I know afterbad isn’t a real word, but this isn’t about the terrible, worst-day-of-your-life sort of “after”. My focus here is on day-to-day troubles, the hurts and emotional bruises that tend to linger long after the moment itself. There are two main elements to these pains, the failed expectation and the emotional response. These, with practice, can be separated and adjusted to make the healing process take hours instead of days.
First let’s look at the failed expectation. Whatever it was you thought was coming, from a simple “hello” to “I love you” to common courtesy, wasn’t what you experienced. Chances are good that one of the reasons you feel hurt or angry is that you expected a certain behavior from someone and were treated rather differently, but not necessarily with the intent of hurting your feelings. You may have misjudged the person’s motivation, character, mood, or maybe they are experiencing emotional distress of their own.
If you can reshape your past expectation to more closely match what occurred, you can greatly reduce your own stresses. For example, if you are expecting a hug and get brushed off, that stings a bit. Separate the sting from the event, change your expectation of them to “they’ll be grouchy” after the fact, and it won’t bother you so much. Plus, it will give you incentive to give them a hug, thereby exceeding their expectations and improving their mood.
The emotional response to these relatively minor events can also be isolated. Think about how you feel, decide how you want to feel, and push yourself in that direction. It won’t actually change how you felt, but it will guide your behavior in a much more positive direction. Instead of having your feelings hurt, lean toward dissatisfaction and let that direct your actions to produce satisfaction. Replace anger with confusion, and go get some answers. Easier said than done, but it is not really all that difficult if you put 100% effort into the modification knowing that it will help.
The last part is when you reconnect the expectation to the emotion, and this is where the benefits become obvious. Instead of being wounded by not getting a hug, now you are merely determined to find out what went on for the other person and to help improve their mood – a huge improvement over sulking in the other room allowing disappointment to fester and anger to swell.
It is possible to apply this process to more serious situations, but honestly sometimes you need to hurt, suffer, fear, cry, or just plain be disappointed in order to learn from your experience. Use this when you want to feel differently than you do or should feel differently. After all, many minor events can build up to be a persistent problem in the future. You don’t have control over the behaviors and actions of others, but you can control how you respond. Be the best “you” that you can be.