Many of us struggle with obsessing over other people's craziness. I'm not talking about dire situations that require professional help, but I'm talking about the more mundane issues like why your mother continually asks when you plan on getting married, or why he didn't call you back, or what her snide remark meant.
We play out what happened, what we should have said, what their reaction might have been, and other thoughts that get us nowhere. What's worse is that these thoughts keep us in a victim mentality. This is called cyclical thinking and it straight-up sucks.
Here are some ways that you can stop letting someone else's behavior ruin your life:
1. Let it be! Tolerate the discomfort of not having a next move.
You don’t need to know what your next move is or what the other person is going to do. For example, in many situations, I have an expectation of how things will happen. That's fine until someone throws me a curveball (like when a date cancels without rescheduling).
It's normal to start obsessing over how things will play out. Should I ask if he wants to find another time? Will he write back? Does he even like me? But before you take a trip to crazytown, give yourself permission to sit back, wait, and see … without needing the answer right away.
2. Quit playing the blame game.
Regardless of whether you’re blaming yourself or someone else, it isn’t going to make you feel any better. And it won't do anything productive, either. It does you no good to ruminate on why your drama-filled relationship ended two years ago. (Besides, chances are that you are both at fault.) Blame stagnates growth — it’s that simple.
3. Deal with your emotions first.
The issue isn’t what that person did, it’s how it made you feel. For example, if someone breaks up with you via text message (it happens!), the issue isn’t how things should have played out, it’s that you still feel angry.
Focus on this feeling by acknowledging the emotion with self-love and self-care (exercise, meditation and journaling). And from that more evolved space, you'll likely deal with that person or the situation in a healthier, more productive way.
4. Don’t believe everything you think.
Your feelings are not facts. They are real, but they are not always true to reality. Anger, sadness and anxiety are the ego’s way of creating false beliefs. For example, if you are upset that a job/school/person rejected you, you may internalize it by believing that you're not good enough. So while you should always honor and process your feelings, be aware that the assumptions that you make based on those feelings are not necessarily true.
5. Choose to grow from the incident.
We often believe that a painful event leads us straight to suffering. However, the truth is that the equation looks more like this:
event + YOUR REACTION TO THE EVENT = suffering
For example, let's say your friend forgets to thank you for helping her move. You may justifiably be annoyed. But, if you're feeling reactive, it's about something else entirely. (As the cliché goes, "if it's hysterical, it's historical.")
Your reaction is likely to be rubbing up on a fear or limiting belief that you aren't worthy of good enough. So, the next time you go from zero to 60, get curious about what's really bothering you. From that place of awareness, you're more likely to react in a healthy, productive, and positive way.
6. Take a time out.
I read in Amy Johnson's insightful book Modern Enlightenment that it takes 90 seconds to move out of an emotion. So, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, give yourself at least a minute before flip him off.
Try using that time to interrupt your typical reactionary responses and patterns. If you're not sure how to move out your emotion, take a time-out, go for a walk, or try breathing mindfully.
7. Send love and forgive.
When things don’t go the way you planned, it can be easy to get stuck in a pattern of cycling thoughts, focusing on how things should have been different. And while you may want to throw an F-Bomb at someone, the only F-word that’s going to help you is forgiveness. Easier said than done, I know. And it takes time.
What you can do immediately is try concentrating on sending love to that person, which will bridge the energetic gap between you. When you focus your energy at a higher, loving vibration (instead of the low vibration of anger), your negative emotions will begin to melt away. Yes, it sounds a bit hokey, but loving intentions and meditations really do work!
Cyclical thoughts aren’t about the situation or what happened, it’s about us, our reaction, and our ability to choose a different state. So give these seven tips a try to reclaim your thoughts and clear your mind.