The Myth of Losing Your Temper
I’ve never lost my temper in my life.
I’ve never had my frustration burst out uncontrollably, no one has ever made me yell, I’ve never simply “lost it.” And I would suggest that neither have you.
Oh, you’ve probably gotten pretty upset with someone before. You’ve probably said things you regret in the past. I have too. But we’ve still never had that just happen to us, as if the words form in the reflexive part of the brain and come leaping out of our mouths without us having anything to do with it. It doesn’t just happen, and no one else can make it happen. No matter how irritating, rude, inconsiderate, unkind, argumentative, malicious, or outright maddening other people act, they can’t make me lose it. And they can’t make you lose it either.
The truth is, no one can force my response. Regardless of how loud someone else shouts, it doesn’t make me shout. If I shout back, that’s my reaction. I’m responsible. I chose to do it. I might not have thought it through very long, I might have high emotion at the moment, but I, ultimately, am the one doing the shouting. No one makes me lose my temper. I let it go. Or I hold onto it.
I’m not here to argue about words. Saying “I lost my temper” can be an admission that I did something wrong; it’s a common phrase. But the mentality of the phrase is key. As soon as I start thinking that “losing it” was unavoidable, that I had no control, or that it was the other person’s fault, well, I’m wrong. I have the free will to choose my reaction, and what someone else does makes no difference.
To claim otherwise, in fact, would be ridiculous. Saying someone else “pushed me over the limit” or that something that person did “just made me lose it” is saying that I am unable to control myself based on other people’s behavior. No one thinks that’s a valid excuse for the someone who harasses another person and blames it on the victim’s clothing choice. And although getting mad at someone is obviously a completely different situation, the excuse sounds suspiciously similar. I won’t validate that kind of excuse by using it.
Of course, knowing all this doesn’t necessarily make it easy to bite your tongue all the time. A few ways to keep from escalating a situation are to take a break from the situation before responding, genuinely consider the other person’s viewpoint and try to understand, ask what can be done to fix the issue, or get a neutral party to help sort things out. Resolve that no matter what, you will be calm, and appreciate that you’re in control.
It’s a pretty powerful place to be.