Many people, for many different reasons that stem from many different life experiences and unresolved childhood issues or trauma over-react often to things said to them, life, stress, inter-personal relational situations, and find it difficult to relate congruently and consistently to and with others. The degree to which one masters or struggles with emotion regulation is the measure of how much pain and suffering will be experienced by those who do not effectively regulate their emotions and as a result are often experiencing and being experienced in ways that involve chaos, conflict, and over-reacting. The answer lies in making the choice to learn emotion regulation skills.
We can often overreact to situations without even knowing it. How does this happen?
- Avoiding dealing with unresolved childhood issues/trauma
- Having the past over-ride feelings in response to the here-and-now
- Re-experiencing triggers to emotional issues or mental health challenges not resolved
- Having an active schema of reactivity due to abandonment, rejection sensitivity
- Not being able to tolerate difficult feelings of disagreement or disappointment
- Carrying a lot of childhood pain that has not been grieved or resolved
- Not feeling self-esteem and worthy
- Carrying a lot of core shame and accompanying negative core beliefs
- Having a mental health/illness diagnosis and not being in effective treatment
- Falsely believing your own critical “voice” is others judging & being critical of you
- Thinking in all-or-nothing, black-and-white ways
- Cognitively distorted thinking and beliefs, “always”, “never”, “can’t stand it” etc.
The above list is not the entire list of reasons or situations or triggers or issues and mental health challenges that cause people to over-react emotionally often and to feel very overwhelmed as they over-react knowingly or unknowingly. If you can relate to being overly sensitive, feeling invalidated if not agreed with or feeling angry if you feel someone hasn’t heard you because they didn’t react the way you have hoped they would, you will benefit from learning much more about how to effectively learn to regulate your emotions. This also involves learning to understand your often subconscious negative core beliefs and unresolved childhood issues and/or trauma.
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False Self to Authentic Self – Preparing For Recovery – Rage Addiction – Finding Hope Audio Bundle
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Hope For Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder
BPD and Triggers – Gateways To Recovery
A Radical Acceptance Meditative Practice For Those with Borderline Personality
Borderline Personality Disorder For Beginners
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Change Your Thoughts and Change Your Life
5 Ebooks – Core Wound of Abandonment in BPD Series
Once you begin to practice gaining control – effective regulation – of or over your emotions you’ll be able to choose better reactions, which leads to better life experiences, emotionally and relationally and are, in action, as you realize and practice them the action that leads to solutions.
It’s important to remember that no one is perfect. Everyone overreacts from time to time. It’s when your overreactions become the norm that you should seek a better way. r extrIf your over-reactions are pervasive you may identify with the list of reasons above and benefit from seeking help and support to further understand what is effecting your emotions becoming quickly dysregulated that lead to your sensitivity and emotional over-reactions, whether you feel unheard, invalidated, disconnected, sad, or extremely angry in response.
Action strategies to help you stop overreacting:
- The art of not reacting. In order to stop overreacting, you can try using the art of not reacting. This means that when you’re presented with a certain situation, your goal will be to not react at all. Instead, you can learn to take the time to first observe and describe what you are feeling, thinking, and experiencing, before you re-engage any discussion, situation, interaction. Over time, practice pausing, observing and describing, slowing down your reactions until you regulate your emotions enough so that you won’t be over-reacting. Learn to pause and think about the situation and then formulate your action.
- Let your emotions out. Let yourself feel your emotions, and practice learning to tolerate them. Radically accept the depth and intensity of what you are feeling and learn to take a break, observe and describe them as you learn to tolerate the distress that they may well cause you until you learn how to resolve your stock-pile of unresolved emotions and triggers that can enliven past unresolved emotions on top of the emotions you may feel in reaction to someone or their words or an interaction in the here-and-now. You can then find positive and less impulsive/reactive ways to express them. When you let your emotions build up, they become stronger inside of you. Many people have emotions that have been constantly added to and built up over the course of their lives up until now. Over-reacting can become a patterned response that you may not realize. It’s difficult to stop yourself from overreacting when you’re full of pent up emotion.
- Take a time out. A time out gives you a chance to practice tolerating your what you feel, and learn how to sit with it for a while until you can disconnect from the intensity of it that is emotionally dysregulating and that drives an impulsive desire to immediately react which will more often than not be over-reacting. If you tend to over-react with anger, or lashing out at someone else for what you think he or she said versus what you heard through your own past unresolved issues filter it’s vital to allow yourself some cool down time. If you feel emotions building inside you, instead of bursting out, go somewhere where you know you can be alone. Cooling down will help you to react with a clear head. Practice new skills that you can learn with a Life Coach/BPD Coach/Mental Health & Self Improvement Coach like myself.
- Write it down. Instead of reacting to a situation at all, go write it down. Writing it down is another way of giving yourself time to think over the situation. Later on, once you read what you wrote, you may be able to see whether your reaction was an overreaction or not. Journaling what you feeling is another way to get some feelings out without getting into conflict with someone one else or burning a bridge impulsively. Writing down how you feel, what your are thinking, what you may identify you have over-reacted to or felt too intensely, gives you time to practice your “Observe” skills and your “Describe” skills (DBT).
- Practice relaxation techniques. Hand in hand with relaxation techniques meditation can also be very effective practice in building skills for effective emotion regulation. When you adopt relaxation techniques, you’ll find that you’re automatically more in control of your emotions. That you are learning how to deal with your emotions, feel them, be with them, sit with them, observe and describe them as well as better tolerate them. Try deep breathing or attend a yoga or meditation class. Relaxation will stop your stress and you’ll be less likely to lash out with any negative emotion. After all emotionally over-reacting distances people, disconnects you from people and can leave you feeling more intensely reactive and in touch with painful unresolved shame.
- Avoid judging. Make it a point to practice being aware of your judgments – your “critical inner voice” that you may attribute to others without realizing it. Stop judging yourself and others. This can take time and practice. Radical acceptance and learning to be kind to yourself and learning to re-frame the inner-critic inside of you. Judgments can give you strong opinions that may be unwarranted, which can lead you to over-reactions and emotion dysregulation that may end up with you over-reacting impulsively without having time or building the skills to take time to think about things and to lessen the intensity of how you feel. In the same vein, when you judge yourself for overreacting, you aren’t allowing yourself to make mistakes, which is a self-defeating and/or self-sabotaging mindset or attitude. Mistakes are growth opportunities as long as you can take the shame feelings out of them. It’s okay not to be “right”. Not being “right” doesn’t mean you are all “wrong”. Again, it is very helpful to emotion regulation to be open to learn and open to increasing your self awareness rather than being invested in “winning” or “losing”.
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A.J. Mahari’s Coaching Guide/Ebook/Workbook – Quest For Self Awareness & Creating Your Story of Success Audio
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Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
If you find that you’re over-reacting to all or most of the situations in your life/relationships or interactions, it’s time to start to go back and pay attention to the smaller pieces that can get away from you and make any feeling, reaction, situation, relational dynamic more intense than is good for you. Ask yourself why you’re reacting to small situations with such negative passion, negative core beliefs and how you can begin to practice re-framing what is driving those seemingly automatic reactive repetitive ways of trying to protect yourself from the past in the here-and-now. That protection was necessary in your past – it is only an obstacle to your happiness in the here-and-now.
There could be an underlying issue you need to deal with first. Are you overly stressed? Is your mind focused on something else? Do you have past unresolved issues from childhood? Have you been diagnosed with a personality disorder? Are you codependent? Do you lack boundaries? Do you know yourself? Answer these questions and solve these problems first. Just take it one thing at a time and one hour, 1/2 day or day at a time. Change is a process that takes time. Learning to not over-react will help you feel so much better about yourself and in your life.
Change For A Much Better Quality of Life
Change is a choice. Be open to gaining the self-awareness needed to exercise more choices than you may have realized you actually have to make and empower yourself with. Once you’ve discovered a method that works well for you, incorporate that change into your life permanently one step at a time over time. It is very important to be patient and kind with yourself in the process of working on positive emotional change and more consistent relating to others and to yourself. If you so choose, you, like everyone else who has made this choice is opening to knowing mistakes are growth opportunities and that growth and evolving is a life-long process. We achieve certain goals and life shows us new and different challenges. We can have a life of emotion regulation that in time will become much more natural than first learning skills to create this change and that will be much more helpful in building and maintaining relationships and peace of mind as well as self-esteem, self-worth and a positive self-regard.
It’s important to expect that you will make mistakes along the way – but that’s okay! You may still over-react from time to time, but we are only human and when it happens the benefits are in the practicing of skills and in being kind to yourself remembering that you can take personal responsibility for your reactions, you can apologize, learn more and then do better with more practice. Don’t let mistakes discourage you from jumping right back into the methods that work for you. Those mistakes truly are your pathway to further personal insight and awareness and they are definitely growth opportunities.
If you’re having trouble changing, remember to take small steps and keep believing in the change you want and the choices you can keep choosing to make. It’s not possible to become a different person overnight. And you don’t have to become an entirely different person. The goal is to become more authentically fully the you that you just need to know better and believe in. Try to bring an overall awareness to your life so you no longer feel the pull to over-react or when you do, you pause, slow yourself down, observe, describe, tolerate your feelings and work to re-frame what needs to be separated out from the past versus who you can choose to be in the here-and-now if you regulate the emotion that comes from the past until you resolve it further. Soon enough, you’ll learn to master your emotions and you will learn that over-reacting is not necessary and in hindsight you will also come to know why you first over-reacted to defend, taking things too personally, as you realize more and more how many ways via endless choices you can empower yourself to a more measured response to anything said to you, about you, or any interaction regardless of difficulty it may present.
© A.J. Mahari, April 5, 2014 – All rights reserved.