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Why Am I So Reactive To Conflict? 

Being reactive is nothing to be ashamed of, and you are allowed to react to events that spark a strong emotion in you. Having times when you may have reacted poorly to a situation is something that everyone goes through. What you may be noticing is that maybe you react differently, or more than others. That is okay too, but if you are noticing more social consequences to your reactions, it may be time to try and change your reactions to certain situations. 

Identify Your Triggers

Emotions typically have an origin, so it is a good idea to start by identifying your triggers and what sparks the most heightened emotional reactions within you. Situational triggers can be tough to identify, but if a person or specific memory from your past causes you to feel a major emotion, you may need to start there. 

For example, if a new person in your life has the same attitude or tendencies that a negative person from your past had, you may be feeling triggered due to this perceived correlation. Through this association, you may find that your responses are similar to how you reacted in the past. 

Sometimes triggers occur when you do not have control over something or if you feel your safety is compromised. Start documenting your reactions and the situations (people, places, things, actions, etc.) that lead to them. What emotions did this situation or person bring out? How did you react? What was the consequence or outcome? 

Model Others’ Behavior

A basic approach to learning new behaviors is to model the behavior of someone you trust and respect. You have people in your life who are not reactive to challenges or difficulties. You may not be close to them, but if you are actively improving your own reactions, you can notice how that person reacts in the way that you would like to react. 

If you have someone you look up to, no matter how old, observe their reactions. Were they excited or calm? How do their emotions influence their reactions? Do they pause or take time to think before they react? Do they ask questions first or make assumptions? These are also questions you can ask yourself when you are gauging your reaction to future situations. 

Methods of Calming Down

Staying in the present moment when facing a triggering situation can be very difficult. While having an extreme reaction has been a staple of your past, it does not have to be part of your future. Try a few of these methods to calm down during triggering situations:

  • Change your thinking from reacting to responding. A response to a situation is calmer than a reaction and may immediately change your mood.
  • Take deep breaths before a response. Remember that you are responding, not reacting, and stay in the present moment. 
  • Know your triggers. Have a list in the back of your mind of what your triggers are and how you can work on your response to those triggers. 
  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep can make emotion regulation harder and cause reactions to be more severe. 
  • Take care of yourself. This may mean that self-care methods should be improved, or that you need to remember to eat, shower, and take care of your basic necessities before you take care of anyone else’s. 
  • Own your emotions. Take responsibility for your emotions and relay how you feel to another person without blaming or shaming them. For example, if you are reacting to someone being late, instead of berating a person for being late, tell them that you felt worried or abandoned when you thought they were not coming but that you are glad they are there now. 
  • Find a therapist you trust. Getting yourself to therapy can feel intimidating or overwhelming. However, therapy is a great way to release emotional burdens. A therapist can also help you find your triggers and identify ways to change your behavior. 

Emotion Dysregulation

If typical calming exercises do not work for you, that is okay. You may be suffering from emotional dysregulation. According to an article in Cognitive Therapy and Research, emotion dysregulation is difficult to define but can be characterized by problems with psychological responses and emotion regulation. Degrees of emotional dysregulation can be determined by emotional intensity, duration of reactions, frequency of reactions, and a failure to effectively regulate emotions. 

If you suffer from varying degrees of emotion dysregulation you may have experienced childhood trauma, trouble making friends, trouble handling emotions, and problematic behavior with consequences. Another proven characteristic you may experience is the increased risk or frequency of anxiety and depression. If you feel you are experiencing emotional dysregulation, talk to your doctor and a therapist about treatment options. 

If you are struggling with strong reactions to situations, that’s okay. Not everyone reacts the same way to different situations. However, if you’re noticing that your reactions are intensifying, or your reactions are having major social-emotional consequences, it’s time to get some help. At RECO Intensive, we understand that reactivity is normal, but can get out of hand if a person doesn’t have the skills to de-escalate. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction as well, our professional staff and experienced alumni can guide you through treatment plans that are specifically catered to you. At RECO Intensive, we offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as well as individual, family, and group therapy for those who have different needs. With cognitive behavioral therapy, we can help you learn to identify your triggers, be calm in the present moment, and consciously choose a new response to triggers. Call us today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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