Did you ever notice that when someone does something wrong to you – cuts you in line, reneges on a promise, doesn’t do what they said they would – the tendency can be to start to bash them in your mind? You might think about the things you’d like to say, if only you had a few minutes with that dastardly person. Or you might ruminate over all of the rude people, just like that one, that you are forced to deal with every day. Perhaps you shout out (where they can’t hear you) a few choice swear words at them. Other people’s actions can often set off a chain of reactions within us wherein a person goes into a self-talk bubble. They talk to themselves over and over again about the unfairness of it all, and the difficult time that other person has caused.
If this happens too many times, you might find that the next person who perpetrates something negative against you winds up getting on your last nerve. This is the person – spouse, sibling, child or friend – who steps over the line they didn’t even know was there and allows you to unleash all of the frustration that’s built up over time. The self-talk has done its dirty work, and now instead of just talking to yourself about how annoying everyone else really is, you are yelling at the person in front of you or on the phone.
This is the scenario where the person on the other side is scratching their head – or crying, or shrinking away, or yelling back at you – because they can’t imagine what has happened to set you off. This kind of outward reaction can take a few hours, a few weeks or sometimes a few years. This is why family members who seemingly get along just fine may have a blow-up and never speak again. Or why a spouse suddenly says “I want a divorce” even though things didn’t seem so bad.
The time you spend in your head talking about how terrible others are to you is time spent creating a fissure-like problem that eventually will find its way out. Most people don’t know what will finally set them off, but the last straw lands on the camel’s back and the last nerve gets taut and it’s all downhill from there.
You might even feel good about unleashing the anger – “he or she deserved it!” But in reality, life is short and most of the time people do eventually regret using another person as a punching bag. What kinds of things can you do to prevent the build-up from happening? It’s not that you need to put on rose-colored glasses and see everyone as wonderful; you just need to learn to defuse the brewing fissure before it can erupt. Think of it as opening your own personal spigot before the bad emotional response boils over!