Photo: Somchit Nandee
“I can’t control my reactions,” I once told my husband. How else could I explain my furrowed brow, wrinkled nose, and rolled eyes after something he said? It’s not like those responses were voluntary. Were they?
If I disagreed with something he said, it showed on my face. And that indicated to him that I had stopped listening to what he was saying, closed to any idea that might actually be worth hearing.
But if I’m not responsible for my reactions, who is? Can someone else’s words have that much power over me? Should they?
Mind Over Matter
I have since learned (and really knew all along) that I can control my reactions. It’s a choice. No one’s holding me at gunpoint saying, “You must show a look of disgust.” Although that look may be the easiest response, I can make myself keep a straight face and try to be open-minded. It just takes more effort on my part.
Our minds are more powerful than we may realize, capable of retraining our brains to react in positive ways. People have overcome suicide, depression, and fears of heights and other things by changing their thought patterns. I’ve seen co-workers and friends take a deep breath and come up with just the right words in a subdued response to keep a conversation from escalating.
Saying I have no control over my emotions is a cop-out. Like my friends and co-workers, I can have a measured response that will avert anger. In light of that, I have since had to tell my husband three words I’ve grown better at saying over the years: I was wrong. But I also had to say three words he’s grown to love: You were right.
What about you? How can you react better today?
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"