How can I stop exploding?

I bottle up my problems until I just explode. How can I break the cycle? 

You can’t change your emotions, says our elder. But you can look at how you react to them.


Dear EWC

Hello. First off, I would like to say thank you so much for taking the time to read this and provide advice for me and others. I’m not great at opening up (even to anonymous strangers) but I will still try to get my issue across. I’m 18 years old and I genuinely do have a really great life. I have always been a perfectionist and have always had trouble talking about my problems. So, I tend to bottle them up and they just explode eventually one night and then I feel fine and do it all again. I’m a very social person and definitely a people pleaser. I have been told I often put everyone’s feelings before my own. I have had a few major problems in my life and also tend to overthink little things. I was wondering what your advice would be to help me manage my emotions and feelings in a way that wouldn’t allow them to bottle up and explode. Seeing a therapist or a professional is not an option due to the fact I have tried and cannot open up to them. I am very close to my friends and family but do not feel I can fully open up to them either. As I write this in the middle of an explosion type of a night, I find it did help so maybe writing my feelings down could help? Any other advice in case I don’t end up doing that every time? Thank you so much.


Grandpa-Matt replies

Even though I’m not a therapist or counselor, and you haven’t given any specifics about opening up with reference to your problems, we can generally talk about people who struggle with examining issues such as you describe.

There is a fear involved where people have problems in disclosing things which that person feels will hold them up to judgments, ridicule, or rejection. People pleasers and those who crave acceptance are especially prone to appear ‘looking good’ to their friends and associates.

This fear of rejection is a powerful one. Where does this originate? This fear goes back at least 200,000 years. When people lived in tight groups and depended upon each other for food and protection, it was life-threatening to be rejected and kicked out of the community. Wild animals and hostile individuals from different tribes would jeopardize the survival of that person separated from the ‘family’.

Our ancestors learned to seek acceptance by their group. They have passed this need down in our DNA. In modern times, the thought of rejection is still alive within us, but the consequences are not as physically harmful, but the negative emotion still feels quite threatening. 

Of course, you have noticed that bottling up your negative emotions does nothing for you because the explosions just build things out of proportion and make them messier to clean up. Please notice that emotions can serve a purpose, even when they’re negative. Instead of trying to change the emotions you experience, consider how you react to them. It’s usually the reactions, like the explosions, that create challenges, not the feelings themselves. My advice is to deal with the issues at once, rather than let them build up.

Now, as to your overthinking. A person who overthinks is looking for the perfect solution, with no chance of messing things up. Does this sound familiar? The over-thinker has several issues in common that are troubling. They appear to be driving a car that has been caught in the mud, and the more you step on the gas, the more stuck you become, applying energy (gas) only to continue to be stuck in the mud. There is a realization that some action is required, but the fear of making the wrong decision thwarts the correct moves.

With the inability to make the correct decision, we have vague fears about all the things that could go wrong. This often leads to our lack of concentration, as the more we ruminate about doing the right thing, the more we doubt ourselves. We cannot relax nor trust ourselves to cope with the issues that matter to us. Our thoughts are mostly negative. Have you noticed that there are little or no positive thoughts involved when you begin to overthink? We want to be safe, correct, and blameless in our fantasy about the future outcome of the issue.

Please notice that any fear we have is never about right now. It is always about the possibility of some harm occurring in the future. Whether the future is a minute from now or any time after that, we are still always OK in the present moment.

If all over thinking concerns fears about something negative that could show up later, the best way out of over thinking is to live in the present moment as much as possible. One way that you could train yourself to stay current is to ask yourself these three questions and answer them over and over: (1) What do I know right now? (2) What can I control right now? (3) Am I OK right now? The way to deal with overthinking is to be decisive and take action.

Samuel Clements, who wrote under the pen name of Mark Twain, explained it best. “I’ve been through some terrible stuff in my life, some of which actually happened.” What he was saying is that the rest of it never happened. The future fear was for nothing. 

Article #: 470085

Category: Self-Improvement

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