What happened? Did you do something you wished you hadn’t? Did you say something you wished you could take back? Is it causing you a lot of distress thinking about it? Some perspective can usually help in these circumstances.
So what did you do? Did you harm someone? Was it on purpose? The chances are likely not. Perhaps you did something embarrassing. That’s happened to all of us. But it can help to realise that you will have spent a lot more time focusing on it (perhaps even obsessing over it) than anyone else involved. They saw it, they heard it, they may or may not have thought anything of it at the time and now they are getting on with their lives. It may loom large in your current thinking but in the scheme of things, it was very probably no big deal.
In some cases, we can say things we really wish we hadn’t. Words can come out of our mouth before we have time to stop them. Dealing with the aftermath is not easy. We can agonise over things we have said and spend a lot of time wishing we could undo them.
If we are sorry, apologising can be very helpful. Letting the other person know you are aware you caused them pain and are sorry for having done so, can be an important first step in mending a bridge.
If we become aware that this seems to be happening a lot, it may be helpful to reflect on why we said what we did. Was stress involved? When our body is trying to cope with stress it uses up neurobiological resources., or ‘brain power’. These are the resources we need to help us regulate our emotions and keep them in check so we can ensure we respond and don’t react. For it’s the reacting that can get us into trouble - when we are stressed we don’t have the time (or more relevantly, the capacity) to think rationally. So if you are feeling stressed (and you will come to know the signs, but a key one is recognising when you are quickly getting irritated quickly or easily agitated), create some space for yourself to think. Be kind to yourself (and possibly others!) and take a few deep slow breaths, maybe excuse yourself from the situation and go for a walk, or grab a glass of water. Just take some time out. No-one needs to know.
And if you have said or done something, remember, we are human and humans make mistakes. Most people acknowledge we can all get stressed at times and can act out of character. People usually forgive bad behaviour or hurtful remarks, especially if they hear an apology. Then let it go.
Longer term, there are lots of things we can do to help manage stress as it is not good for our bodies, let alone for our relationships! If you have noticed this is a bit of pattern for you, see my other blogs for tips on managing stress. And if you do want to understand it a bit more and find out what’s going on, it may be helpful to talk to someone - because although stress is often a factor, there may be some underlying beliefs and thinking styles that are contributing to the problem. It may be for example, that you are being triggered by something that happened in the past with someone else but that is still echoing in your life today. An issue for another blog…