Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others

scream and shout

Image by mdanys via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #192 – Before hurting yourself or others, stop.

Sometimes all we can do is leave.

Not being created as a limp noodle, that’s what Brenda said.

In the moment of conflict with her daughter, she had used up the coping skills she thought of and in the end, her purse had no more gum, lip-gloss, candy-money or crayons.  She couldn’t stop the acidic emotions from taking their turn to burn.  Brenda yelled (yes she knew it wasn’t right) and then she yelled again, this time to her husband that he was on kid-duty.  She left.  The mom-van keys were the last thing left in her purse of things to do to stop the burning she was giving and receiving.

Emotional abuse is equal to or more damaging than physical or sexual abuse.  This made Brenda gulp, who could still hear her own mother screaming with bulging bubble-packing veins and eyes.  Brenda didn’t know she could say,

Let’s stop.  It hurts Mommy.

When she first had her babies, tiny with soft bones, fluffy warm sweet cakes just out of the oven, Brenda was scared.  Her pediatrician gave her baby care directives that said things like,

If you are angry and feel like you’re going to shake your baby, stop!  Call for help.

And there was a number.  Now that her kids were older, her pediatrician never gave her helpful sheets of instructions and rescue phone numbers.  Brenda drove away to stop, hoping to come back with more available to offer.

Not bad, huh?

Question:  When you can’t think of any more coping skills during a crisis, how do you stop?  In what feels like an emotional emergency, what have you seen others do that you think is useful?  Please tell me your story.

33 thoughts on “Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others

  1. I sometimes take a “mommy timeout”. I go to my room and relax. Sometimes I clean, or read, or take a bath. What ever I need to do to take a break and come back to the situation not angry anymore. There is nothing that says you have to take care of a problem right then when both parties are upset. I have found that if I take a break from it, I can be more rational and loving in my consequences. I can take care of myself as well as them. I am a better mom when I am kind to myself.

  2. I leave. I have since my children were little. I do all I can and then, when I have nothing more, I leave….not for long and not very far…sometimes just a walk, even around the backyard…to breathe, to re-focus, to give whoever (or whatever) has brought you to that point a chance to re-group, themselves. It helped with little ones; it helped with teenagers (Better to allow them to battle their own raging hormores and give them the space to do it, than step into what is often a ridiculous argument and make matters worse – for them and for you.); and it helped when I was fighting with my own emotional upheaval…to get out, drive (slowly!) to get a cup of coffee, go to someplace quiet (like church), just breathe in different air. Amazing how much things change when you go back “into the fray”. Yesterday we wrote about connection. Sometimes, disconnecting for a short time makes maintaining connections easier…and love stronger.

  3. Thank you for calling attention to this. Knowing we have an outlet, that it is possible and healthy to step away for a moment, is important. I like to step outside and take a walk when I hit that wall.

  4. Most times it is so hard if you’ve been driven to the wall time after time. But knowing you have to catch yourself helped me. Explosion coming. Explosion coming. Catch yourself. Cut fuse now. For me that was the hard part and I struck my children in anger a time or two. But they had to learn as well as I. Getting a grip I think is step one. Cool off strategies come next. For me it was “go to a meeting” of my particular 12 Step program and if nothing was going on, I just sit there for an hour or two or more. Often find a right person appears to discuss. When come home kids know you restrained yourself and perhaps they will modify their provocative behavior. If the provocation and resultant rage is chronic, see it, and initiate intervention with health care provider. I stipulate here that I am not qualified to give these presentations so they are offered in the sense that it worked for me.

  5. I have a little Chinese proverb written on a card and taped to my kitchen wall:
    “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow”.
    Easier said than done, tough to remember in the heat of the moment, but it helps a little.

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  21. When my wife an I reach an impasse, and we have nothing left to offer one another but verbal jabs, I look her in the eyes and say, “This is hurting us and we don’t know what we are doing. I am going to take a walk and we can talk about this later.” Seems simple enough, right? The next twenty minutes is a futile excercise in reaching an open door as she will then become physical, attempting to block me from leaving. She knows I would never lay a hand on her, even a gentle hand to get her to move aside. I could easily do it…but it isn’t how I am wired. Eventually, one of us becomes exhausted, and in this exhaustion, we finally “talk and listen”. This is a weird charade, but until we learn something better, that’s all we’ve got.

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