Updated: Jan 1, 2020
Today at a kids' festival, there was an incident involving an older kid endangering younger ones with his behavior. Though not witnessing the incident herself, this kid's mama came out guns a'blazin', ready for a throw down. It was not a fun situation. When I thought about it afterward, it hurt my heart a bit. As much as I understand where that mama was coming from, I also realize how harmful and damaging that energy is, both to her, her child and everyone else in or around the situation.
To continually be ready to rise up in defense, in anger, in justification, puts your body and mind in a heightened state, adrenaline and emotion coursing through your being. I've been in that state often, and if I'm being honest, sometimes it feels pretty fucking good. It feels good to be a warrior, to feel like the mama bear protecting her cub. But it's not sustainable. It weakens your defense system, making you more vulnerable to sickness and disease. It sets a poor example for your kid, who learns this is an appropriate response. And others who are involved or witnessing such an incident feel themselves respond in kind, raising anxiety and stress levels. It's simply not healthy for anyone.
Of course there are times when you need that type of energy. When you or someone else is in danger, you need quick reaction and reflexes. But this is not a usual state of being. And when you keep yourself there, even when it's not needed, you are training your brain and your body that this is your normal state. The body and mind can't maintain that state, and start reacting to it by breaking down. And that's when things get really bad. Long-term illness, negativity, resentment, extreme anger, victim mentality, anxiety and even depression, along with a whole lot of other sucky shit happens. I know this because I've lived this.
I also know that ultimately, I can't constantly live in this state. I need to learn to be mindful of my reactions, of how I choose to approach stressful situations. I'm not saying that I can't be angry, but being angry is a reaction I am choosing. And so I need to ask myself, "Does the situation really warrant it? Is there another way I can respond that is less harmful but still effective to the outcome I want?"
Deciding to change my response is incredibly hard. Millions of times I've checked myself, and still decided to react with anger. Still chose a more damaging reaction. It takes time and practice, and even then it's immensely challenging. I think the first step may be realizing and remembering that I have that choice, and to be grateful for it. To be able to take a step back and observe myself and my behavior is a gift. And when I'm grateful, I'm not angry. I'm not simply reacting or raging. I'm giving my mind and my body a break, which in turn can enable others to do the same. And that's where I am choosing health over damage.