I have this problem. When I’m having an argument, I don’t care or think about what is coming out of my mouth in the moment. Often, I say a lot of harmful things which I end up regretting because I have hurt people that I love. I regret every word, but once it’s been said it can’t be taken back. I was hoping to get some advice from you on how to learn to stop and think before I speak.
Thank you very much for asking your question. We honor the commitment–to yourself and the people in your life–that persuaded you to ask this question in the first place. As I’m sure you know, you’re not the only person that says things that they later regret.
One thing we picked up on right away was that you said that you don’t care or think about what’s coming out of your mouth in the heat of an argument. That’s not entirely true. In fact, we have a hunch that you do care a great deal about what comes out of your mouth. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t regret what you said at all.
Throughout our lives we all create a set of beliefs about ourselves and others. Some of our beliefs can be very limiting. Overcoming these limitations requires 3 things:
1. First, we need to become conscious of what these limiting beliefs are, and how they affect our perception of the world.
2. Next, we must learn to develop ways to notice when these less than desirable beliefs are being triggered.
3. Finally, we have to create deliberate intentions for how we want to respond in these situations instead of reacting through the filter of our limiting beliefs.
Without these three actions, we tend to react the same way over and over again without understanding why.
We tend to get angry for one of two reasons: either we believe something should (or should not) be happening in a situation, or because one of our limiting beliefs has been stimulated. Often both things are happening simultaneously.
How Can I Recognize a Limiting Belief?
When we get to the core of people’s limiting beliefs, they often sound something like: “I don’t matter and people are selfish,” “I’m not good enough and people expect too much,” “I can’t take care of myself” and “people are dangerous.” Sometimes, they are a combination of these or any number of similar statements. It seems we have all created one or more of our own unique variations on this theme.
We’ve never met anyone, including ourselves, who is completely free of limiting beliefs such as these. We’re not suggesting they’re “bad” things, or that we need to understand “why” they came into being, or even that we need to “fix” them.
The good news is that a belief is just something that you think over and over again. So all you really need to do is start thinking something different. The best way to do this is to become conscious of these limiting beliefs so you can start to create the things that you want in your life rather than be controlled by them.
Of course, there are many other reasons why we react the way we do–way too many to cover in this brief response to your question. So for now, to answer your request for specific advice about how to stop and think before speaking, here are a few how-to’s that we hope will help:
First, if you would like to get a better understanding about how we end up creating limiting beliefs, you could watch our video “How to Reclaim Your Authentic Happiness.” It can be viewed by following this link: http://www.focusedattention.com/articles/Be_Happy_Video.htm
Second, it would also be very helpful if you got clear about what you value most. After you’ve done this, when you start getting upset, ask yourself “Am I living in harmony with what I value?” If you’re not, identify at least one action you can take that is in harmony with what you value. If you need some help with this step, we have a free values exercise available online. You can find it at:
Third, we suggest that you start identifying the specific thoughts you are thinking when you first start feeling upset — before it turns to anger. Start noticing how your body feels at those times. Where do the sensations first start to happen? Describe the earliest sensations you can notice and get familiar with them.
Finally, we’ve found it can be very helpful if you learn to use those feelings as an alarm bell that signals you to focus your attention on your values and what you can do that will help to create the outcome you want in the situation. Our article Are you angry? Good! may help with this technique. Here’s the link:
Again, thank you for your question.
Beth and Neill