What Lies Beneath
Why We Lash Out
Each one of us has experienced situations where we’ve found ourselves lashing out at someone without meaning to. We later berate ourselves for losing control and feel guilty for treating the other person badly. And while it is human nature that our emotions and moods will get the better of us from time to time, we can learn to navigate our feelings and negotiate difficult situations without losing our center.
Often, when we lash out, it is because we are having a difficult time containing the emotions that are coming up inside of us. We may be feeling overwhelmed, afraid, frustrated, stressed out, or angry. Having these feelings boiling up inside of us can be very uncomfortable, and it is natural to want to release them. But when we release our feelings from our body by directing them outward and toward someone else, they inevitably impact the “innocent bystander” to whom we are directing this energy. They not only get the brunt of our anger, frustration, or stress, but also they can actually experience this energy as a physical force hitting their bodies.
When you find yourself in a situation where you are about to lash out at the person in front of you, try to center yourself by breathing slowly and deeply. A few slow inhales and exhales can help dissipate the intensity of your feelings before they escape you. Later, when you find yourself in a more reflective state, sit down for a moment; recall the feelings in your body just before and during your outburst; note where you feel sensations coming up in your body; and ask yourself if they are connected to any core issue or experience from your life. If nothing comes to mind, then revisit the situation again, exaggerating the details of what happened by indulging in outlandish “what if” fantasies. Exaggerating events after the fact can help expose the unconscious subtext behind your heated response. Understanding the motivation behind your reactions can help you avoid lashing out again when a similar situation comes up. In learning to navigate around your emotions, you are giving yourself the tools to feel better the next time your emotions start to boil. In doing so, you will be taking care of yourself by alleviating your own uncomfortable feelings while respecting and protecting those around you.