A while back, I had a brief chat with a rather impatient man on line in front of me at Costco. His impatience with having to wait was obvious. He paced next to his cart, sighed, and rolled his eyes at me. Since I can’t resist starting a conversation at moments like this, I returned the eye-roll with a friendly (I hoped!) smile and asked if he was in a hurry. No, he actually had lots of time! He just hated standing in lines for the privilege of spending his hard-earned money!
As I watched him ramp up his frustration and anger, I wondered what his life was like. Was he often this angry? Did he have friends and family? What story was he telling himself about standing in line that merited all this angst? And what would he be like if he could only change the story he tells himself?
We all have choices as to how we interpret our world. Maybe the story you tell yourself is, “This always happens to me! I’m tired of being taken advantage of and I deserve to be angry!” And maybe you tell yourself this story about events over which you really have little control. And then, just maybe, your anger takes over and your good common sense takes a brief vacation!
But, you can change that story you tell yourself – then notice how different your world might look and feel. And, when your anger isn’t in control, you might just find that relationships improve and you can enjoy that in-line conversation with a stranger so much more!
The new story: “Wow , that’s annoying. But, I can’t do anything about it and it’s not really about me.” Then – take a few deep breaths until you feel the tension fleeing, and look for a distraction (like that person behind you on the line!). Focus intently on the distraction, and you may find that your stress and frustration feel a lot less important now.
If you can do all this fairly easily, congratulations! You’re probably pretty good at self-care. If you have difficulty changing the story, distracting yourself, understanding why you get so angry, you might think about sharing your concern with a trusted friend or doing a little research on anger management strategies. And if none of that is helpful, consider taking that next step and consulting with a therapist who can help you figure out the why of your struggles, as you develop the tools needed to make those important changes.