Overreacting is the main reason for singles being miserable

Overreacting is why most singles are in turmoil much of the time. Life throws stress at us and we blow it out of all proportion.

This has been a major problem for me all my life, and I consider myself a fairly laid-back guy. Even so, minor trouble has a way of making me more upset than I should be. Why is that?

Why do we have such a hard time taking things in stride? I've given this situation years of thought, and here are some of the conclusions I've come to. I hope they help you in your own circumstances.

When thoughts spiral out of control

You know the drill. Something happens that bothers you, and before you know it, your mind is racing and you feel like clobbering someone. What happened?

I believe overreacting boils down to a four-step thought process:

REACT - First, you get slighted or offended, or hear some unexpected news. You immediately have a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to it. Maybe it's a pet peeve that always trips your trigger or maybe you're just irritable that day. Before you can even think, your feelings take over, and usually it's negative feelings.

EXAGGERATE - Second, you exaggerate the impact or importance of the incident. Once aroused, emotions don't want to let go. They color things, putting an offensive spin on them. What began as minor or even meaningless quickly assumes epic proportions.

REPEAT - Third, your thoughts take on a life of their own. The more you think about the situation, the more worked up you get. Your imagination feeds the fire, adding more fuel to justify your perceived maltreatment. Like a broken record, your thoughts keep going over the incident again and again. Each time you feel more offended. Pressure builds.

SELF-TORTURE - Fourth, you have put yourself into a mental torture chamber and made yourself miserable. Of course you blame the other person or the unfair situation, but the truth is it all happened inside YOUR head. Once again you interpreted a situation in a poisonous way. You overreacted. This continues until you feel changes in your body, such as digestive problems, a headache, or insomnia.

Whew! That's a pretty harsh analysis, but since I've gone there myself time after time, I know that's how it goes.

And what are the things that happen because of overreacting?

Overreacting: Putting the brakes on

Now that we've clarified the process, let's see what we can do to put the brakes on it.

To stop yourself from getting carried away, you need to:

  1. Recognize when it happens;
  2. Want to stop;
  3. Take action to stop it.

Now, let's look at the thought process behind self-control:

RESPOND - Instead of a knee-jerk, instantaneous emotional reaction, you view unexpected news or a surprising situation calmly and objectively. When the first emotional feedback pops into your mind--and it will--you immediately dismiss it, because you know you don't want to go down the path it will take you, ending in the mental torture chamber. Say "STOP!" to yourself if you have to.

ANALYZE - Here's where your reason and logic come in. Take a deep breath, pause, and start to pick the situation apart. Ask yourself a few basic questions. Will this news or situation affect me tomorrow, a month, or a year from now? Did somebody use a word, facial expression, or approach that "pushes my buttons?" Is this really as life-and-death as the person made it out to be? If I simply ignore this, what's the worst that can happen?

CATALOG - Everything that happens to you is an experience that teaches you a lesson. After you've gleaned the lesson from analyzing this, store it in your memory bank for the future. Every time you defeat the urge to overreact, you become stronger and more discriminating. You become a critical thinker. You build up an arsenal of wisdom that helps you act more maturely in the future.

MOVE ON - The difference between overreacting and self-control is you let it go. Instead of endlessly repeating the incident in your mind, you put it in its proper perspective and move on. You refuse to let it take charge of your life. You achieve the major victory of knowing you are in control of your thoughts, not your emotions.

What part does God play in this?

For Christians, big-time help comes from Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (NIV)

Who doesn't want those tremendous qualities? Two that counter overreacting are forbearance and self-control. Forbearance is the ability to not let difficult people get under your skin. You learn to cope with them. Through the power of God, the thought process of self-control comes to your rescue.

Christians receive the fruit of the Spirit when we depend on God instead of ourselves. We do that through surrender, prayer, meditation, and Bible reading.

It all boils down to trusting God. When you put your full faith in him, he will:

  • Settle your scores for you;
  • Provide for you;
  • Protect you;
  • Forgive you;
  • Get you to heaven.

Beating overreacting has been a lifelong fight for me. I hope these weapons will help you in your own battles with it. 

Note: Some situations require the help of a healthcare professional. Never hesitate to consult a doctor or therapist when needed.

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