Find Out Before You Flip Out

A Canada good stands on the shore near the water and hisses.
Hissing Canada goose at Lake Willastein. Photo credit: me

Ted Lasso. I love that show. I enjoy the sweetness of it…the truth it shares about the power of being vulnerable and kind. Without sharing specifics so as to avoid possibly spoiling an unseen episode for you, I just want to quote one of the characters. In response to something Ted is going through, Leslie Higgins suggests, “If anything, you should find out before you flip out.” Find out before you flip out! Such simple and good advice. And so difficult to do, right?

You likely know the experience. You get a text or an email or voicemail with just a bit of information about a situation and your mind takes you to the worst possible conclusions. It’s an experience I know well. Usually there are two things happening almost simultaneously. There’s this physiological response that happens almost instantaneously. It’s as if the fear shoots through my whole body. Then my mind kicks into high gear and starts filling in the information gaps with all kinds of stories about what has happened. For me, it usually involves me thinking I’ve done something or not done something and that someone is upset with me about it.

So “find out before you flip out” is about interrupting this wild ride of emotions. Here’s a little wonder though. That initial rush of energy that feels like electricity coursing through my body…hat little bit of flipping out that first happen…That seems to be a sort of reflexive. I’m not sure the cure for that is finding out. That reaction seems bypass the rational mind. I do think there are ways to tame that response. But that takes a different kind of work. We can explore that later.

The part of this process that can be helped by this little bit of Ted Lasso wisdom, though, is what happens next. If we can learn to interrupt the stories we tell ourselves next, we can keep from escalating the emotions further. And we can keep ourselves from doing something we might regret later. Practicing mindfulness has helped me to slow that train down, to drop the story line and stay with what is really happening. What has really happened is just that I’ve received a little bit of information. All the stories in my head about what this means are not real. I don’t always get it right, but I am getting better at it. It’s a skill. And like any skill, it takes practice.

Meditation and mindfulness help us to stay with the raw emotions that we feel, to recognize that this unpleasant energy will pass through us if we just allow it to, and to be still until it does. Once we’ve done that, we can tell ourselves as Leslie told Ted, “I need to find out before I flip out.” And usually, I find that reality is not as bad as what I’ve imagined.

Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Mindfulness helps us grow that space between stimulus and response. And finding out is one of the responses we can choose.

Feel the feelings and drop the story.

Pema Chödrön

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Victor Frankl

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