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Managing Our Anger Online

What Viktor Frankl taught us about responding responsibly

Wow. Some of those news I read online nowadays really get my blood boiling. They completely go against my values and morals and I just want to shout out loud: ”WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON HERE?” and write something nasty on somebody's wall…I intuitively know, that this is not the best idea, but in that moment, it is almost like my brain short circuits. Because I am a mindful person, I don’t act on my impulses (at least, for the most part), but the anger and frustration just starts infiltrating my mind and effects every subsequent situation I am engaging in. It is not uncommon that I catch myself writing a harsh email because I am “annoyed” by a supposedly “stupid” question. And really it is just because I am still in a pissed mood from the news I read online 10 minutes earlier.

After I noticed this happening quite a lot recently, I knew I need a specific strategy to catch me in these situations, and I knew my 20 minute morning meditation sits are not the only solution here.

Viktor Frankl, a well known neurologist, psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor author of “Man's Search for Meaning” and inventor of “logotherapy” said: "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."

And what Viktor Frankl said theoretically is actually supported empirically too. Neuroscientific research has shown that our bodily response to a thought/stimulus (so for stress, our cortisol response) actually only stays in the body for 90 seconds.

So, feeling stressed and annoyed from reading specific negative news or posts online activates my heart rate, blood pressure, sympathetic nervous system, and releases cortisol in my blood. This bodily reaction then, however, only lasts 90 seconds. After that the body has reached homeostasis again. Now, we feel annoyed and stressed however much longer than 90 seconds. Why? Because we continue to feed our body with the story of “I am so annoyed and angry, I can't believe this person said this….” and BAM the body reacts again with another 90 second cycle of chemical releases.

I mean, wow!

So how can we relate differently now to our emotional responses and become aware of this space between stimulus and response that provides us with freedom and power as Viktor Frankl stated?

Now, any form of mindfulness practice really is beneficial here. It makes us more aware individuals and therefore we can become much more observant of our emotions and respond, rather than react.

However, one principle of EoT that I really resonated with and that helped me to interrupt that vicious mind cycle, is the principle of #reset.

What happens when we hit the reset button on our phone? We can bring different features back to it’s original condition. If we reset the odometer in our car we put it back to zero. When we are online, we can practice to hit our own reset button. Our reset mode is the mode where we are most true to our values and operating from a place of integrity, rather than autopilot. Reset is the mechanism that helps us create the space between stimulus and response so we can chose more mindfully how we want to show up online. And that, ladies and gentleman, is quite powerful and freeing.

How does this look like in practice?

Well, now, I practice “reset” every time I want to share something online. It means I take a deep breath and actually press my thumb and index finger together as if they were a “reset button” and then think about: Is what I want to share or comment on contributing in any way meaningfully to the conversation or not?

The “resetting” and taking a moment helps me to get perspective on things and see the bigger picture: “Who do I serve when I live upon my impulses? Nobody, but my little ego that desperately want’s to be right and be heard.

But when I reset (and press my fingers together (See picture), and take a moment before sending that response email to that “annoying” question, I think about how I would feel receiving an angry email from someone out of the blue. I suddenly created space to feel empathy.

And here is the best part. By resetting myself, taking a breath, and pressing my fingers together, I can interrupt that 90 second cycle of emotional reaction my body is going through. I can stop it and leave the stress and annoyance behind me that any online post might have triggered for me.

And what a relief that is. Suddenly my day can become a good day.

And all by just simply “resetting” myself and operating from a place of integrity to my own values.

I now know: I am the change I want to see. And I have the power to grow and be free, free of my own emotional enslavement, if I respond in a way that serves me and others.

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