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Managing Impulsivity

In August of 2017, the City of Houston in Texas experienced one of its most somber moments in recent history. It was violently hit by Hurricane Harvey. The damages were estimated at $150 billion. Most people are yet to recover. It will take years for some to get back to where they were before the hurricane. And some will never recover.

On another note, every year, millions of people travel to the tropics for the sun and the breeze of the tropical coast. Families, companies, groups, and institutions pay money to get the experience of a tropical trip. Here are two situations that occur because of the same element of nature. That element is the wind. The hurricane is wind, and the breeze is also wind. But each of them operates at a different level of tension and pressure. No one likes hurricanes, but everyone likes the breeze.

Obviously, the reason no one likes hurricanes is that they are strong winds. Strong winds are impetuous. Each impetuous element whether of nature or another order of being is destructive, dangerous, and untrustworthy. In humans, being impetuous is being unable to manage our impulsivity.

Now being impetuous has a connotation of being stormy or full of anger and doing things with melancholy. But that is only one tiny aspect of impulsivity. Let’s study that aspect first before getting into other aspects.


As impetuous as a wildcat

When a tiger or a lioness charges after its prey, its intention is to catch, bite, and kill. Unfortunately, being a carnivore, the survival of the wildcat depends on its prey. So, when it jumps on its prey, the wildcat is impetuous. In its mind, nothing else matters; all the other thoughts are disappeared: only one thought remains. No wonder it runs after its prey with all the physical energy there is. And as the impetuous wildcat runs its life out, that is how it is vulnerable. Nothing can save it if it falls into a trap. Its racing weight will slam it dangerously into the trap. It is no different from an impetuous human being.

An anger-stricken person is akin to a wildcat. He or she is lethally vulnerable. No one is willing to chance it with that person. Even when danger is looming, people run away from them because they don’t want to be thrown into their tantrum. Their friends run away from them and their acquaintances keep them out. When they show up at a meeting people say, “There comes the wildcat!” They may not say that, but they will say something to make you aware of who’s here.

Have you ever seen someone as soon as they show up the group scatters away? Or have you ever witnessed a situation where someone pretends they just got a very important phone call? Or when they call, the respondent says, “You know what? Let me call you right back” and they never call again. We cannot generalize, but these things happen for a reason. If the reason is your tantrum you never conceal, then you got a habit of mind to work on.


As impulsive as hasty

Being hasty is also considered impulsive and impetuous. No surprise! The hurricane in hasty, but the breeze is tactful. A hasty person takes little to no time thinking about their action; how they will affect their present and the present of the people around them and even the future. They act with precipitation. They are quick-tempered. If they get denied a service, they find reasons for that immediately before listening to the rationale behind the decision. Rationale is what they lack most because they can’t substantiate their deeds. Before you get to the end of your point, they have finished your sentence. In fact, a hasty person does not listen. Being hasty is the exact opposite of being wise.

A wise mind prompts one to listen and temper down even when the adrenaline is asking for a takeoff. What do we tell our children? Make it quick but do not hast when you take your exam! If you still have time, go back and verify your answers because a hasty work will earn a mediocre grade. But if we don’t train our mind to control impulsivity, we will score low grades all the time.

I know, you are thinking that impulsivity is anger. But it is not only anger. Impulsivity or impulsiveness is defined in psychology as the tendency to act with no thinking of the consequences. An impulsive person can act with or without anger. Any act that is not thought out is impulsive act. A child that would jump at the delivery guy with excitement and gets burned by the hot pizza is impulsive. The child didn’t act with anger but with no thinking or forethought.


Practically how can you manage impulsivity or impulsiveness?

Think before you act. Think before you speak. Think before you write. If you jump at someone of excitement without thinking whether that person wants you to jump at them or whether they can handle your weight, you are being impulsive. If you say something just free your chest, you are being impulsive. The words we speak can have lasting impact even when we walk ourselves back. People might not remember our mea culpa which is an acknowledgment of one’s fault. When you twit just because you have a twitter account, without thinking about the consequences or your image, you might stir up fires no one will be able to put up.

Let me leave you with this story a preacher told us. A driver down the road was driving cozily on dirt road. Suddenly, a woman driving the opposite direction came zigzagging in front of the cozy driver. As the two barely missed each other, the woman glanced at the man and shouted, “Pig!” And the man to wonder what on earth got her to say that to him. She is the one who was driving in the wrong lane and now she is insulting him. He got offended. Although he did a little of thinking there, the next thing he did was without proper thinking. He shouted back at the woman, “dog!” As soon as the word escaped his lips, he was face-to-face with a big hog minding its business. Don’t shout dog to a person whose quick thinking got the word pig to save you from a safety hazard!

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