Have you ever thought about how the world would be a great place if it were not for other people who make bad choices? When you have that thought, how angry do you feel?
Most of us have that type of angry thinking when we are frustrated, hurt or afraid. It’s a natural response to blame someone or something for these emotions.
It helps us to determine the cause of perceived danger and avoid it in the future to the extent possible, but if our thinking goes awry it can lead to more anger and resentment.
We will illustrate using this scenario: Bob stubs his toe on a chair.
Bob might get mad at the chair when he stubs his toe on it. It’s somehow the chair’s fault, which Bob usually knows in his rational mind is an absurd thought.
But when he becomes angry, that rational part of Bob’s brain ceases to work properly and goes on vacation.
If Bob’s rational mind comes back online and Bob still expects the chair to change its behavior or move someplace else, he might be continually frustrated, helpless and resentful of the chair’s existence.
A more likely (and healthy) scenario is that when Bob calms down, he will step more carefully around it or move the chair. He changes his own behavior to avoid future pain.
This is empowering.
He can take steps that are within his control to avoid future hurt. He learns that he can do something to be safer.
Examining his own part in what led to his pain and changing his own behavior will help Bob to let go of that residual anger.
This is an over-simplified illustration to show that when we blame others, be they chairs, political groups, bad drivers, family, etc., we are placing ourselves in a mental situation that is likely to perpetuate more pain, anger and (unless we take effective actions) helplessness.
So whatever made us feel bad in the first place continues to make us feel bad.
If we instead accept the part of our own behavior that we can change to avoid pain, we can find relief from anger and move closer to happiness.
So we must think twice when placing blame on others, and take steps instead to modify our own behaviors.
It’s more effective, empowering, and can lead to greater happiness and lower stress in the New Year.
Alison Jedrick, LCSW, LISW-CP, is an associate with Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.