I’m Learning to ACT Rather Than REACT


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{Please be patient. This is a little long. I hope you’ll stick with the whole thing.}

One of my favorite things to do is to respond to things from habit, rather than thoughtfulness, especially when talking with my mother. I REACT rather than ACT with thoughtfulness. The difference between the two is that:

REACTING is when she says something that I think is stupid (I start by judging her) I respond to her habitually with my emotions and treat her like she actually is stupid and I’m disrespectful as well. There is no consideration of her feelings or how what I say might impact her.

ACTING is when I have taking a moment to consider the situation and respond from thoughtfulness rather than just emotion. It is a response in a reasonable manner.

Ideally I should respond to her with my intellect managing my emotions. If I disagree with her I can say that I disagree with her instead of talking to her like she’s a moron.

For example we’re house hunting right now. We’re working together to choose a house for her to buy as an investment and me to live in. This would be a bad time for us to start fighting. Meaning, it would be a bad time for me to start acting primarily from my emotions and be a bitch.

One of the first houses we saw was well below her top price and so it was attractive to her for that reason. I walked into the kitchen and immediately announced it had to be completely gutted. It was an older obviously had never been updated and had no counter space. In her mind she probably saw that it was a kitchen that I could cook in. I saw that it needed good counter tops, new flooring and cabinets. She thought a coat of paint would work to fix it up. I struggled. If I became argumentative now it was going to be difficult to continue looking at houses without stress overtaking me.

Fortunately, our broker spoke up then and agreed with me about completely gutting the kitchen. I heard my mom take a small breath. I think reality was starting to catch up to her.

By the third house she seemed to start to understand that the less we spent, the more renovation would be needed. There was no way we were going to get a house in this area for the price she wanted to pay. I knew that. So far I’d managed to keep my mouth shut about it. I hadn’t informed her from my vastly superior intellect that there was no way we could find a habitable house in the area for her target price.

So far we haven’t done so well finding houses that might be suitable for me, my two cats, and my dog even though she raised the amount she was willing to pay. The housing market in this area is very tight. I have basically till September to find a house. After that I’m going back to school or getting a job and I won’t have time to just run off to look at houses. It will be more difficult to have time to view houses and move.

It’s hard for me to be patient with the whole process. My tendency is to ask mom everyday if she’s heard from Rhett (the broker). I know that’s not going to be helpful and might make her stress about it. I’m shooting for asking her every other day. I talk to her every day since my father passed last year so I’ll have to remember which days I bug her about it.

We just told Rhett that we wanted to narrow the search area to areas where crime wasn’t so high which meant areas that weren’t crammed together and really low income. She and I actually agree on the areas where we want him to look. If I hadn’t controlled my mouth, which can really be hard, I probably wouldn’t have been able to agree on looking in the more expensive areas. I don’t want to live in the Eastside and most of the places he was showing us were in the Eastside.

Since I started this adventure out on a good foot by controlling my tongue and my tone of voice I’ve given us a chance to actually enjoy each other’s company. I’m even tolerating her dog coming along with us better as we go on. I don’t care for her dog. Her dog is mean to my dog. I don’t like that at all. Oh well. It’s good for me to learn to be more tolerant. Isn’t it?

Every time I’m going to spend time with mom looking for houses or even just talking about them I try to prepare myself and get my emotions under control beforehand. I’m having a lot of anxiety. It would be so easy to take my negative feelings out on her, but they have nothing to do with her. It’s all about controlling my negative emotions and shutting my mouth unless I have something helpful to say. (How many of us have said that exact line?)

My therapist (the one that’s leaving) taught me that I can be the one to “drive the bus” as she put it. I could control my behavior or I could sit in the back of the bus and go where my emotions take me. And believe me, they take me a lot of bad places by habit even when I’m not totally depressed. It just feels natural.

Between working with my therapist and spending my own time reading and thinking about myself and my behavior, my emotions, and my thoughts I’ve gotten to the point that while I’m having trouble with anxiety (My son moved out a little over a week ago so I live alone now.) and even anger over not finding a house right away I’ve been able to treat my mom with some measure of respect and patience. So far. I give myself credit for that. It’s important to remember to give myself credit when I do well. It’s so easy to only recall the times when I explode in violent anger or crushing depressing.

Even though I’ve been doing well so far there is no telling when I might swing and become really depressed or manic. I’ve got to be careful to control my anxiety with my chill pills and take my handful of regular pills every morning and night. And, I have to watch out for my triggers. I take time for myself and think about the person I want to be. I really try to focus on that for longer than just a second or too. I really try to almost meditate on the specific person I want to be. It helps. And I take time to play with my dog. We walk and play. She’s my emotional support.

I can’t control when we find a house, but I can try to control my responses to that the search. That’s my goal. I’m going to control my behavior towards my mom, whom I love a lot, no matter what my feelings are about house hunting. I’ve committed myself to that. My mom deserves that. I deserve that too.

Love to hear what you think. Please post a comment.

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