Whenever I speak about the Happier Approach and High Functioning Anxiety, the idea of a 10 reaction to a level two situation gets the most head nods from the audience. Our anxiety/Monger plays in our heads all day long and we work hard to suppress it, push it down, and ignore it in hopes that it will go away. (FYI this doesn’t work… Trust me, I have tried it and still try it now and then, and it never works. Colossal failure every time.)
The problem is all of that anxiety and all of that emotional tension has to come out somewhere. So where does it come out? Usually on those you love the most and definitely over something so small that it wouldn’t even make the radar on a “normal” day.
All day long your Monger has been flipping out about an upcoming presentation you have. So when you come home and find your son hanging on the couch and playing video games with his friends, food bags everywhere, you LOSE it.
You are obsessing about your upcoming vacation with the in-laws — you are excited about getting away but you are dreading seeing your sister-in-law, whose favorite past time is bragging about her kids and one-upping yours. So when your husband asks if you have packed the kids yet, you LOSE it.
You were up half the night worrying about a conversation you had with your boss. Then, when the first thing your daughter asks is, “What’s for breakfast?”, you yell at her for being rude and selfish.
When you notice yourself having a level 10 reaction to a level two situation, it does not mean you should pile on and start telling yourself what a jerk you are. But we all know that is the first thing that will happen.
So the first step is to give yourself some grace. Ask yourself, “Ugh, what is going on? Why am I screaming at my kids, spouse, family?” Remind yourself that this reaction serves as a sign that your Monger/anxiety is looming large.
Second step: apologize to those you lost it on, explain what is going on, and ask for a do-over. Then do the do-over and handle the situation differently — more calm, kind, and loving.
Our anxiety is so mixed with shame that we often forget to own our behavior fully. We don’t want to admit we made a mistake because we know our Monger will eat us alive. Ironically, one of the best ways to quiet the Monger is to own our mistakes, admit when we mess up, and ask for a do-over. We make mistakes and our anxiety gets the best of us, but that’s okay because we can do it differently.
Third step is to practice A.S.K. (I know every blog ends with practice A.S.K. but that’s because it works — and it is usually the last thing you want to do. I write about it everywhere in the hopes that one day you will try it and realize hot damn…this really works!)
A level 10 reaction to a level two situation is common among those with High Functioning Anxiety. It is a human reaction to too much negative stimulation. So own your mistake, do a do-over, and practice A.S.K. Give it a try the next time you have a 10 reaction to a two situation.
Special Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to never — I repeat, never — tell someone with HFA that you think they might be having a 10 reaction to a level two situation, even if it is true. It will not go over well. Instead, ask them how they are feeling or how their day went. Show empathy and be supportive.