When you hit your breaking point, you may hurt the feelings of others and may say something you regret later, making a difficult situation even worse.
When you reach that moment, chances are you justify what you said or did because that is part of what happens when you reach your breaking point. It is natural to excuse your outburst, causing even more defensiveness on your part and those you likely offended.
What do you do when you reach your breaking point? Do you get angry, shout, feel overloaded, or critical? Maybe you withdraw and avoid others. Or, you may become extra nice, inauthentically trying to be pleasing, which others pick up on.
Each person has their own “go to” habits when they reach their breaking point. If you ignore these signs, you will surely get stuck in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT), and its roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
When driving a vehicle, if you see a construction zone ahead, what do you do? You slow down, keep your eye on the road, read all the signs and pay attention to those directing traffic.
You can do much the same in life. You can become aware of your automatic reactive habits and avoid causing a personal accident if you learn to brake and slow down before you reach your breaking point.
If you do this when driving a car, you can do it for yourself, for your own health, and the well-being of those around you. When you anticipate your breaking point, you can “pull over” (pause) and readjust your speed and expectations.
If you see a construction zone you might get frustrated, but you also know there is nothing you can do. It is a great time to relax, turn on some music, and slow down.
Here are a few tips to learn to brake before breaking:
First, know what your “go to” reactive habits are when you are approaching your breaking point. What are your thoughts? What do you feel in your body? What emotions arise? Again, everyone is different, so pay extra careful attention to your unique signs.
Second, as you become more familiar with your signs, trust them just as you would trust the flagger directing traffic. Your body, your thoughts, and your emotions are trying very hard to get your attention, and to get you to slow down and take care of yourself.
Third, share your breaking signs with others so they are aware of your habits. This can require being vulnerable with others, because often we are ashamed of previous behaviors when we reached our breaking point. Sharing your signs and voicing them out loud to loved ones (and co-workers, if appropriate), acts as a release valve and lessens the probability of future outbursts.
Notice that breaking happens to you and in reaction to something you don’t like. When you brake, you are taking a few moments to be in self-control, slow down, and choose how you will respond.
In Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s famous book and TED Talk, My Stroke of Insight, she described her recovery from a massive stroke. Dr. Taylor is a brain scientist and explained that emotions take only 90 seconds from the moment they are triggered to running their course through your body. If they run any longer, it is usually because you failed to brake, pause, and allow them to move through you.
Give yourself a brake before breaking! And be a thousand times more generous with yourself than you would with your car when braking for safety’s sake.