We all have an innate desire to respond to what is happening around us. Whether it is to directly answer a question being asked, picking up our phones, or indirectly responding with a signature look on our face. In some way, we respond. But "why" is the question at the moment. Why do we need to respond to literally everything and even more important, what is it doing to us when we do?
Let me walk you through an example I like to use often. In my youth, it was a SIN to roll your eyes at your parents or any adult for that matter. Doing so, could quickly land you in a serious situation followed by the age old threat, "If you'd like to keep them in your head, you better make sure they are not disrespecting me". So, from my youth, I LEARNED quick that "eye rolling" is wrong, disrespectful, and it BECAME a core value of my own. So much so, that for a long time when I saw younger kids rolling their eyes at adults, teachers, anyone, from my "lens" I shut down quickly and felt some kind of way. My mind summed up the poor kid as disrespectful, wrong, and rude and that simply was not the case. If we do not check ourselves and truly investigate where we have stored and adopted "core beliefs" about certain things, subsequently those images/beliefs will become engrained to trigger certain emotions out of us that honestly do not belong.
Examining Our Belief Systems
What is wrong with eye-rolling? Why does it have to have a negative meaning? If it does, rewire it. Why can't it simply be "a natural response" to something we dislike? It was so freeing when it was painted to me in this way. Early in my clinical work and research, I was challenged by the best to investigate my own beliefs and biases. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I examined how many times a day I rolled my own eyes which was pretty much all day. When I got out of bed, when I realized I was out of coffee, when I saw disturbing news, when I couldn't find my keys, when cars flew by me in traffic just to get to the same red light I was headed towards....It never ended! It was such an automatic response that had nothing to do with who I personally was as a person so why judge anyone else by it? This one action, led me to dissect a multitude of core beliefs I either adopted from my upbringing or developed from my own personal experiences or traumas. It can be very helpful to examine any core beliefs you may have, where they originated from, and why you may feel connected to them?
When we respond to stressors, we actually activate our "fight or flight" response system which was ultimately designed to protect us when we are in life threatening situations. If we sense we are in danger it helps us to recognize that and run or fight. However, what happens when we overtax this system? We all may have seen articles about how stress can greatly impact our health. Stress has been closely tied to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, high blood pressure, addiction, and more. Constantly activating our stress response can lead to severe mental, physical, social and spiritual distress. In this day and age, we are hard-wired to respond to everything. As if we were not already flooded with responsibility in our natural environments, we now have an online world to respond to where likes or loves become the object of our attention and we begin to question why it can't all be "hearts". We freak out if we are not near our phones, lash out on others, and the slightest bit of uncomfortable information sends us into a panic. It is important now more than any other time to minimize stress as much as we can for our own physical and emotional wellness.
Re-Wiring Internal Messages
One of the things I enjoy most is helping individuals re-process memories and discover how to store them differently. I am always pleased to hear how much freedom and sense of peace this seems to bring. Much like organizing our homes, it is possible to "open up" and "process" our thoughts and feelings and store them in ways that are more meaningful and healthy. Start by writing a list of your most stressful triggers or core beliefs, then determine where it came from and what current effect it has on you. From here, you want to begin reframing it's meaning (if necessary) to re-locate it mentally and emotionally. This process honestly is different for everyone and may require the help of a trained therapist to assist. The goal is to decrease the intensity and immediate reaction you normally have to the stressor or core belief.
Practical Day to Day Practice
Well, many of us know traffic is a real test of patience so you can definitely try to limit your reactions to several frustrating roadway variables. If not traffic, other things such as making faces at that annoying boss or co-worker, being frustrated in the coffee drive-thru that's taking forever to move, stubborn red lights, stupid comments, or you can even limit becoming undone over eye-rolling like I did. Wherever you choose to start, it begins with identifying what needs to be re-wired. For me, I began to intentionally test my ability to "purposely refrain" from immediately responding or reacting to several things. This means you practice refraining from having a positive or negative feeling about it. You stay neutral and learn to accept it "as it is" without giving it anything from the vault of your emotions which should be mindfully reserved for things of importance.
Ask yourself, "Why am I giving so much of me to this right now, and is it necessary?" The reality is, often our immediate surface level reactions do not improve or add value to negative situations anyway. Yelling at traffic doesn't make it move any faster, stupid comments still go on, and unfortunately the price of our order is still the same when we get to the window. The only thing that has changed is "Us". We become ruffled, upset, angry, slamming doors, yelling, left with a headache, a ticket, and no further along than when we started. So, realize your worth, your value, and importance. Take time to be good to your "mind". Try not to spend your energy on things you cannot change. The less you give to those things, the more you have reserved to give positively to your present moments and things that truly matter.