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4 Sep 2007 | Uncategorized

I just did an exercise on strengths and weaknesses and found an interesting discrepancy:

While I figure that I am optimistic, confident, mainly happy, set myself high standards and generally achieve my objectives, for some reason I am completely hopeless at controlling my mood swings.

Yesterday, less than an hour before my first coaching session with a client, I had lost it. It started off small – tension and stress built up from a very busy day,a tight knit schedule that was threatening to unravel at the last minute. I thought I was handling it in fairly good spirits actually, until thoroughly unhelpful comment threw a lit match straight in the bonfire.

It was of course completely unintentional, and I can’t blame him, but I think I can reasonably say, careless, as in oops.

And if there is one thing that will fuel that fire like nothing else, it is indifference. It’s something my mum and sister can both do with uncanny adeptness, without trying I might add. I think it’s to do with avoiding conflict and evading confrontation, protecting their own little bubble with an air of agreeableness. I don’t even pretend to get it, but I know it drives me crazy. Nothing will turn me into an emotionally charged, irrational teenager quicker. And somehow I’ve managed to marry someone who has, if not quite the same attitude, a habit of being defensive through coldness, which seems to have the same effect. I can’t blame them really. Most people’s reactions to an atom bomb would be to run a mile.

But back to me. Over the past year I have certainly improved my ability to unpick exactly what makes me so angry, and while that provides a certain justification and comfort in knowing that I’m not going mad, it doesn’t help me break out. While I’m caught up in an emotional torrent, knowing why I’m p*ed off only makes my anger a lot sharper and more precise. And the longer it lasts, the less weight "I’m sorry I didn’t mean to" carries. So at the end of the day, it’s down to me to curb my emotions and find a way out. Because in the end I want to choose to be happy.

I don’t think pure tolerance is the answer. I have the greatest respect those who can manage it without feeling compromised, but I just don’t think I’m built that way. At the end of the day I would feel like I’m resigning myself to be a door mat. As for communication I’m sure I can do that one a lot calmer and better, but that in itself isn’t enough to put out the fire.

In the end yesterday, it was time out with Oliver that calmed me down. Having a cuddle as he drank his milk before bedtime, I found myself comparing with his temper tantrums (which is a rather humbling experience, considering he’s two and I’m not). Whether triggered by something tangible or completely out of the blue, he gets himself so worked up, that I can’t comfort, distract, scold or otherwise break him out of it until it’s run its course. However I have noticed that sometimes he will say sorry all of a sudden – even if he’s been genuinely upset about something and not just having a paddy, as if to stop the pattern and turn the mood. And a minute later he can be happily playing away and showing off that he knows what an (ex)tractor fan looks and sounds like.

So although I’m not quite sure how exactly, I think I’ll try and aim for time out, next time I feel overwhelmed by anger. Find a way of removing myself from the corner I’m backed into, pull back and make a conscious decision, I guess. Choose freedom.

As it happened, I was calm and prepared in time for my first session, which went really well. It was exciting to take a journey into the unknown, ask questions based on intuition and really rewarding to realise I’ve created benefit and made a difference as a result.


  1. almosthonest

    I’m really glad your first session has come and gone and was successful! That must have been scary. I’m not surprised you were wound up beforehand…
    I nearly posted something about avoiding being angry, but I did a re-read, and spotted that what you’re thinking about is how to stop once you’ve started. I actually don’t have a clue about that – but I thought I’d post anyway, to avoid appearing indifferent. 😉

  2. Rosalyn

    Avoiding anger
    A few ideas:
    noticing when you do get angry (without judging) and moving towards journalling about it – the triggers, the feelings.
    Is anger a destructive or constructive force in your life? who would you be without it?
    my experience is that nothing pushes my buttons quite as much as someone with similar characteristics to my own! What of you can you see in those who make you angry. Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’ could be useful here too in turnarounds. To give a couple of examples, if you think Ms X should not avoid conflict you would ask yourself when is it true that Ms X SHOULD avoid conflict and when is it true that YOU should avoid conflict. I’m over simplifying, but it’s clever stuff.

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About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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