Joe, age 46, successful business owner and young grandfather: âI get so mad at everyone that my daughter wonât let me see my grandchild. Now, Iâm angry at my daughter, too.â
Mary, age 38: âI am constantly yelling at my two teenagers because they wonât do what I tell them to.â
Nancy, married 28 year old successful writer who goes into period rages toward her equally successful husband: âI canât stand that he never picks up his clothes and he doesnât do things around the house that he says he will do.â
Alex, a 50 year old salesman in class because of road rage: â I canât stand it when people cut in front of me on the freewayâ¦ it makes me crazy.â
Different Anger, Common Cause
In all cases, the cause of the anger isnât what happened to these basically normal people; rather it is how they assessed or evaluated what happened.
Anger often results from comparing the behavior of others to your expectations.
Sometimes itâs a reasonable thing to do that, but more often itâs not because we have unreasonably high, and sometimes just plain wrong, expectations of ourselves and those around us.
We can thus say that anger is caused by the discrepancy between what we expect and what we get. Indeed, the definition of expectation is âeager anticipation.â
Itâs important to figure out exactly what âreasonableâ means in terms of expectations of yourself and others. If your expectations are too low, youâll feel cheated in life â or worse â that you are âsettling.â
On the other hand, if your expectations are too high, then reality will suffer from comparisons to expectation â and you may experience disappointment and other anger reactions.
Adjusting Your Expectations
Step 1: Decide what is reasonable. This may be tricky because different people have different ideas of this. One way to do it is to think about it when you are calm and cool. Many things that seem âreasonableâ when you are worked up, later seem ridiculous and petty.
Step 2: Eliminate the word âshould.â None of us can control other people, try as we might. People behave the way they behave for their own reasons.
Instead of âshould-ingâ others, state needs from your own perspective, i.e., âIâd prefer ifâ¦â instead of âThey shouldâ¦â
Step 3: Recognize limitations. People often behave badly toward us because of their limitations or problems, not because they are purposefully trying to make us miserable. People are fallible and may not be able to live up to our expectations, or they may have a different agenda than meeting your expectations.
Relationships have their limitations. Marital research shows that 69% of relationship issues are basically unsolvable and perpetual. Wise couples accept this and find ways to live around the issues, rather than engaging in constant conflict.
Step 4: Be tolerant of other views. Rather than convincing yourself that others are âwrong.â Tell yourself they simply see things differently than you do. No need to get angry over this â they may be as convinced of their âtruthâ as you are of yours!
Step 5: Explore ways to get needs met. The underlying reason we often get angry at others is because our basic needs are not being met as a result of the situation or the behavior of the other.
Rather than getting angry, we need to consider two more effective ways to deal with the situation:
1.Honestly communicate your unsatisfied needs to others.
2.Explore alternative ways to satisfy your needs. Take responsibility for your own needs and find workable and acceptable ways of satisfying them.