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Coping with the Chaos of Life

Why do bad things happen to good people.

We can be going about our day, when suddenly the randomness of life takes over. No matter how big or strong we are, life happens. People die, we get sick, our stuff breaks down. We struggle, suffer and endure losses. No one is immune to it. We are all vulnerable to the chaos of life.

However, by trying to control the threat of vulnerability, we often feel out of control. We may use our emotions to protect ourself and hide our feelings of sadness or worry in a fog of anger. All our bitter defensiveness and exaggerated outbursts are a smokescreen to protect ourself from a perceived threat. Some eventually build a protective wall around their heart, to seal off our emotional pain.

Confidence most important resource we have when faced with the uncertainty from the chaos of life. Confidence is the feeling that we are a worthwhile human being in spite of our flaws and imperfections. When we are emotional, we are vulnerable to being in pain because our logical thought processes have been swept away by a tide of emotional reactions and defensiveness. 

In this state, we very likely to do exactly what our sparring partners expect us to do. They do not expect us to do anything reasonable or constructive. They expect us to be as immature and vindictive as they are. “That’s fair.”  We sabotage our happiness when we play this game of tug-o-war and become defensive. We take their absurd insults personally, where the exchange sounds something like this: “You’re a failure.”  “No I’m not.”  “Yes you are.”  “You take that back.”

We will not get anywhere this way. Someone has to be the adult in the room. If they do not know how, then we must choose not to take their words literally, personally or seriously. We are not in a court of law and do not have to defend ourself against their false accusations. 

We can choose to do something else instead. In fact, we can do anything we want as long as it is based on a choice in favor of our happiness, instead of a mindless reaction to their provocation. If we are tired of this useless third‑grade game, we can learn some new responses to old jabs:

When they say: “You suck.”

Do the unexpected by saying: “You got a real problem there, I don’t know what to tell you.”

When they say: “You’re stupid.”

Do the unexpected by saying: “It’s just awful, isn’t it.”

When they say: “Come back here and fight like a man.”

Do the unexpected by saying: “I don’t know what to tell you.”

When they say: “I hate you.”

Do the unexpected by saying: “I am sorry you are so hurt.”

When they say: “You are being so stupid.”

Do the unexpected by saying: “I don’t know how you stand it.”

When they say: “Why do you have to be such a jerk?”

Do the unexpected by saying: “I never thought of it that way.”

Notice the responses above do not have to make sense. We are using our response to set limits. It is not our responsibility to straighten them out and defend against their false accusations. We are implying that this is not a court of law and we do not have to prove our innocence and defend against the guilt of some absurd accusation to avoid being punished. The game of tug-o-war is over, we are not going to pick up the rope and get dragged through the mud.

Some other ways to respond to false accusations without defensiveness include:

• You may have a point.

• It makes you angry when that happens doesn’t it?

• That would be nice wouldn’t it?

• It seems that way sometimes doesn’t it?

• I don’t blame you for being angry

• I know you mean well and want to best for me, but I prefer to do it this way.

• Thanks for calling that to my attention.

• I’m sure you’ll think of something.

• I can tell your angry, you are shouting.

• It’s awful when that happens isn’t it?

• That’s one theory isn’t it? I’m sure there are others.

• I hear what your saying, I appreciate it and I’ll be fine.

• I totally agree, I’m just not sure it would help.

• That would be nice wouldn’t it, but I’d rather not.

• You have a choice and there will be a consequence either way.

We must use an appropriate tone to ensure we are not being provocative or antagonistic. We can speak slow and softer, but deliberate and clear with a confused tone. Lets say we take a road trip and get lost, we don’t know where we are and feel a bit confused on what to do. Do we stop and get directions? Do we turn around? Do we pull over for the night? Do we keep going? We are concerned, confused, and unsure what direction to go. That is the tone to use, confused. When others blame, criticize and accuse, we don’t know what’s going on and why the other person is making these hurtful remarks.

Coping with the Chaos of Life

Aaron Karmin


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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Coping with the Chaos of Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2018/05/coping-with-the-chaos-of-life/

 

Last updated: 14 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 May 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.