Taming the Grawlix

girl-2584728_640Odds are, you’ve never heard of a grawlix; but I bet you’ve seen one. They’re mysterious yet extremely common. They’re hard to describe, even though they are instantly recognizable. You could have one in your home or office right now.

This is a grawlix: #@$%*!

In 1964, Mort Walker coined this term to describe the series of symbols cartoonists use to represent profanity. Expressed in speech and thought balloons, the grawlix helps readers understand the pain, anger, or frustration felt by their favorite characters in the Sunday morning comics. When a fictional individual has a hard time expressing the negative emotions welling up inside, the grawlix is there to fill in the gaps.

Unfortunately, real life doesn’t come with a grawlix. When we feel strong negative emotions coming on, it’s no laughing matter. And while a bit of profanity might make you feel better in the moment, it does nothing to address the underlying cause. To move forward, you need to dig a little deeper.

Start by naming the emotion. Are you feeling angry? Are you frustrated? Does sad or guilty best describe your mood? Perhaps you are anxious, nervous, or just unsettled. Putting a label to your specific emotion helps put you back in control, allowing you to devise a plan for addressing it.

Next, zero in on the source. Identify the root cause – the action or inaction that led you to feel this way. Was it something you did? Are you feeling let down by others, or could it be a combination of the two? Write down the steps you believe it took to arrive at this point.

Now, cross out any steps that you can’t control. You see, often our anger, frustration, or anxiety comes as result of another person’s behavior. We expect them to act a certain way, and when they don’t our emotions take a turn for the worse. We enter a spiral of negativity, focusing on who wronged us, or disappointed us, rather than taking responsibility for our own future.

The secret to taming the grawlix is to act. Focus on the one person’s behavior that you can control – your own. Refuse to let your mind dwell on what could have been. Forget what others should have done. Create a plan of action for yourself. And execute it.

When you take responsibility for your destiny and take concrete steps to pursue the future you want, you’ll find little use for the grawlix. Unlike a Sunday morning cartoon, you won’t need a series of random symbols to express how you feel. My guess is you’ll have better things to say.