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  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

How to Tell A Reaction From An Overreaction

Stuff happens in life and we react. That’s normal, makes sense. Hurt me, I feel pain. Reject me, I’m upset. Betray me, and I’m angry. But what about the overreactions? The reactions that are over the top, super intense, and way beyond what you’d expect? It’s feels like a normal reaction on steroids: beefed up and supercharged. Leaves you scratching your head.

However, it’s not the reaction that’s the problem. It’s the overreaction…out of the blue. Where did that come from?

It’s both parties’ faults. Please do take responsibility for your share, but not the whole thing. Telling someone you’ll be there at 6pm and not showing up….telling a friend you’ll call her before you head out to something and fun and forgetting – it hurts. It’s disappointing. It’s on you.

But when the other guy’s reaction is explosive, with rage and aggression, and you have that, “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime” kinda feeling, you something’s up.

What Turns A Reactions Into An Overreaction

We all have patterns of thinking, feeling, and how we view ourselves, others, and events. We picked them up in life as we grew. Kids are primed to be absorbent sponges for the messages, verbal and non, that they get from parents. We form much of our sense of self from the responses we get from those around us. And while they aren’t who we truly are – more like a mask covering up a real, accurate, truthful picture of us – nevertheless, until we identify them, challenge them, push back on them, take away their all access pass to our thoughts, words, and actions, and then replace them with who we really are…they deeply impact us. They often dominate our reactions and responses.

The Guy Freaking Out

Back to the guy freaking out. Yeah he’s pissed you forgot to invite him. Everyone’s cool with that. Hopefully, they apologize. But the “freak” is all him. Actually, his pattern. You just triggered the long-held pattern of abandonment in his life. Maybe a parent left or died when he was young. Could be his mother was hospitali