Let’s say you come home from an okay day at work. Ever find yourself irritable with those around you? Maybe you react to things that would make a calmer you think, “This is not such a big deal. Why am I so upset?” This happens to me too.
When I am at my best, I will then apologize and ask for a little time to myself. Backing out of the moment gives me time to reflect on what the heck is happening. With just a little practice, I am able to now take a few deep breaths in another room or on a quick walk and start looking at my day or some other unresolved issue on my mind.
Figure Out What’s Wrong and Make Amends
Perhaps you have been feeling stress around work or family. Sometimes it’s easy for me to look at the day and recognize that I’m still bothered by an earlier interaction or by what I think I “should” be doing but am not. Other times though, I have to look more deeply. Maybe I’m thinking about the last interaction I had with someone I don’t see often, and certain thoughts and feelings are activated by just thinking about them. These past issues do indeed haunt us and do not just go away.
In the perfect world, we can deal with these issues either directly or in counseling. If we are not dealing with them, our unresolved feelings can leak out, like they did today when I came home and was irritable.
By taking my time to reflect and think it out, it becomes much easier for me then to come back and say something like, “Sorry, I’ve been thinking about such and such today and it is bothering me a bit. I am sorry I was short with you.” This can lead to a wonderful conversation that eases some of what is on your mind. Other times, I may need a little more time and intervention in order to be able to come back and make amends for my irritability.
Let It All Out
If I go for a walk, I like to verbalize, or speak out loud, some of what is on my mind. This is akin to the “empty chair,” but in walking fashion. I may replay the interaction or incident that got me thinking about the old hurt, perhaps vent some frustration aloud, and even problem-solve: what I could have done differently in the situation that’s bothering me, as well as what I might want to say to make amends for my irritability.
When the pain is deeper, I like to write out in my computer journal. I password protect it so I can be sure to keep things to myself. Sometimes just starting to write, even when I am not exactly sure what will come out, yields a lot of thought and emotion that may have been stuck inside. We need to give our thoughts and feelings their due and validate our experiences whether we can change things or not. As I write, I tend to verbalize ideas and wonder aloud how I got there. Being able to see the words and hear them aloud sometimes brings new meaning and is different than just thinking about it silently. I can sometimes relate a current situation to something that happened in the past and remind myself of an unresolved issue.
Reaching out to a friend or loved one or working through problems in counseling can also be wonderful ways to get the feelings out. Don’t keep them inside. They will affect you.
© Copyright 2010 by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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