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#MicroblogMondays 165: Choosing to Be Calm

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I wrote a few days ago about a Marcus Aurelius stoicism quote about choosing not to be sad if something is distressing you, and I still stand by the lack of worth in the words once he mentioned that this idea is applicable to anything and everything.

But I also found an old Modern Mrs. Darcy post on the same idea, only applied to the small stuff.  She mentions a friend whose husband was in a frustrating situation, and she said, “Eh, that’s life, she said. You can’t freak out about stuff like this. And she went on to explain that mix-ups like this happened to everyone at some time or another, and that’s just the way it is, and you have to decide to not get upset about it when it’s your turn.”

Your turn.  Like if you think of it like jury duty, this is just your turn.  Nothing you can do about it, so you might as well accept it and move on.  I am terrible at this — the idea of just rolling with things — but this is an idea I can get behind while I reject Marcus Aurelius.

What do you think?  Do you think people can actually choose calm when they’re frustrated?


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1 Cristy { 10.23.17 at 8:23 am }

I think they can. But it takes practice and an acknowledgement that it’s okay to have the frustrated feelings, honoring them so that you can move forward.

2 a { 10.23.17 at 8:33 am }

Nope. I think there are people who can roll with the small stuff (my husband) and there are people who don’t get bothered by the big stuff (me), and that sometimes those roles change. I always get frustrated by minor challenges when I think sailing should be smooth. But give me a major life issue and I will calmly navigate right through. I think it’s part of our nature and I think it’s immutable.

3 a { 10.23.17 at 8:38 am }

Some small things don’t bother me, and some large life events don’t frustrate my husband. But for the most part, he agonizes over major life decisions and I don’t. He will dither forever on whether we should move, but when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2002, it was no big deal because that decision had been made a long time previous. So, that’s what I mean by apparent role changes.

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.23.17 at 8:55 am }

What Cristy said.

5 Lori Shandle-Fox { 10.23.17 at 9:03 am }

Absolutely. It’s a sign of maturity. My kids are 11 and I try to teach them this as much as possible. Many of us are predisposed to being anxious and depressed either genetically or by growing up in a negative environment where overreacting just becomes a habit. It’s an absolute choice whether you want to overreact. A lot of people think when they overreact that’s “normal” under the circumstances but it doesn’t have to be.

6 Risa Kerslake { 10.23.17 at 9:11 am }

I’m terrible at this. I’m in therapy for it. It’s a work in progress, but when it’s been a part of your personality for your life, it’s so hard to consciously make those changes. I’m working on it though, and would love to get better at it, because I think life is so much better when you can let the frustrations and things that are out of your control go.

7 loribeth { 10.23.17 at 11:30 am }

I think it’s possible — but as Cristy said, it takes practice. I think, as a. said, most of us are one way or the other, innately. Dh has much more of a hair-trigger reaction to things while I (usually) tend to be calmer.

8 Sharon { 10.23.17 at 1:39 pm }

Sure, I think people can choose to be calm instead of frustrated, and it probably comes more easily for certain personalities and certain situations than others. My guess is that those who are successful with this make it a continual practice vs. having it come naturally to them, though.

9 Journeywoman { 10.23.17 at 4:54 pm }

Dar Williams has a great song “Teenagers Kick Our Butts.” In it there is the line, “It’s not your fault, it’s just your turn.”

10 torthúil { 10.23.17 at 5:02 pm }

Yes, I do think it is possible to choose to be calm, mainly because it is something I do every day with a challenging job, not to mention The Rest of Life. For me a significant part of this choice is realizing that getting upset does not actually accomplish anything. I spent a large part of my life believing that I *should* be stressed and anxious about things because, I dunno, that meant I was a serious person who took things seriously. I think I might have learned this from my parents, because these days I find myself talking my mom down, quite often…..Well, guess what, anxiety and stress don’t accomplish anything, in and of themselves. They have their role, but getting REALLY UPSET or worried doesn’t mean that you will be better at solving the problem. Probably worse. So that has allowed me to embrace strategies such as mindfulness, and therapeutic crisis intervention, which helps me to understand how MY reactions and emotions can actually escalate situations and make them worse, or conversely, better. It’s so empowering.

11 Inexplicably { 10.23.17 at 5:43 pm }

I don’t know how much control you have over an initial emotional response to something, but I do believe that you can choose how to respond to that response… e.g. you can make a choice to acknowledge and accept the frustration, or you can stew on it. It depends on the situation whether it’s wise to stay calm or to get up in arms about something. Some situations might be just way too horrible to remain calm in… But generally… I think we have the ability to choose.

12 Amber { 10.23.17 at 6:02 pm }

I used to believe that people could CHOOSE to be happy. I knew it was really hard sometimes, but still fully believed that we have a choice on our outlook at life. I always knew that it wasn’t always an easy thing to do, but I’m coming to understand that sometimes it really is impossible for some people. Sometimes mental health really does get in the way.

13 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 10.23.17 at 6:10 pm }

That’s a good way to look at it. The times when you’re unable to let the small stuff go, it’s good to reflect on what might be the real issue. Are you physically not feeling well? Is there a bigger hurt that this is reminding you of?

14 Jess { 10.23.17 at 10:49 pm }

I do think that you can choose to be calm in the face of frustration, but it isn’t applicable in every situation. I feel like you can feel more peace if you accept and let go of the small stuff as just a part of life, but there are other things where the hurt is too big. I am a big believer in fighting fire with calm, sort of like this quote from John Lewis’s graphic novel March that I love: “Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it.” But I don’t think that’s something you can do in all situations. It’s just a good practice to keep on working at (it’s something I strive to be able to do more often).

15 Mali { 10.24.17 at 12:34 am }

I think it’s possible, but not always advisable. You have to want to do it, you have to accept that you can do it, and you have to know how to do it. I used to be a terrible worrier, tying myself in knots over things that upset me. I’m much much better at stopping those thoughts now – recognising them, accepting that my thoughts aren’t helping me, and consciously trying to change my thoughts to something more possible. But there are people I know who can’t do it, who would never believe me, and who would stamp their feet and refuse to even try.

And I have to say, I wouldn’t and don’t always try to change how I feel. Sometimes worrying helps us find a solution, and sometimes we have to grieve, whether we like it or not.

16 Tina Basu { 10.24.17 at 3:44 am }

It’s difficult but not impossible. I have been trying to be calm and not lose it specially around my toddler

17 Different Shores { 10.24.17 at 5:01 am }

I like this idea of having ‘agency’ and being able to choose how you feel. Sometimes it’s impossible – depends on the level of tragedy/distress. However, I apply it to my social anxiety. I used to agonize for days over some silly or inane thing I might have said to someone. There came a point though when I just decided I didn’t care any more – I basically say to myself, “You do not give a f*** about that so stop thinking about it”. Getting older helps – I find I naturally don’t care as much about stuff. It’s funny that all those books have come out – “The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F***” and all the others – there’s definitely a current movement towards coaching yourself to not worry or care about stuff, so it must be something that lots of people are trying to do…

18 Middle Girl { 10.26.17 at 9:43 pm }

You can. It takes an amount of control and awareness. It isn’t easy for many, if not most.

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