“Those kids are on my last nerve, I’m about to lose it.”
“I’m going to explode on him if he keeps treating me like this.”
“You’re going to have to hold me back if this keeps up.”
Have you ever said (or even though) something along these lines?
They are good examples of an emotional ticking time bomb. When you feel like this, you should wear a warning sign around your neck. You are nearing implosion and if you give in to those emotions it could damage your standing. Let’s take a look at a real-life example.
Becky is at work. She works in customer service and has been in her position for many years. She knows the processes inside and out. Unfortunately, she was faced with a situation that she didn’t know how to navigate. So, she calls for her supervisor. That supervisor is fairly new to the business and has been run off her feet all day.
When she responds to Becky’s call for help, she does so in an exasperated tone. So, Becky explains her issue with a request for the supervisor to help. The supervisor tells Becky to figure it out herself and storms begins to storm off. Becky has reached her breaking point and shouts after the supervisor, telling her she knows how to do her job.
Yeah, the girl’s a time bomb and now she has a lot of explaining to do. Even though she may feel justified in exploding, and while we can sympathize, it wasn’t an appropriate response.
Now, Becky can apologize, but there’s a good chance she and the supervisor will be unable to mend fences. She may also face disciplinary action, potentially lose her job or be put to the back of the line in terms of promotion opportunities. All because she gave in to the overwhelming emotions.
Managing Your Emotions
When you feel tension like this building within you, take a long, deep breath. This will give you a moment of pause to consider the potential consequences or implications of overreacting to it. It’s also important to understand what’s causing that stress and unrest to feed negative emotions. You can see emotional ticking time bombs in action in your daily life, too.
You can see it in a hospital with two nurses, one who is cheerful and compassionate, the other rushed and unfriendly. You can see it in your own office, with two people in the same position coping differently with their tasks. Our beliefs, filters, upbringing, life experience, values, and health all contribute to how we process situations. Which is why we all have different emotional responses to an identical situation.
There are five saboteurs you need to look out for – frustration, fear, disappointment, self-doubt, and anger.
- Frustration – there’s an obstacle in your path.
- Fear – your brain is trying to protect you.
- Disappointment – an expectation hasn’t been met.
- Self-Doubt – you’re underestimating your worth.
- Anger – your values are being challenged.
To manage these emotions, you must identify them and ask yourself why you feel this way, acknowledge it, put space/time between the trigger and response, and actively choose how you do respond. The greatest challenge you will face in managing your emotions is putting space between the trigger and your initial response.
You can do this with a few deep breaths or by walking away from the situation where possible. This will allow you the time to actively choose your response. You can’t control your immediate emotional response to an event or situation. However, you can control your response and that is the key to diffusing an emotional ticking time bomb.