by Malti Bhojwani
Road rage, impatience, yelling at customer service executives, staff and employees, and practically anyone, is more frequent as the temperature rises. Try to remember that you are not the only one in the sweltering heat, but everyone you come across is going through the same and carrying their own loads too.
Last week, one of my daily action quotes which I send out to subscribers was, “Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that’s not easy.” – Aristotle
I refer to this quote often, because as much as I understand that anger is not good or bad, the intensity, place and person it is expressed to can sometimes be wrong for everyone involved.
We almost always feel justified when we lose our tempers. If you break down the emotion of anger, it is a feeling of being violated or deprived in some way. At a basic level, we feel like we are being wronged. You may argue that it is not good to keep things bottled up and I do agree. You need to experience “losing” it sometimes so you can truly distinguish what it feels like in your body and mind in order to appreciate staying cool.
Notice that when you lose your cool, not only do you upset others, you are really upsetting yourself too. Your heart rate goes up, you may clench your fist and grind your teeth, you say things you know are not 100% true, and you lose all reason. You become illogical and make it all about you, self righteous and stubborn.
Some even boast about how angry they get and go about repeating the story to anyone who would listen and guess what, it only makes them look like psycho-frowning-witches.
So how do you keep your cool?
Just like an air conditioner has a thermostat, look at yourself controlling your outbursts like installing an internal thermostat. When you notice the proverbial mercury rising, instead of focusing on the trigger, take a pause and breathe. I won’t use up too many words to remind you of the practical approaches to keeping cool, which are staying hydrated, eating fresh and light so you feel light, dressing cool, getting enough sleep, listening to happy music that you love, taking a few humour breaks, laughing at situations and smiling in appreciation at all you have, look at the slum dwellers who live practically under hot tin roofs, or the store owners who place wet napkins as makeshift air coolers on their glass counter tops to keep their merchandise from melting.
Let’s dive into the mind and body practices to help with your thermostat.
1. Switch on the camera:
As soon as you feel yourself about to lose it, mentally switch on your internal video camera, the one that is watching you and ask yourself how good you look in this scene. Ask yourself who the audience would feel empathy for if they were watching it. Are we playing the gorgeous leading lady or the wicked witch? Often we pick our marks and only lose our temper and start yelling at people who we know we can get away with it with. We seldom yell at a person of authority or someone who we admire. You see deep inside, we know that we are behaving badly, so take the time to watch the scene as an observer and then use this “break” to choose a more appropriate response.
2. Make light of it:
Breathe deeply expanding your lungs and then count your breaths. My brother, Sanjay Bhojwani who is a meditation teacher teaches this trick, “Tell yourself it is all just a game where I win if I keep my cool and I lose, when I lose “it”. How many people have you yelled at or given it to? Count the times you held your reaction back and approached the situation with lightness and humour. Fine, the (insert expletive adjective here) taxi cut you off, the service provider keeps you on hold, the waiter gets your order wrong, the cashier overcharged you, but the easiest way to make it light and “win”, is to be amused and laugh it off. I am human, we like to say, and yes, we are. That’s why we can control our reactions unlike animals.
3. Truly stop complaining:
Everyone has their own cross to bear, or load to carry. When you are irritated at the heat, look around you. Everyone else is in the same boat. Be compassionate and look at the good stuff. We human beings can complain about everything, when it is raining, we complain over the pelting showers, when it is hot we complain through gritted teeth and when cold, through chatters. Sure we try to connect with others by just having something to agree on, “It is so hot today!” which is fine, of course. It is fine to vent, but get on with your day. Treat venting as “going to the bathroom.” You go there but do you need to stay there all day, and do you need to talk about it to everyone you meet?
Keeping your cool with your partner
Learning to respond, with your reason for choosing to be together in mind, rather than reacting angrily or defensively to each other, is essential. You want ‘to relate with this person lovingly everyday’. So the next time your partner pushes your buttons or says something that almost invokes an impulsive reaction (which you know is going to cause a war), wait and think about why you are in this relationship again.
Some may say, ‘We’re stuck together because of children, culture, family, society or security’. Well, you are not stuck; you are still making a choice to stay in it because the consequences may be too high to pay. If you are choosing to be together, for whatever reason, remember it is still your choice and you might as well make it a loving co-existence than resist it every minute of the day. Choosing a response that is sensitive to the feelings of your partner is a priceless habit to form in order to have a happy and loving relationship. As Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
(Excerpt from my book, “Don’t Think of a Blue Ball”)
Finally, sit in silence with yourself and get a deep sense of what you look like, how you feel, the tempo, tone and volume in which you speak, the words you use, your heart rate and breathing pattern, your posture and your facial expression when you are calm and at peace, smiling and grateful and set this as your default. The goal is to increase the tolerance of your internal fuse and develop a sensitivity to the raise in “temperature” so that you are able to catch it before you “lose” it. It will take practice but it can be done if you follow the steps above with commitment.
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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.