Have you ever got really mad at someone and said something like…
“Joe makes me so angry”?
Or have you ever had a run in with a colleague and got upset afterwards and said…
"Jane made me so upset”.
But this is not about me telling you my trials and tribulations, this is about how we define what happens in our lives and how this leads to our emotions and our behavioural responses.
This week I want to talk about a model from Cognitive Psychology that when I first came across it, it blew me away. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but it’s a real eye opener for lots of people, myself included.
Awareness is the first step
Now, you’re probably reading this thinking, yes... that all sounds very logical and obvious! Which it is of course, but we are not always logical when emotions get involved, whether that is anger, anxiety, panic or sadness. Most of us tend to review the situation and see that when ‘A’ occurred, it lead to ‘C’.
For example - If Joe shouts at me, I might say:
“Joe shouted at me and he made me so angry”.
This is A-C thinking. Whereas actually there is an extra step taking place - ‘B’. I had to think something about what Joe said in order for it to make me angry.
Therefore, it is not Joe that made me angry, but how I interpreted what Joe said. Let’s face it, Joe could have shouted at me and it could have made me cry, not get angry. The only reason this would happen is because of a different belief or thought process that I had.
This is not to say that other people are devoid of responsibility.
But once we realise that it is not external events that control our emotions, we have a lot of power. We have the power to choose to respond in a way that will benefit us.
A less emotional example of this is when people do this with external events that are completely out of their control like with the weather. For example “It rained all weekend so I didn’t go out of the house”. This suggests that the external event led to a behaviour. But again a thought process or belief was involved and that is what actually led to the behaviour. E.g. “I believe that rain is horrible and being out in it will make me miserable” - this is what causes my behaviour of not leaving the house. Not the weather.
So if you find yourself doing something you don’t like or feeling an emotion that is unpleasant or unhelpful, just check in with your thinking. What are you thinking or what do you believe about this situation that is causing your response. There will be something - it’s just a case of teasing it out.
Awareness really is the first step
Then see if you can challenge your thinking or belief. Add in some possibility or another option that will lead to a more positive response:
It is possible that…
It might be….
This is not about letting people off the hook for treating you badly or unfairly, but unfortunately both these things happen in life and if you have a strategy to change your response when it does happen, this puts you in control. Once in control, you can choose how to deal with the situation. Sometimes, that will be walking away, other times it may be putting forward your side of things. But if we are in control of our own emotions we will be in a much better position to do this.
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.