How often do you find yourself getting caught up in thoughts about someone else’s behaviors? One of our biggest sources of consistent, daily stress comes from frustration about how others have acted or treated us, as well as the way our minds attach to these frustrations.
When we can’t understand others’ behaviors, our minds have a natural tendency to want to figure it out. Why did my boss yell at me? Why is my partner being critical? Why can’t people just act the way I think they should act? Is there something I am doing wrong? Our minds can go over and over these questions, hoping an answer will pop up out of the blue and we will feel better. The problem is that this rarely happens because there are hundreds of reasons that trigger negative behaviors, and seldom are we the sole cause, if we are the cause at all. We can ruminate for hours, or even days and never come up with an answer, and just end up feeling worse.
When our minds are carrying around someone else’s negative behaviors, it can weigh us down and drain us emotionally. If we can start to recognize how often we get caught up and reeled in by this type of thinking, we can learn to detach. The first step to detaching is to recognize that there is always one answer that fits all negative behaviors or reactions by other people: That person has something inside of themselves that was a barrier to them acting in a kinder, more helpful way. No matter what we may have done, we are not responsible for how someone else reacts to it, and kindness is always one option. The second step is to visualize an empty box. Now visualize removing the negativity from your mind and putting it in the box. When the box is full, or whenever it would be helpful, visualize taking the box and handing it over to the person with negative behaviors and letting them know that it belongs to them, and you are not going to carry it around anymore. The more you practice this visualization, the more effective it will be to lighten the emotional load of others’ negativity, and to increase our ability to focus on what is more positive and helpful to us in the long run.
Doty Collins, LCSW, has worked in different areas of the social work field since 2006. She has experience working with substance abuse and addictions, dual diagnosis, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She has also been trained in alternative and complimentary chronic pain treatments, as well as brief therapy techniques. She works in the Pocatello Health West Clinic at 1000 North 8th Avenue.