Other people wind me up!
I was recently in a traffic jam with my husband and he was not a happy bunny! We had been warned by the electric signs on the road that we were heading towards a hold-up about 30 miles further down the road, so we knew we were in for a wait – over an hour of delays, it turned out. However, after 5 or 10 minutes the chuntering began “Look at that [idiot] over there”, “Oh no you don’t matey, you’re not getting in in front of me…” and so on. I wasn’t wound up at the start, but the more he flung his angst around the car with his expletives and critiques of other drivers, the less happy I became. He, at that moment in time, was my “Typhoid Mary”.
Typhoid Mary was a lady who worked as a cook in New York in the early 1900s. She didn’t suffer from the symptoms of typhoid herself, but she passed it on in every meal that she made when in service… some people can spread stress or unhappiness like that!
My husband’s behaviour stressed me because I don’t like to see him unhappy. I also know that his angst was pointless and I could see that he was making himself even more unhappy. He was making it worse for himself. And it was making me unhappy in the process! It was at this point that I remembered a Ben Elton sketch where he talks about how we wind ourselves up. In part of it he says something like “When we’re stuck in a traffic jam, do we take the opportunity to think about that lovely day we had last week with the family, or the fantastic holiday we’re going on in a few months’ time? No, our all-encompassing, all-consuming thought is ‘that bloke in the side road ain’t getting out in front of me’”! Brilliant – and often true.
How I see and react to a situation is usually down to what I’m telling myself about it. For instance, if I say to myself “Great! I’m going to be late… it might not even be worth going at all… and I really wanted to go, I’m missing out and it’s all because of this traffic jam. Typical! I never get to do what I want to do!”, I’m unlikely to be able to stay calm and relaxed about the situation. If, however, I said to myself “That’s annoying and frustrating, and I’m irritated that this has happened. Getting myself worked up about it isn’t going to help the situation, so I’ll listen to some great music instead”, I am unlikely to be happy about the situation, but I’m also unlikely to have made myself any unhappier than I have to be…
Do you know what stresses you? Is it particular types of behaviour? Particular views when they’re expressed? Wrongs in the world? How can you change your internal dialogue so you can manage your negative feelings better and perhaps feel more empowered?
Yvonne Coolbear, Licensed Springboard, Fresh Steps and Boost Trainer
Views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the Springboard Consultancy Ltd