Learning Not to Lash Out
By Kathleen McGowan
Your boss chews you out over something inconsequential, and hours later on the drive home, you find yourself replaying her comments over and over again. And you've got plenty of time: the traffic has you inching along the highway for 45 minutes.
By the time you get home, you're seething -- at your boss, at the highway and at the world. As you stomp up the driveway, your little cocker spaniel Brownie trips you up, and you snap. You shout at her and smack her on the rump -- and immediately feel like a class-A jerk.
What just happened? Psychologists call it displaced aggression, but most of us recognize it as the kick-the-dog effect. Anger and frustration in one part of life can lead us to lash out at innocent people (or pets) in another.
When a tense moment stays with you
The key is rumination, a destructive—and common—mental habit. Rumination is what you do when you repeatedly relive an experience in your mind, replaying it, reviewing it and reinterpreting it. It plays a major role in depression -- pushing people over the edge from a temporary sad mood into a major case of the blues. The habit of ruminating can also turn a nervous person into someone truly anxious...
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Kathleen McGowan is Senior Editor of Psychology Today.