What’s really going on when you ‘fly off the handle’

At Bird, we have a course that takes a deep dive into stress and how it impacts our thoughts and behaviour. Yesterday I ran the session with a large group of charity CEOs, encouraging them to explore where they recognise the manifestations of stress in their own lives and in the behaviours of their staff.

The group were really engaged and took lots of time to explore the themes with each other.

One piece that I share in the session, and that I’d like to share in the Bird blog today, is what our friend Brené Brown calls ‘Chandeliering’. Chandeliering can also be described as flying off the handle or hitting the roof.

We’re all familiar with this notion, it’s where something seemingly insignificant happens, like breaking a mug, or missing the bus, or not having the right change, and you shout or scream or cry or storm off. The incident is small, but the reaction is huge.

What is really going on here is that something else unrelated is most likely stressing you out. You are probably experiencing cumulative stress, where various things in your life are causing you to feel challenged and overwhelmed.

We chandelier when we haven’t got any awareness of, and we’re not taking any action around, that cumulative stress. We ignore the challenging emotions that come up in response to the stress and so they get stored up, and then at some point, when the handle of that mug cracks off or the bus pulls away, all the emotions come spilling out.

It happens everywhere, it’s dangerous because it means other people around you end up walking on egg shells to avoid an ‘explosion.’ It separates you from people because they’re afraid what’ll happen next.

The key to moving away from such behaviour is to regularly check in with your emotions, realise what’s coming up for you, allow yourself to be with those emotions, articulate where you feel upset or hurt, with someone that you trust. Because ‘being with’ your emotions is the opposite of ignoring them or storing them up and then letting them out in harmful ways.

When we don’t regularly check in with ourselves and our circumstances things like chandeliering can easily happen. This isn’t about shaming ourselves because we do chandelier, it’s about identifying it and then taking steps to change it.

So I invite you today to see where you might chandelier, and then think about some alternative, self-caring approaches you could take in order to steer yourself away from that behaviour.

Sending love as always, Hannah

*Photo by Thaï Hamelin on Unsplash

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