Anything Past '4' Is YOU!

I once heard someone say "anything past '4' is about YOU". This post is going to explain what this statement means since I think it's a useful way to assess whether your emotional reaction to a situation is appropriate or more than is truly necessary and therefore not helpful to anyone (especially to you).

The idea here is to think of your emotional reactions as operating on a scale from 1 to 10. On the bottom end of the scale are the things that don't bother you at all, while the top end is for your extremely intense feelings, the situations where you may be barely able to control your emotions. Some people have the ability to stay calm across a wide range of situations and stresses: they rarely rise above a '2' or '3'. Others are much more headstrong and emotionally reactive: they may easily hit a '7' or '8' in the course of a day.

Any time you experience yourself exceeding a '4' on the emotional scale it's a fair bet to assume that this is more about you than the event or person that's bothering you. If you curse in rage and lean;on your horn for several seconds because a car cuts in front of you, that reaction says a lot more about you than the other driver. If you start to feel panicky just before making a reasonable request to someone, that intensity of emotion may be more a reflection of you than the person you are about to talk to.  If you dive into the depth of depression as a result of a disappointment or rejection, it's probably something within you more than the situation t hand that is contributing to those extra-intense emotions.

This is not to discount any strong reaction we may experience.  Certainly there are times when a "5 or above" may be absolutely justifiable. (By the way, I also once heard the wise saying that a person can be judged by what he or she gets angry about. Petty people experoence rage over petty things.)

However, it does seem to be a general rule that when I find myself having an intense emotional reaction to an event it's likely that my own personal issues are driving my numbers up. When I am better able to manage my own emotional reactions, the situation I'm facing often magically becomes much more manageable.

So the more you are past "4" on that 1-to-10 scale of emotional intensity, try to remember to take a moment to consider whether those higher numbers are truly warranted.  If not, you're making the situation worse and need to practice some effective self-soothing.  Sometimes this is not easy, but self-awareness is the first step.

There are times when getting some professional counseling for personal problems is a really wise decision.  If you're considering doing this, take some time to find the right person for you in order to experience the difference even a little assistance can bring you.  


Atlanta counselor, life coach and author Bill Herring provides assistance to individuals and couples looking to lead happy, healthy and meaningful lives.

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