Is This a George Costanza Moment?

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August 15, 2017

By Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW

Self-controlYou know that moment when you feel the jolt of being knocked out of your calm or usual emotional state? Maybe you’re walking down the street and someone bangs into you. Or, you’re in your car and someone cuts you off. Perhaps someone hurts or embarrasses you. Or, your partner, co-worker, parent or child annoys you or lets you down. It could be anything that causes an emotional jolt to our nervous system.

That jolt is the force of our emotions and impulses propelling us to react. Some of us respond aggressively, with threats or retaliation. Some of us retreat, avoiding something that might be important to consider. Maybe we reach for a drug or a drink. Whatever we do in that immediate moment, where we are all reaction and no thought, is likely not in our long-term best interest.

When something like this happens to me or when I witness it happening to someone I care about like my husband, Jon, I release some tension and inject a dose of humor into the situation by asking, Is this a George Costanza moment?

For Seinfeld fans, you know what I mean. A George Costanza moment is when you must do the OPPOSITE of your instinct or impulse.

All of us benefit from taking the time to slow down, so we can notice and validate our emotions, and remember our long-term goals and values.

George noticed that his life was not going in the right direction. He decided to do something different: to not repeat the same things over and over that brought him dissatisfaction. He wanted to see how it turned out if he tried something new.

Last weekend as I was riding the Metronorth train to Connecticut. A guy on my train yelled at another guy, “What are YOU looking at?” I saw the other guy start to react with hostility. This situation I thought could easily escalate into a brawl where people around could get hurt. This was a George Costanza moment. Each of them should have done the opposite of their reactive impulse like, for example, apologize or clarify his intention.

When it’s a George Costanza moment, even though every bone in your body pulls you to react, DON’T! Instead, pause and use self-control to slow your mind down. Take deep breaths. Take a walk. Call a friend. Sleep on it. And, work the Change Triangle to validate your emotions. All of these actions calm us, make us less reactive, and more thoughtful. The goal is to act in accordance with our long-term values and life goals. Acting quickly may satisfy impulses, but sadly, it often leads to regret and poor outcomes.

Here’s the 3 min video snippet of the moment of realization for George Costanza for your viewing pleasure and amusement:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKUvKE3bQlY

When every bone in your body tells you to “DO SOMETHING!” and you feel your brain and body revving up, this is the time for the counter-intuitive action. This is a George Costanza moment! Do the opposite of your impulse and SLOW DOWN!

When you slow down, more thoughtful and beneficial actions are accessible for consideration. There is always time to act later.

Is this a George Costanza moment?

Try it and let me know how it goes!

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