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I hate my dad. I hate my teacher. I hate my boss.
I hate the word hate.
The only thing I might hate more than hate is people who project their stress onto me like the soldier from Nintendo’s Contra firing his spreader bullets out in all directions leaving countless victims in his wake.
I don’t hate my dad, my teacher, or my boss. They’re the stress archetypes for each phase of the modern man: the young boy, the young man, the middle-aged man. The wise old man doesn’t hate. He moves on. Not enough time left to waste on hating.
We all know that guy, that gal that enters the room and we tense our back like a shield from their impending incoming verbal fire. “Stress bombs” — that’s what I call them. They’re explosives waiting to go off. At any moment. Any day. Any time you’re within striking distance. Nowadays we can never escape their texts, their emails, their social media posts, their vitriol, their madness, their evil.
When “stress bombs” feel stress, we sense it. Immediately. We hear their jaws clench, their feet pound, their volume ring louder, Louder, LOUDER. Cover our ears and we see the gyrations of their mouth as their anger exercises their facial muscles. Deaf and blind, we feel the room shake in their presence.
A select few people shield us from stress. They’re calm under pressure. Bruce Lee said, “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water.” Some people are water.
I’d like to say, “Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that gal.” At some point, we’re all “stress bombs”. Unless you’re a Tibetan monk living in the monastery practicing mindfulness, yoga, and pacifism all day, every day. And even a monk bats an eyebrow at the chef for his bowl of lukewarm soup now and then.
What stress archetype are you?
Below are over a dozen types with some overlap. We display multiple types.
- Think of the last week, what stressed you out? What happened? Why?
- Think of the last month. Same questions.
- Think of the last year. Who felt your wrath most often? Why?
- When’s the last time you swallowed the stress, stopped it, parried it, transformed it? How did you do that?
- What’s your most common stress type tendency?
Recognize the people who feel your wrath most often. Do they deserve it? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Are bad things happening in your life unrelated to them and then they commit a minor foul and you unleash the Kraken on them?
Our common tendency is to direct the negativity coming our way onto the people we see most often. Why? Because they’re standing there in front of us. Not because they deserve it. Often. Our poor people. Beat up from choosing to live in our presence.
But there’s another way.
- Minimizer – it doesn’t matter
- Maximizer – it matters more than it does
- Amplifier – increase it
- Diffuser – spread weak and wide (tell everyone)
- Transformer – redirect it into a positive
- Spreader – everyone gets some
- Starter – initiate it
- Stopper – kill it
- Reflector – send it right back at ya nonchalant
- Fighter – send it right back at ya hard
- Nuclear – the world is ending atomic style
- Depressor – feel bad about it
- Lighter – find it, ignite it
- Parryer – deflect it
Can you think of any other stress archetypes? Send me your examples and I’ll add them.
Now, if you picked the most ego-pleasing archetypes for yourself like “minimizer”, “transformer”, “stopper”, “parryer”, you might want to phone a friend. Double-check your assessment. Asking that question might be the best action you can take for your family’s mental health.
And if you make the call to someone who’s willing to call you out on your shenanigans and you still get a good report card, think back over the last month. When did you project your stress onto your people?
Find the fuse-moment
Pay attention to the next month. Can you recognize that key moment before you take your stress and pass it along to others? The fuse-moment. Light it or squash it.
Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.”
Can you recognize the space?
Can you choose a better response?
Better responses to stress
- Take a deep breath
- Go for a walk
- Exercise hard
- Run fast
- Climb a hill
- Punch a bag, a pillow, the air
- Call someone who you won’t project stress onto
Diffuse “stress bombs” protocol
- First, admit you have a problem.
- Second, recognize your type.
- Third, notice when you’re about to light the fuse.
- Fourth, insert a different action.
- Fifth, practice that response.
Talkin’ about practice.
How to handle “stress bombs”?
I’d prefer all the “stress bombs” in my life would fix themselves over fixing myself. But I don’t control them. I control me. I can argue all day with them about their bad behavior. That won’t change them. I can push back. I can fight. That won’t work. But that’s what we do. It feels good.
I have three strategies for handling “stress bombs”.
- GIVE CLEAR, DIRECT, UNEMOTIONAL FEEDBACK. If they’re unaware of their behavior or its impact, this might help. Some people are clueless. Clue them in. Tell them exactly what they’re doing and how it impacts you. And if you’re responsible for other people they impact, tell them about those impacts too. Leave it at that. Don’t give them suggestions on how to change unless they ask. Your job is to give feedback. Their job is to fix their problem. Do not use this tactic if they’re already aware of their problem and have not changed. You’re wasting your breath.
- SHOW THE IMPACT ON WHAT THEY CARE ABOUT. If you’ve given them feedback and they don’t change, ask yourself, “what do they care about?” A work project getting done on time. The health and happiness of their kids. Solving the problem that’s creating their stress. Now that you understand their incentives, how can you show them the impact their behavior has on their goals? Watch telling them the impact. Ask a question. Do you think the team will work harder from fearing you? Will Billy have a healthy mental disposition from how you’re treating him? No? Okay, well then what do you want to do about it?
- DISENGAGE. Walk away. Use your feet. Don’t talk to them. Don’t engage with them. Don’t give them any more of your time. They don’t deserve your presence. If you’re contractually bound to them you might need to be selective with this. At a minimum, disengage when they’re lighting the fuse or explode. Then plan your exit strategy. Get a new job. Get a new partner. Get a new life. You might set a time limit on how long you’ll give them to change. You might decide the frequency isn’t often enough and the severity isn’t harsh enough to cut them out. That’s okay. We choose our stress partners.
Enough stress. Enough hate. We can’t snap our fingers and make world peace. We can flip our mindset and make peace in our world.