“Never go to bed angry”
This piece of advice gets consistently thrown around at wedding showers and rehearsal dinners. It’s sounds like a nice idea… but is it?
When I hear “never go to bed angry,” I picture an exasperated couple sitting up in bed, bags under their eyes, hair a disheveled mess, having a completely unproductive conversation at 3:00 in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for going to bed angry. Sleeping is much more fun when you’re happy! But, it’s not always realistic to hash things out and come to a joyful conclusion if you’re so tired that the argument starts going into never-ending circles of doom…
When I was a teenager, I had a tendency of staying up really late. The later it got, the worse my problems would become.. I occasionally found myself sobbing on my mother’s bathroom floor over the stupidest things.
A boy didn’t text me back, my little brother wouldn’t stop pestering me, I couldn’t find ANYTHING in my closet to wear in the morning… You name it.
My wise mother would pick me up off the floor, send me to my bedroom, and tell me to go to bed. “It will all be better in the morning,” she’d say.
When I got older, these wise words always came back to my head when life got tough. A bad break up, the stresses of unemployment, final exams… The later I stayed up trying to fix all of my problems, the more serious and never ending those problems seemed to become.
“Just go to bed, Angilyn,” I’d tell myself. “It’ll all be better in the morning.”
And it was.
That’s not to say my problems would disappear, but I’d wake up with more clarity, less anxiety, and more strength and energy to tackle the issue head on. Sometimes I’d wake up and forget what I was even so stressed about!
Why does a good night’s sleep help so much?
There is this thing called “First Consciousness.” Terry Real talks about it in his book,The New Rules of Marriage.
First Consciousness is your knee-jerk, instinctive, visceral reaction to the world around you. It’s that feeling you get boiling up in your chest when someone cuts you off on the road, or when your spouse tells you to “just chill” in the middle of an argument. *ahem*.
Your First Consciousness is made up of all your past experiences and baggage. It’s a protective mechanism you have subconsciously built within yourself to protect you from threats to your emotional safety.
It is impossible to have a productive conversation when you’re in your First Consciousness. You will either shut down or lash out - and neither will result in a peaceful resolution.
The only way to conquer first consciousness, is by engaging your (you guessed it) Second Consciousness.
Second Consciousness is the voice inside that tells you to take a step back and breathe. It tells you, “there is another way to react here.” It’s the ability to pull yourself out of the moment and fully evaluate how to proceed. It helps you to see reality for what it is, and come to rational conclusions.
What feeds and strengthens your second consciousness? Being well rested and well fed, prioritizing your time, meditation, exercise… all those great things that help you to have a clear mind and be able to master your reactions.
Oh...and practice… lots of practice!!
On the flip side - being tired, hungry, stressed, or sick makes it less easy to tap into that Second Consciousness, allowing the default of First Consciousness take over.
Can you see why the advice to never go to bed angry might not always be good advice?
What would be better advice?
Don’t argue when you’re tired/hungry/overwhelmed/stressed/etc. Ask for a time-out from an argument or discussion if you notice your blood starting to boil or your emotions taking over.
Do whatever it takes to make sure you can tap into that Second Consciousness - whether it’s twenty minutes to take a breather, going for a quick drive to calm down, or even coming back to the issue in the morning after a good night’s rest.
Being able to master your natural instincts, be kind, and have a civilized conversation is much more important than whether or not you go to bed angry.
What do you think about the advice “Never go to bed angry.”? Do you agree with it?? What’s some not-so-helpful relationship advice you’ve received? I want to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.