Spontaneous responses are often driven by anger or fear, and can make a situation far worse. Remember, this might be your neighbour, who you have to live next door to for years to come. Do you really want that friendship to fall apart? Or, it could be a stranger, and you might not know how they are likely to respond to spontaneous aggression. Try to control your immediate reactions by keeping your emotions in check.

When a neighbour blocks your car in, you might perceive the action to be intentional or  without consideration for others, and this may lead to anger. Fear can also generate anger – for example, you might be driving on the motorway when a car cuts in front of you, causing you to swerve and almost crash. The sudden fear, perhaps coupled with negative thoughts such as ‘they are an idiot and don’t deserve to be driving’ can also lead to anger.
This is particularly important when dealing with anti-social behaviour, as people often let their views about the situation (anger, disbelief, negative thoughts such as ‘they are scum’) affect how they respond.

When you become angry or scared, your reactions become more spontaneous. This is because when you experience a stressful situation, your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure increase and various chemicals, including adrenalin, are released into the blood stream. This causes a fight or flight reaction, which can result in a number of other changes in your body and mind…

  • A reduced ability to think, analyse, judge and reason.
  • Auditory exclusion – you may only hear one sound and nothing else.
  • Distorted perception – time appears to slow down or speed up and threats can appear greater than they are. You may experience tunnel vision – focusing on one thing in detail and being less aware of others, and your memory of a situation might also be affected.
  • Loss of fine motor skills – the brain will focus on the use of larger muscles so you can walk or run faster, but this means you might experience anxiety in your smaller muscles, for instance when you try to write, or use your keys or phone.

If you are involved in a confrontation, remember that other person/s may also be experiencing the same physical changes as you. While it isn’t possible to stop these feelings and the spontaneous reactions they cause, they can certainly be limited. Here’s how…

  • Regulate your breathing by taking deep, slow breaths. This can lower the heart rate and help to return the body to normal.
  • Move away from the threat to reduce your fear.
  • Try to think carefully about what is motivating the other person. This can help to reduce your anger, for example ‘they did that on purpose’ could become ‘I wonder why they did that’.
  • Don’t take it personally – even if it feels like it is. Did the other person get up this morning with the intention of upsetting you? Probably not. Are you in the wrong place at the wrong time? If you were 10 minutes later would someone else be experiencing this conflict? Probably. And even if it is a very personal conflict, don’t react. Think – why me? Why not me? Why here? Why now? Why are they acting this way?