Restraint – the act of restraining, holding back, controlling, or checking. It’s a word that comes up a bit in the literature of AA. Holding back, controlling, and checking myself and my reactions is one of the best lessons I continue to learn in AA. My work partner, who doesn’t know much about the Twelve Steps of my involvement with them, often tells me what she wants to say to someone, followed by, “I know, you’ll tell me to sleep on it.” Because that’s what I tell her.
The next day she, and I, are almost always less angry, hurt, upset, whatever excess of negative emotion we are feeling. I’ve had some longer, bigger upsets where it took more than one night, but inevitably my emotions cool and moderate with time when I think of things that hurt or upset me.
I used it, also, when my kids were younger, and they decided they wanted something expensive. I always asked them to continue to want it for two weeks before they spent their money on it. It was funny a few times, when one or the other approached me with, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about this for two weeks, and I really want ______.”
For me, not sharing my negative reactions is not really “stuffing” it. Not for me, not that I can see. I understand that some people have grown up in an environment where they were told not to react to things that were not acceptable. I wonder, though, when I hear them share something like at a meeting: What is it today that they find unacceptable? What calls for an immediate reaction that shouldn’t be held back, checked, controlled or restrained? I think sometimes in my own judgmental mind that they are talking about appropriate reactions to bad things that happened to them as kids. Rarely, as an adult, do I have people out and out insult or harm me. Usually I want to react to an injustice I perceive, perpetrated by someone who may also feel slighted.
Either way, with my responses to real or imagined harm, I always find that sleeping on it is best. I usually talk about it, also, at least to Carole and perhaps to others. Often at that point I let it go, but if I feel that I must respond, at least that response has been checked, controlled, held back (to a point) and restrained.