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The importance of thinking, and thinking well, before reacting

Photo: Yoann Boyer/Unsplash
American psychologist Albert Ellis has been quoted as saying, “Strong feelings are fine. It’s the overreactions that mess us up.”

I believe it messes us up because sometimes we find the things we hear from loved ones, friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbours, even delivery partners, service providers and complete strangers, upsetting—and instead of listening calmly, thinking it over and reacting in a quiet and measured way, we overthink and overreact. We lose our ability to reason and rely more on our emotion and instinct.

The same goes for the way we respond to unexpected events and situations that are beyond our control. It could be anything, an inordinate delay in the delivery of something we ordered, a superior at work ticking us off for no reason or when our expectations of a promotion and pay hike are unmet.

In both instances our response can be irrational or inappropriate. We’re agitated, sometimes so deeply, that we find it difficult to rein in our inner turmoil and restore mental equilibrium. There are only downsides to these sudden emotional upheavals. They drain our mental and physical energy.

Overreaction, or excessive reaction, is the mental equivalent of an angry driver engaging in road rage. But we can deal with this common affliction by taking significant measures to handle stress and frustration, prioritising calm and thoughtful behaviour, and easing tensions in everyday life. Over time, this will help train our minds to listen (with undivided attention), carefully absorb what we hear, gather our thoughts, and then react in a way that benefit us and others.

It's one thing to have strong feelings, but quite another to let it ruin our day. And besides, it doesn't do anyone any good—least of all us.

© PocketfulofHappiness


I couldn't possibly agree more. We all have feelings, even strong ones sometimes. The key is to harness them instead of letting them dominate what we do. We can use our anxiety to spur us on to try new things, or we can let it rule us. And that's only one example. Thanks for discussing this.

Nov 11, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for commenting, Margot. You make a very good point about using anxiety, and if I may add - fear, to overcome our negative feelings and try new things or overcome unpleasant situations. We lose our inner battles the moment we let our emotions get the better of us.

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