It is often the case that we experience a sense of regret and then self-criticism when we have reacted with anger toward another and our short fuse blew much faster than we’d prefer. This volatile and angry reaction at times hurts us far more than it does the people in our lives. This is because the reaction then triggers the behavior loop which continues to feed the reaction, shortens the fuse, making our response bigger and more frequent.
Let me illustrate this point in an example. We blow a short fuse with our partner or perhaps another family member or friend. This entails perhaps yelling or screaming, and this state is so blinding we struggle to control our fuse. As a result, we hurt the other person and because we are so connected to them we experience regret, remorse, and self-criticism, sometimes even self-hatred. This extreme negativity toward ourselves as a result of our actions only exacerbates the fuse in the future, and it strengthens the loop: build up-trigger-fuse blown-self criticism-back to resting state.
What breaks this cycle?
When you expose your brain to more negative experiences than positive over and over again. For example, anger, rumination, stress, fear, judgment, etc… you have strengthened their hold on your life. Just like any dirt road, when you drive on it over and over again, it becomes more and more defined. As a result of this natural neurological behavior we need to break the cycle and begin cultivating the positive in order to expose the brain to different resources that will allow us to eliminate the short fuse and respond to challenging scenarios in a calm and compassionate manner.
It makes sense that what you don’t experience, you can’t strengthen, and therefore the brain will simply continue using the sensations and habits it already knows. The brain is extremely lazy and seeks to save energy at all cost, therefore, you will choose to use the same behavioral habits you have developed in the past to deal with your present.
Here is a really effective process that you can use to begin breaking this loop. You want to first notice what experience it is that you are seeking to change. Perhaps the biggest challenge is with a particular person in your life who really sets you off and is excellent at inciting the reactions that you are not too proud of having.
What are you experiencing as you go through the reaction? Is it anger, is it frustration, etc…?
Finally let’s look at what the opposite experience is, what is the positive alternative?
Perhaps peacefulness, perhaps compassion for yourself, these are all important sensations the brain should be experiencing on a regular basis. Once you’ve located the opposite sensation you would rather be having then begin to recreate a memory when you had that experience. Upon focussing on that core feeling of peacefulness you will want to intensify it and expand it.
The more frequently you revisit the experience the more automatic it will become.