Jessica Glynn, LMSW is therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support with changing behaviors and habits, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.