So pretend that you are watching a play and it is the end of the third act. The plot has reached an emotional high, and your body is overwhelmed with sensations. Your heart is beating quickly, your shoulders are tense, and you are sitting on the edge of your seat. And then the curtain closes. It is time for an intermission. You get up, take a deep breath, stretch your legs, and take a trip to the restroom. You return to the theater calmer than you were at the closing of the curtain. The intermission has calmed you down.
When you identify sensations in your body that let you know that you are getting ready to lose control, it is time to take an intermission. By forcing yourself to pause when you are emotionally triggered, you can get yourself back into wise mind. You allow the reasoning part of your brain to catch up to your emotions.
It is often the intermission, not the event, that is life-changing. Between the event and your reaction lies a very small space. That space might be only a quarter of a second long. But if you practice inserting an intermission in that space, you give yourself time to think about how you want to react. Viktor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, put it so well: “Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Yes, that space can be lengthened, but it takes a lot of mindful practice and focus. You can change what feels like an automatic response into an automatic intermission. And believe it or not, that is all you need. An intermission that is only several seconds long will change your response, which can transform your life.
Newsflash: Time-outs aren’t just for three-year-olds. Reacting from wise mind almost always turns out better than reacting from extreme emotional mind. Remember to take an intermission. We can all use a time-out from time to time.
All 13 powerful evidence based techniques to help stop explosive reactions can found in my new book, The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life. Available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
After working with people as an educator and psychotherapist for the past 23 years and researching anger management techniques, these are some of the most effective anger management tools that I have seen. If practiced, they work! Great for teens and adults. The techniques can also be taught to children!
I needed to read this right when I was reading it and having an argument with my teenage son. Now he’s left for school and I’m sitting here with these emotions! I’m forced to take an all day intermission.
Sometimes it is better to sit with emotions and decide how to proceed rather than act off pure emotion and say things you will regret! Hang in there!
You know, I don’t do this enough. I lose that window of opportunity. And, why?
I’m caught off-guard! I need to learn to seize the moment.
Continue to practice until the intermission comes naturally (even when you are caught off guard). Remember to celebrate progress!