Tone it down now Sally: pausing before shouting at your loved ones

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Vivien Szaniszlo

Vivien Szaniszlo

My thumb aggressively punches down the backspace on my iPhone, and I watch my frustration-laden words rewind themselves like an angry Mexican wave.

Starting again. What am I trying to say here? WHAT ARE THE WORDS TO USE TO BE SUFFICIENTLY UNDERSTOOD.

This ability to pause before hitting send is new to me. In fact, it’s taken me about a year to figure out how to communicate properly, and even now I fall victim to the occasional emotion/language car crash.

I’m either too much of a dick, covertly anxious, or don’t quite get across ALL MY SOURING POISONOUS ANGER. *glower*.

No, that was dramatic. I’m usually pretty chill…even when I’m screaming upwards to the other emotional extreme. But we’re all human aren’t we?

The weird thing about anger and communicating is that in the peak height of your mental pain, you do need to consider the other person, the one receiving this package of joy. Do they deserve consideration? Nay. But do we want to resolve the issue? Yes.

Fuck sake.

What I’ve noticed in this year, however, is how much god damn happier I am in all my relationships. With my dad, I’m able to properly articulate when he’s stressing me out and – guess what – he’s super understanding and reassuring when I do. With my man, I don’t hold any grudges because things are actually discussed properly, and one of us isn’t flying off the handle. We actually laugh so much more when we disagree, because if something comes up that we’ve already discussed we do that gun finger thing at each other as if to say:

“You’re doing that thing…”, Yeah, I’m doing that thing…”, “You gonna….you gonna stop?”, “Yeah.”, “Cool.”

I’ve reached this point in my relationships because no one is feeling like I’ve just attacked them out of nowhere (like they used to).

Thing is, we have associations with all feelings. So when we’re angry, chances are we’re not just angry about the “thing” we’re angry about, we’re angry at all the things we’ve been angry about in the past that haven’t been resolved. Which means that being able to pause and think objectively about the situation in hand is key.

Growing up, I wasn’t really taught how to express emotions. Instead, I bottled them all up until I combusted into many years of anorexia. Hence why teaching myself how to feel emotions, let alone express them took some hours in the therapy chair.

For a while in recovery, I ruled with the “I’VE BEEN SILENT FOR SO LONG IT’S MY TIME TO BE LOUUUUUUD!!!” approach. And then I soon learnt that this doesn’t really work either. So began my slow learning about the art of patience.

And what’s so great about being patient is that, no matter what, you look like the bigger person. Even if you’re technically wrong and you both know it, when you pause mid-discussion to address their point in a levelled voice (despite your dramatically vibrating brain), you’re kinda more convincing.

Patience also gives you the time to understand how best to communicate with certain people. My dad likes to know what I need, so instead of vomiting problems and emotions at him, I tell him what I need from him right now, i.e. “Dad, I need a few more weeks to figure out my plans before I agree to attend the holiday. Can I have some more time?” To which he replied “Sure, take your time.” EXCELLENT.

My man doesn’t react well to heightened emotion without warning. He too likes to be told what I need, or be “told” what’s up in a short and sweet tirade. Yet, convincing him to plan ahead is something I’m still working on…if only I could put things into his well-guarded calendar *praying emoji*.

I’ve spent far too much of my life as a wound-up-anxious-stress-ball, and so being able to shrug and smile is probably the best thing about life in recovery. Next time you want to open a can of whoop-ass, pause before hitting send and think about how they as the person that they are will receive it.