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If it’s possible to fall in love at first sight with a phrase, I did. When I heard someone say “check it before you wreck it” a couple of months ago, I just assumed it was some new hip slang. I was wrong. I have since learned that the phrase originated as an advertising slogan by Nationwide Safti-Brake Centers back in the 1970’s. The advice was about getting your brakes checked to be sure they do the job they are supposed to do.
I like the current usage of the phrase even more. It is catchy, so you are not likely to forget it, and the words of wisdom seem so relevant in an era where it is almost too easy to broadcast your thoughts, feelings, reactions, and prejudices. We seem to have evolved into a blurt culture. There are so many ways to express something instantly that it has become hard to keep track of all of them. Texts, Facebook posts, tweets, Instagrams, Snapchats, and comments on other people’s videos or posts have become an alarming dumping ground for blurts that can do damage to both the recipient, and the deliverer. Impulse control? What impulse control? How do we stop this high-speed bullet train from going right off some mighty rickety tracks?
I don’t think “check it before you wreck it” means we are supposed to censor or silence ourselves. Rather, it is a shorthand reminder to bring discipline and discernment into the mix. We usually wreck it when we are having BIG feelings such as hurt, anger, high anxiety, anguish, or indignation. Admittedly, it is uncomfortable to be in the throes of such emotions. In that discomfort, it is so understandable to want some relief. So we blurt. Sadly, this gushing forth with our most immediate reactions runs the risk of bringing on much more discomfort, and not just to those on the receiving end. We all know what it is like to regret what we said in the aftermath of a huge upset, right?
If you need a shorter self-reminder, “check it before you wreck it” distills down to one word: wait. As in, wait before you just lash out. Wait before you say or do or post something that could tarnish a friendship, career, or reputation. Wait until those BIG feelings subside a bit. Feelings, by nature, are irrational. We’ve got to honor our feelings but rationality belongs in the recipe, as well. Wait and remember that other catchy phrase, “cooler heads prevail.”
What About Those BIG Feelings?
They do not just subside, magically, do they? There are many strategies for dissipating emotions but here are a few winners:
Journal * Exercise to blow off steam * Meditate * Give yourself the gift of silence * Ask someone unrelated to the upset to listen to your rant * Write a letter you will never send with full permission to be uncensored and unfiltered * Invest in a punching bag * Watch a really silly movie * Do something creative * Rehearse a more disciplined response with someone you trust *
But What About Authenticity?
You may want to protest or make a strong case for being authentic and blurting out the truth. “Love me, love my occasional nasty side. Nobody’s perfect,” right? “Check it before you wreck it” needn’t squelch authenticity; it simply calls for a filter that will drive a wedge between first impulse (to lash out) and what words end up coming out. Your filter may only need to answer one or two questions: Will my impulsive response harm me in any way? Will I end up regretting what I have done or said? Heeding a yes response may keep you from wrecking it. Here’s hoping!
Prompts for Joy:
Click here for a beautiful nudge to practice gratitude, not just on Thanksgiving.
(With much gratitude to Michael Sally and Amber Sumrall.)
Click here to witness an unexpected connection.
(Thank you to Bobbi Emel and Mike Miller.)
All previous Prompts for Joy (PFJs) can be found at my website, unless the video url is no longer functional.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·