We all have expectations in life, and as long as what we’re seeking manifests, we’re fine. Throw a wrench into our plans, though, and we get frustrated and angry. Why? Frustration occurs when we feel powerless. We all seek control. Whether over a situation, over a person, or in regard to oneself, we all want to determine how things will work out. (I expect to lose 10 pounds in a week and shed only 2. I want all my children to go to college, but one insists on becoming a singing sensation. Ach!)
Very often, what we are seeking is not in alignment with reality. As long as I pursue that which is unattainable, I am setting myself up for disappointment and frustration and therefore anger. The first step to restoring my sense of serenity is to reexamine my expectations: Is what I want fair and reasonable? Is it fair of me to expect that people never make mistakes, that everyone agrees with me, and that I have everything I want (exactly when I want it)? No. A simple readjustment to a more realistic outcome will alleviate my anxiety and thereby prevent anger.
If, however, my request or expectation is reasonable, I need to create a plan of action. What steps are necessary to achieve the desired outcome? Putting 100 percent of my time and energy into the solution restores my sense of power. I see the progress that I’m making and am in control. Remaining focused on the problem only fuels my anger. If my thoughts are negative, my feelings will also be negative (all feelings come from thoughts).
For example, one of my dogs was rescued from medical testing. Every time I think of the horrors that she endured, I become enraged. The more I relive it in my mind, the angrier I become. I feel powerless because I was unable to protect her.
Initially, my anger served to alert me to an injustice (something was wrong and needed my attention). Once I identified it, I refocused my energy on finding and implementing a solution. I became much more involved in the cause of animal rights by educating folks and helping out when I could by donating to organizations that work on those issues. My anger has turned into a resolution and a solid conviction to fight this injustice wherever it exists and however I can.
When my thoughts turn to how I can help my dog heal, I feel good. When I focus on how I can help alleviate the suffering of other helpless animals, I feel powerful. I am hopeful, knowing that I can make a difference in both arenas. While I may not be able to solve the problem in its entirety, I can at least improve the situation for many. My positive mindset allows me to seek realistic solutions. Positive thoughts generate positive feelings (hope and determination).
I find that when I pay attention to expectations, seek what is realistic and fair, and focus on solutions, anger can become a constructive force for positive change.
Janet Pfeiffer is a motivational speaker, an award-winning author, and a leader in the field of anger management and conflict resolution. Her unique approach has helped thousands of people heal their anger and find inner peace. Janet has generously agreed to donate $3 to PETA for each copy of her book, The Secret Side of Anger, purchased before May 31, 2010, through this link. Be sure to include “Code PETA610″ on the shopping-cart page.