When your Anger is active, do you contribute unnecessary drama and needless suffering? In today’s episode, I’ll be reaching into my big bag of emotional intelligence tricks and pulling out two very powerful Tiny Tweak Techniques called Thinking about Your Thinking and Real-Time Rapid Thought Reviews. Let’s get started with a story.
The morning was off to a good start! Giuseppe, his partner, and their two children were starting their vacation. They were headed to the coast! They would be spending the next week in a beautiful house they had rented with an ocean view and easy access to the beach. The weather forecast was perfect – lots of sunshine with mild temperatures! Life was good! Well, it was good until they got about half-way into their drive.
What should have been a five-hour trip turned into a seven-hour drive. There was a major accident on the interstate. Three hours into their trip while they were sitting idle in a multi-mile backup, Giuseppe noticed a car in his rearview mirror. There was a driver coming up from behind him who was driving on the shoulder!
Giuseppe gripped the steering wheel tightly and thought to himself “What an idiot! This guy thinks his time is more important than everyone else’s and he thinks he shouldn’t have to wait like the rest of us!” His Anger activated in response to his thoughts! He turned to his partner sitting next to him and said “Get a load of this jerk who’s driving on the shoulder. I’m tempted to veer in front of him so he can’t get past!”
Fortunately, Giuseppe exercised some self-control and a minute or two later, the car passed by them without incident. The driver, making use of the shoulder, drove on while Giuseppe and his family, along with all the other cars, remained at a complete stand still.
Close to an hour later, although they were now moving along at 60-miles an hour, Giuseppe was still talking about the rude driver who drove past everyone else on the shoulder. He couldn’t seem to shake it and his mood was having a negative impact on his family. The conflict associated with the other driver was long past, but Giuseppe couldn’t seem to let it go. As a result, Giuseppe was the source of unnecessary drama and needless suffering.
Tiny Tweak Techniques
This type of scenario can happen to the best of us. A conflict arises and you interpret the circumstance in a way that results in your Anger activating. Even after the conflict has passed, you keep thinking thoughts that cause your Anger to remain active.
Or maybe the conflict is still an issue, but it’s not the right time to address it. Or maybe it’s something you’ll never be willing to address. These are the times when there is a high likelihood you are going to be a source of unnecessary drama and needless suffering if you are unable to manage your thoughts pertaining to the conflict.
Fortunately, everyone has agency which is your ability to independently influence your outcomes and results. Agency is where your true power lies when it comes to your emotional intelligence. The next time you find yourself having a difficult time letting go of something you are Angry about, consider applying the following Tiny Tweak Technique called Thinking about Your Thinking.
Think About Your Thinking
When your Anger is active and you can’t seem to move on, try to pause and take a few minutes to Think about Your Thinking. The human species is one of the few (maybe even the only) species that is capable of metacognition. Simply put, we can think about our thinking.
Because there is a thought behind every emotion that activates, thinking about your thinking is an opportunity to identify the specific thoughts that are causing your emotions to activate.
In Giuseppe’s case, if he takes a few minutes to think about his thinking, he can see the reason his Anger is still active. His original thought “What an idiot! This guy thinks his time is more important than everyone else’s and he thinks he shouldn’t have to wait like the rest of us!” is what caused his Anger to activate in the first place. But maybe he’s now thinking additional thoughts like “Young drivers today are so irresponsible!” or “Nobody has any consideration for anyone other than themselves!” Continuing to think these types of negative thoughts is what’s causing Giuseppe’s Anger to remain active.
When you take a few minutes to Think about your Thinking, it’s an opportunity to explore the thoughts that are behind your active emotions. Thinking about your thinking increases self-awareness and can help you recognize when your thoughts are contributing to unnecessary drama and needless suffering.
Real-Time Rapid Thought Review – 3 Questions to Ask
If Giuseppe is motivated and interested in moving on so his Anger can deactivate, (and the mood in the car can return to excitement for the upcoming vacation), he can think about his thinking and challenge his current thoughts using another Tiny Tweak Technique called a Real-Time Rapid Thought Review which includes the following three questions.
Question #1 – Does the conflict I’m thinking about still exist? If not, this could be relatively easy. It’s over. No need to brew and stew. You can redirect your thoughts and move on.
In Giuseppe’s case, the driver who drove along the shoulder is long gone. The speed of the traffic has returned to normal. By asking himself this specific question, it may be just what he needs to put the incident behind him.
Question #2 – Does focusing on the conflict currently support my desired outcomes and results? This question takes a degree of self-discipline and recognition we always have choices regarding what we choose to think about. If this answer is “No”, you can always revisit the conflict later, and temporarily move on.
If Giuseppe’s desired outcome, is he wants his family to enjoy the remaining time in the car and he wants to revel in the excitement of their upcoming vacation, then asking himself this question can help to redirect his thoughts and focus.
Question #3 – Am I willing and able to take action to address the conflict? This is where so much unnecessary drama and needless suffering occurs. People go on and on thinking negative thoughts about something without any intention of ever addressing the actual conflict. If you’re not willing or for some reason you are unable to act and address the conflict, move on.
If the first two questions aren’t enough to get Giuseppe back on track, then this third question might be particularly sobering.
In other words, Is he willing and able to pull over and report the incident to the local authorities? That answer is probably “No.”
Is he willing and able to lobby in Washington to increase the penalties and fines given to drivers who misuse the shoulder? This answer is probably also “No.”
Okay, you get the idea. Based on these answers, he may be able, but he’s really not willing to take any action to address the conflict. So, he might as well let it go.
Next time your Anger is active and you’re having a hard time moving on, consider taking the time to Thinking about your Thinking and do a Real-Time Rapid Thought Review by asking yourself one or more of these questions.
Emotions activate in response to the thoughts you are thinking. By taking the time to Think about your Thinking, and by challenging your thoughts with a Real-Time Rapid Thought Review, it’s an opportunity to gain some additional self-awareness around the thoughts you are thinking that are causing your emotions to activate.
Conflict is part of life. Nobody is immune from conflict, and nobody is immune from experiencing unpleasant events. On those occasions when your interpretation of something causes your Anger to activate, the goal is to navigate the situation without adding any unnecessary drama and needless suffering!