unhappy

Self-Righteous Anger – or how to deal with life when everyone around you is losing their shit

I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to make it through a day without seeing someone lose their shit. Maybe someone goes on a rant about how everyone should wear a mask while someone else goes on a rant how they will never be forced to wear a mask. This post is not to debate who is right, who is wrong, or how both may have some truth. What I would like to discuss is how do we deal with a world – and our friends, family and loved ones – that are all breaking apart at the seams.

For some time, we have seen that the institutions we came to rely on as never-changing beacons of truth, going through a transformation – changing, morphing and in some cases being torn apart. All the things mom always said never to talk about – religion, politics, and money – are collapsing, along with the social constructs of gender and race. The guidebook we had all been given for how things are and how they should be, has been thrown out the window.

Some of us are doing ok with this shift. We know that the way things were, was not ideal. The systems and institutions need an overhaul. I, for one, wish that it could be a peaceful and easy transition, but transition – death and rebirth – are hardly ever easy-peasy. So instead we are seeing protests, long-held secrets revealed, and collapse from the inside out.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Some of us are not doing ok in this time. Some do not want things to change. Even if they don’t like how things were, changing to the new is too terrifying for them. Instead of seeing that all of life transforms and continuously grows, some people want to blame others or create elaborate conspiracies to explain why the world they knew is falling apart. John Oliver had a great piece on this recently. To explain proportionality bias or the “tendency to assume that big events have big causes,” he compared the JFK assassination to that of the shooting of President Ronald Reagan. When President Kennedy was shot, it was too much of a shock and unbelievable that one random man could kill a sitting United States president, so a more complex theory was created to explain something of such great significance. When President Reagan was shot – and survived – no such theories were created. We didn’t need them because the impact was not as strong.

Whether those around you are buying into conspiracy theories or just being angry at this group or that group for trying to change the system (or not changing the system quickly enough), everyone is a bit on edge. Anna Madrigal from the Tales of the City series on Netflix said, “Anger is the tip of the iceberg, but it is not the whole story.” The anger-iceberg concept is what I try to use to make sense of others’ and my own anger.

Don’t Squash the Anger

Being a peace lover, I often want everyone to be free from negative emotions. My knee-jerk reaction is to try to minimize the anger. However, not acknowledging the anger or trying to minimize someone’s anger never works. The anger is a symptom, it is the tip of the iceberg not the real problem. Instead of reacting to someone’s anger, focus on the fact that a person is in pain. Don’t try to remove the anger. Just hold space for them and respect that they feel the way they feel.

Uncover the Story

What you can help someone (or yourself with) is to uncover why they feel the anger. This past week, I witnessed a few events where loved ones experienced self-righteous anger. They were incised that someone accused them of being in the wrong and proceeded to provide a litany of reasons why they should be the one accusing the other as wrong. A wise woman once told me that “everything someone says or does is all and only about them.” We shouldn’t and can’t prove someone else as wrong because they are seeing the world through their own eyes, experiences, and preferences. That will not change until they want to change. What I can find relief in is uncovering why they, or I, am feeling so much emotion around an issue. When I can identify that, I have something tangible to address or at least just understand.

Discern When to Act

The Serenity Prayer has become a mainstay for me lately. This prayer teaches us to not accept everything as it is, nor to always take righteous action to change others, but to discern what needs to be said and done – and by who. If you are triggered by someone else’s actions or their anger, decide if what you want to say is true, necessary, kind, and helpful.  Lately I have been really trying to pause before I say or do anything. I ask if anything should be said and done, and I also ask if I am the best person to do so. If everyone took a pause before they reposted on social media, I think we would see a lot less negativity out there.

I wish I could tell you that the transition the world is going through right now will be over quickly and smoothly, but I don’t think so. Welcome to the new normal. Be open to new ways of thinking and being. Respect the opinion and struggles of others. Create good boundaries to protect yourself. And have hope that what is on the other side will be better for all.

walking by honest

Willing, Open-Minded & Honest

For over a decade, I have been working with people to change their lives for the better. I uncovered that awareness, acceptance, alternatives, and action were the keys to changing our lives. A few years back I wrote From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It which outlined how I used these four concepts to change my life and the lives of those I serve. What I have come to recognize is that there is a foundation needed before these concepts can be utilized.

Awareness is critical. If we are not aware of how our thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions are creating our problems, we do not have the power or ability to change these things therefore solving our problems. Before we can become aware however, we first need to be willing. If we do not want to change our lives, solve our problems, see our truth, if we do not have the courage and desire to make a change, we can never get to awareness.

Once we grow our awareness, the next step is to learn acceptance. If we are aware of our bad thoughts or habits, but excuse them, play them down, ignore them, or blame others for what we do, we are not able to act differently. To be able to accept the truth of the situation, we need to have brutal honesty. Not the truth we want to see or the version of truth that serves us, but the whole truth. When we can come from a place of truth and vulnerable honesty, we then have a platform to accept the reality of our lives.

To make changes in our lives, we need to see new alternative ways to think and act, and then take action and actually do them. We can not do any of this without being open-minded. If we are not open to new ideas and trying them out, what would change?

walking by honesty
Photo by Andrew Butler on Unsplash

Before someone can change their life using the tenants of Type Me (awareness, acceptance, alternatives, action) they first need to be willing, open-minded, and honest. What I have learned over the years is that without at least one of these, the door is not open to help someone. Without all three, that person can not create the life they want.

Early in my career I took on two clients who were not there by their choice. A loving and/or frustrated family member reached out to me for help. At the time I didn’t know better. Now it is so clear. I no longer take on clients who do not come to me for help. If someone else forces them to come, they are not willing. They do not have the primary desire for change and therefore there is nothing I or anyone can do to help them. No change happens without willingness.

Sometimes I work with a client who is willing, but only willing on their terms. They want things in their lives to change but are resistant to new ways of being. They want to continue to think and do what they have been doing for years and they expect things to change; which is the definition of insanity. Sometimes they are afraid of new ways to do things; this can be overcome if they have the willingness. Other times they desire others to change and be the ones to embrace the new ways of being; for obvious reasons this tactic does not work very well.

If a client is willing to change and open to try new ways of being and acting, but they are not being honest with me or themselves, we again have a major obstacle. If the client is only willing to share part of the truth or their version of the truth, we never work on the real issues. To make changes in our lives we need to be fully vulnerable and share the whole truth – good and bad – about ourselves and our situation.

I still strongly believe that the Type-Me tools presented in From Type A to Type Me are the keys to making amazing changes for the better in our lives. And I also know from experience that without willingness, open-mindedness, and honesty, these tools can not be embraced and utilized.

marketing strategies

Using Marketing for Self-Improvement

Most of my professional career was in the field of marketing. I enjoyed working on marketing strategies. We would define the goal we wanted to accomplish, then create strategies to accomplish those goals. After executing the strategies we’d take a step back and review our return on investment or ROI. Based on our analysis, we would revise our strategies and try again for success. Lately I found the process works the same when we want to make improvements to our lives.

Goal

Often in business, strategies or tactics – or how we get to the goal – are often mistaken for the goal. For example, the goal is not to create a website; the goal is to increase brand awareness. The website is a tactic in the strategy of increasing online presence. The tactic is the how we execute the strategy. The strategy is the path to the goal. As in business, our personal goals should be what we really want to achieve. When it comes to our personal lives, to truly achieve the life we desire, it is important to stay out of the specifics (strategies or tactics) and instead look to a larger goal. For instance, stop focusing on wanting a specific job or promotion. Instead, focus on the goal of fully expressing your purpose throughout your life. This may include a new position (tactic) within the strategy of living your purpose through your work. It may also include volunteering which fits within the strategy of living your purpose through a hobby or passion. Spend some time gaining clarity about what you want on a very deep level. Explore what you want to feel and experience. Steer way from specific ways to get there, instead define the overall essence of what you want.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Strategy

Then open your mind to multiple strategies to achieve your goal. Often our thinking is limited. We can only see one way to accomplish what we want. What if instead there were multiple paths to our ultimate goal?  When we explore various ways to reach our goals, our stress levels decrease as our options increase. If we only see one path to our goal and if that path is blocked or delayed, depression, frustration or anger may be the result. Be open to multiple ways to reach your goal. Explore them all. See what works and what doesn’t. Find out if one or a combination of multiple strategies create the final result for which you are looking.

Tactics

The tactics are where we take action. Tactics are the daily efforts. If you are a procrastinator, break down your tactics into bite-sized chucks. Many of us may find the tactics stressful if we put too much importance in them. Remember we want to achieve our goal. We don’t always need to achieve each specific tactic. If we want to make a delicious cake, but we don’t have the exact ingredients the recipe calls for, we know we can still make something delicious with a few substitutions. Don’t stress over following the recipe. Make substitutions and use what is available. You may find that you are able to create something even better than what you had planned.

ROI Review/Revise

Sometimes our strategies help us reach our ultimate goal. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes when we reach our goal, we find out it isn’t quite what we wanted. Periodically review your strategies and goals. How often are we so focused on the doing of life, that we don’t stop to note if what we are doing is making us happy?  Every so often, review what you want out of life and how you are going about achieving it. Has what you want shifted? Is the effort in your strategies paying off or is it time to find a different way? Be open and flexible as you explore new strategies to achieve your dreams.

What are you choosing to experience?

Many of my friends are very into the Law of Attraction. The basic concept is that you receive what you focus on; that your thoughts become real life things. I have many thoughts on this subject and have shared some below.

You Create Your World with Your Focus

I touched on this a bit in my book, basically your life is determined by where you choose to focus. Whether it is because of how the energies of the universe work or due to your reticular activating system, I have seen a correlation between our thoughts/focus and what we receive in our life. It may be something harmless like focusing on the Chicago Cubs instead of the White Sox, or it can cause anxiety when we choose to only see the horror of the news and not the good that is happening as well.

You Can’t Get What You Don’t Define

Many people are unhappy. And many people don’t define what makes them happy. These people focus on what is making them unhappy and therefore they see/receive more of it. The first step to creating the life of your dreams is to define what an ideal life looks like. Focus on the feelings and the experiences you do want. What would make you happy, content, satisfied? What does the good life look like to you?

Don’t Focus on the Outcome

One of the problems I have with other discussions about Law of Attraction is the focus on receiving concrete physical world items.   The way the concept is presented is that the ultimate goal is to have stuff. I don’t know about you, but my goal in life is not to have stuff. Things are great, don’t get me wrong, but it is the experience of the things, not the thing itself that makes us happy. Instead of focusing on the new house, car, or job you want, focus on how you would feel if you had it. Then, even if you don’t receive the thing, you are still experiencing the feeling which is what we really want.

Photo by IIONA VIRGIN on Unsplash

This or Something Better

I have to admit, I don’t always know what is best for me. This is another reason I don’t focus on the outcome. If I achieved the dream I had when I was a little girl, to become a movie star, I would be very unhappy today in the role. Imagine an introvert being constantly in the limelight and spending time with the falseness that is Hollywood. Yuck. Not my dream now. When I focus on something I want to bring into my life, I always say, “this or something better.” It is my loophole. If I am thinking of something that won’t make me happy in the long-run or if what I am asking for is less than I should receive, this or something better leaves space for the powers that be to bring to me what I really want and need.

Release the How

When I talk to people about what they really want in life, they often put restrictions on how they can receive it. When I retire I’ll have the time to do X, when the kids are off to college then I am free to do Y, once I meet Oprah my book will become a best seller. The amazing things that happened in my life never happened in a way I imagined. I had absolutely no clue as to how they would happen, but since I was focusing on what I wanted when an opportunity came up that was in alignment with my dream, I took action.

Show Up

This is not Uber Eats where you place your order and it comes to you. You need to make a little effort and move in the direction of your dreams. Sitting in your room and wishing for a million dollars is not going to make it appear (probably). You have to go out and buy that lottery ticket or start that business you always dreamed of. Imagine, pray, and then act.

Have Gratitude

Be grateful for where you are now. Be grateful for the baby step which takes you closer to your dream. Be grateful every step of the way. One of the ways we are unhappy and we stifle what could be, is by not being happy about where we are. Love and appreciate what is great in your life right now, and dream of this or something better.

We only get one try at this life. Why not make the most of it by choosing to make it the life you want to experience and enjoy?

No Rules. Just Right.

I lived the first half of my life by the rules. I studied hard in school. I focused on work and advancing my career. I followed social norms and protocols. I did the best I could to do everything “right.”  Then somewhere along the line, I realized there are no rules.

My husband and I often jokingly say, “I don’t make the rules,” when we expect the other to do something they don’t want to or when we request something to our benefit. “I don’t make the rules” means this is just how things are, ignore that it is completely and utterly in my favor. Just because it is a benefit to me doesn’t mean that I created the rule. But don’t we all create our own rules?

Some people create rules that benefit themselves. Other drivers should give them the right of way. They should get the next promotion because they have “put in their time.” Everyone should treat me fairly because I strive to treat them fairly.

Some people create rules because they expect struggle. Nothing ever goes my way. I never have enough money. People are going to hurt me. Whether beneficial or worrisome, we are still creating our own expectations. We are creating rules for life. But in reality, there are no rules.

la felicidad - to happiness sign
Photo by Cesira Alvarado on Unsplash

I think I first started to awaken to this as I got out into the world. The ways of life I learned in childhood were not absolute. Not everyone believed in the same religion. Not everyone grew up in a Suburb of Chicago with Midwest manners and extreme weather. Not everyone had the same career goals or the same description of success. This concept really gelled with me as I changed careers. I spent my early years focused on theatre. The goal was to make it to Broadway, or at least to get enough steady work to eat while fulfilling the passion to create. Then I landed a position at a company that created amusement park attractions. Suddenly there were new influential players, new definitions of success, a new language, and new viewpoints. I then moved to direct marketing and then to product marketing in four vastly different industries. Each time there were new rules, new expectations, new languages and culture, new definitions of success, and new assumptions of how to act.

Through all this I finally learned and began to accept that there are no hard, fast rules. No labels. No shoulds. At first it was a bit terrifying, as if the ground I was standing upon was no longer there. Then it was freeing. I now had the power to create life as I desired. Have you had this mid-life “unraveling” as Brené Brown calls it? Have you stopped to look at the rules you have agreed to? Have you explored if they are working for you – or not? Have you looked into new ways to live?

Take a step back. Write down the beliefs you have about what life and work are all about. Define what success looks like. Define your expectations for daily life. Then toss out what does not serve you. Start writing new rules. What do you want to see and create in life? Don’t be swayed by what was, what is currently, or what others believe. What do you want? Then take baby steps toward accepting and moving toward your own set of rules.

Good versus Evil

Netflix is now showing “The Story of God” a series by National Geographic starring Morgan Freeman. Each episode covers a different aspect of life and belief sharing the doctrines and viewpoint of differing religions. The show does a nice job of showing each viewpoint objectively without attacking any beliefs nor pitting one religion against another. The show explores the mysteries of life and how each culture defines their answers. A recent episode explored how religions explain why bad exists in the world.

The belief which resonated most with me is that we all have the capability of good and bad in us. Every day we have the choice about who we want to be and how we want to act. In writing a post about narcissism recently, I ran across an article with an interesting analogy drawn from comic book heroes and villains: “The supervillain is not part of the community and cannot take their mask off. They have no true friends, only subordinates or superiors. Both superhero and supervillain gain their powers in response to an extraordinary, often traumatic event. It is their response to the event that determines which way they go.” The article basically hints at the same conclusion I drew. We, each and every one of us, has the capability to be good or bad, it is in our choosing that makes it so.

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

I work with some people who have done very bad things. I don’t consider the individual bad. They just made a bad choice. They thought the best option to protect themselves was to choose something that hurt someone else. What they did is bad. Yet that does not make them inherently bad. I explored this a bit last year in my blog inspired by the movie about Tonya Harding. In understanding her backstory, it makes it easier to understand why she made the poor choices she made. Explains them but does not excuse them.  The question is what helps us choose the right, best actions?

“The Story of God” shared a segment on a researcher in New Zealand who is uncovering how a belief in a higher power helps keep us on the straight and narrow. When left in a room alone, many of the children cheated at a game. When told that the invisible Princess Alicia was in the room, the majority of the children played by the rules. Obviously, the invisible princess was made up, so it was not her powers that made a difference. The experiment was more about how with boundaries and awareness we can tap into our natural conscience and make good decisions.

Whatever the religion, I believe being raised with some guidelines help to give that awareness of good behavior. Even without a religion, parents have the ability to instill right and wrong into the minds of their children. For those I know who are most apt to steal or worse, they were normally raised in a household where the parents were absent, abusive, or simply poor role models. Not to blame the parents, because we also have the ability to either follow our parents lead or rebel against it, which takes me full circle. If you are raised with a clear sense of right and wrong or if you were raised in an environment where adults portrayed poor behavior and ethics, you still have the choice in how you react and how you choose to be.

No matter what you have gone through, you have a choice. A choice in how you view life, view your past, and view your options for the future. Choose wisely.