As codependents, many of us grew up in households that were dysfunctional and traumatic. In order to cope, we developed survival skills that would carry us into adulthood. We continued to use those survival skills, even when it was plain for anyone to see they weren’t working. It’s not just something we can stop doing – it’s a compulsion that we created to cope with the trauma when we were children. We react to things rather than take our time to think and take a positive action. Oftentimes, overreacting was the only way to have our voices heard. We didn’t know how to articulate our needs as kids, so we learned early on to make noise when we needed something.
Before recovery, I overreacted about everything, big and small. I would find myself blowing up over the littlest thing. Can you think of a time that you overreacted? What was it about? What was the other person’s reaction?
One of my favorite tools to stop reacting is paying attention to my feelings and triggers. When we pay attention to these, we can find out which situations are more likely to trigger us, and we can work on it. When you react next, try to pay attention to how you are feeling. What set you off? Write it down. Find out why that particular situation triggers you if you can.
Another important tool I have found useful is counting. Choose whichever number works for you and count to it in your head when you feel yourself overreacting. Stop, take a breath, and think about how you are acting and what you are saying. The goal is to act (take action) instead of react. It’s hard work, but the payoff of healthier relationships is so worth it.