Back in high school I was excited to be accepted into an Honors English class, but not so excited when the first test was returned to us and I got a D.
Apparently, there were a number of people in that same situation, and the teacher said, “If you didn’t get a good grade, you can be upset, but don’t be too upset, and don’t be too upset for too long.”
That was brilliant advice that has stayed with me all of this time.
There are three solid pieces of wisdom in that one sentence.
The first is acknowledging that there’s something to be upset about. A lot of times when we’re upset or worried about something, people will say “don’t be upset, it’s not a big deal.”
By saying that, although they’re trying to be helpful, they’re actually negating something that actually happened. Our teacher acknowledged that there was a reason we were upset.
The second is recognizing that if you can make yourself more upset by thinking more intensely or for longer about something, that means that you control over it.
So, by saying “don’t be too upset,” he was suggesting we could turn it down because we were capable of turning it up. We had control over it that we had not previously realized.
The third piece of wisdom is not being “too upset for too long.”
In cognitive psychology, we use a technique called “time limiting” – advising people who tend to worry quite a bit of the time to take a short period of time (e.g., five or 10 minutes) and think only about that problem.
Most people get bored of worrying just about that thing for after a few minutes, often less than the time allotted for it in that technique.
When you put all of that together – the acknowledging it, recognizing our control over the intensity of it, and shutting it off after a specific period of time – it’s a brilliant way of packaging together some consoling thoughts.
That’s why I it has stayed with me all this time.
If something happened that’s bothering you today, you can be upset, but don’t be too upset and don’t be too upset for too long.