Sunday, February 21, 2016

100 Things I Want to Tell My Children and Grandchildren: #18

(I recently discovered this photo of my dad Jessie Sidney Wade. He was a handsome dude!)

When things get crazy – when you are confronted by a crisis, be still.

This may very well be one of the hardest things you will ever master because it involves maintaining control over our most uncontrollable natural instinct: emotion.  The situations in which we tend to get most upset are when one of our loved ones or we are attacked or threatened. Science tells us we are genetically predisposed to react quickly and strongly because our DNA was passed down from ancestors whose very survival was dependent upon their capacity to react.

However, we're not dodging saber-toothed tigers anymore, and if my many years of facing threats and fears have taught me anything, it is this. Unless the threat of death is imminent, when faced with something that triggers extreme emotion, the best thing to do is to just be still.  Here’s why: 
  • Nothing is ever as bad as it initially seems. We may not have enough information to know what is really going on. The situation may be fixable. The situation may completely go away given time.
  • You don’t have to make a decision or react immediately, and probably shouldn’t. Although it often seems you do, more often than not, you really don’t. Threats and deadlines are often thrown at us as a tactic to cause us to react poorly
  • Making decisions from an emotional position is hardly ever a good idea. When we are angry or afraid, we do not think rationally. We do not stop and analyze the situation, look at it from several different perspectives, seek independent opinions, or consider the alternatives. We react, often saying and doing things we may later regret.
  • Very often situations fix themselves. People calm down and are sorry they lashed out. They think of other solutions, or someone else does. Sometimes the circumstances creating the crisis just drift away. How many times have you thought your world was crumbling? Has it?
Unfortunately I didn't learn this lesson soon enough, and as a result suffered tremendous loss. What we do in the heat of emotion can be very wrong and irreversible.  My hope is to save you from making the same mistake.

I read somewhere that Napoleon Bonaparte waited three weeks to read his mail because he knew many things would resolve themselves in the interim. 

When you are confronted by a crisis, just be still.

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