In this episode:
If we go through life reacting to circumstances like emotional babies, drama will follow us wherever we go. In this episode, we explore ways to change from being highly reactive into people who can cope using emotional maturity and self-control.
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I was recently watching my granddaughter as her mommy and daddy played with her. How quickly her face could change from a lit-up smile combined with a belly laugh to a pout and a whimper. It took literally seconds for her to react and change from happy to sad.
With her immature emotions, she’s naturally affected by what goes on in the room. If the adults sound happy, she plays happily on the floor, but if our tone escalates in a serious conversation her reaction, reflects that tone. Because she’s emotionally immature, she’s highly sensitive to being reactive.
She doesn’t have the ability to ration or reason. She doesn’t talk herself into a different state of mind. It’s all reactionary. As long as one of the adults offered a toy, made a funny noise, sang a song, or tickled her tummy, she stayed happy. She could be diverted by a noise or a smile in a positive way. Or diverted by irritation in a negative way.
Have you ever stopped to notice how often adults still react as if they have the emotional control of a 5-month-old baby? I say we, but I mean me. How quickly do we flip to drama mode?
- Triggered by something on social media to tap out an angry or insulting reply
- Suddenly crying because someone frustrates me (raising my hand here)
- Socially overwhelmed and either withdraw or lash out
- Overcome by someone else’s drama and make it worse by joining
- Fight or flight takes over with any hint of vulnerability
- Feeling unsafe about someone else’s tone and fighting back
While some of this is rooted in past emotional pain that could require the help of a therapist, I think some is just because we chose to be emotionally immature. So, let’s talk about how we can get in a better place.
Let’s walk through a couple of simple steps that can help us process.
- Name and recognize feelings. I struggle with this more than I once thought. When someone says, “What are you feeling right now?” I’m not always able to answer that well.
- Practice being other-centered. It’s natural to talk on and on about ourselves. When someone asks about something, we might give a long answer. But what would happen if I spent a whole phone call with a friend talking about me? What if I missed something in her voice that sounded as if she were about to cry? I try to think of a way to volley the conversation, like tossing a ball back and forth, where I ask a question to learn how the other person is doing.
- Exercise a pause. When scrolling social media, I sometimes want to post right away. What I will do is type a reply in the notes app on my computer or phone. I’ll leave that reply there for a bit and read it over. I might adjust some things. I might delete it. But when I post it, I’ve had some time to think about the tone. I’ve tried to do this with emails and letters too. I recently left one for several days before editing it a bit and then sending it to customer service at the organization that had disappointed me.
- Learn how my past affects my reactions. It might mean seeing a counselor. It might mean journaling. Self-analysis or professional help, either way, it’s important to know our triggers. My perfectionism makes me put undue burdens on others. I react when they don’t meet my standards. It makes me impatient. But because I’m aware of it, I’m practicing a few questions: Does it matter that much if someone else does something my way? Am I being overly critical? Is this reaction necessary? Is it helping?
- Notice when I act like a victim. If I quickly react and blame someone else, I don’t take control of my actions. I ignore my responsibility. Being a victim is like a crying baby. It will gain a lot of attention and perhaps power, but is it healthy?
- Delay defensiveness. Emotionally mature people know their strengths and weaknesses and they don’t see constructive criticism as an attack. I don’t love criticism. But this is an area where God is stretching me to receive it better when it can help me learn and grow.
Which of these will you practice this week?
What technique will you use to redirect your attention to something better when you’re triggered?
I have a couple of resources to recommend today if you’d like to explore the idea of emotional maturity more. Also, I wondered, would you like to buy me a coffee? I’m serious!
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Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 delivers a step-by-step program for increasing your EQ via four, core EQ skills that enable you to achieve your fullest potential: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Management.
Peter Scazzero outlines a roadmap for discipleship with Jesus that is powerfully transformative. He unveils what's wrong with our current definition of "spiritual growth" and offers not only a model of spirituality that actually works, but seven steps to change that will help you experience authentic faith and hunger for God.
(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. )
Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.
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