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Anger is Only Your Perception that You’re Pissed Off

Cognitions are thoughts which create our perception of what is happening around us, to us and for us.

My kids don’t piss me off with the things they do. How I perceive the things they do pisses me off. Dirty dishes left in the sink, candy wrappers stuffed between couch cushions, empty fruit cup containers lying in the middle of the living floor, socks left stuffed between couch cushions with candy wrappers stuck inside them, cat litter not cleaned out when it is their day to do it, soapy “clean” dishes. This is not an exhaustive list but it is exhausting. I’m out numbered by them two-to-one.

Political differences are only differences in points of view. I’m not right. You’re not right. Our perceptions are different. Healthcare for all Americans or only those who can afford it? Everyone should be treated equally under the law or the demographic you are group with will determine how the law works with you? They are just opinions.

What is unfair to you could be seen as fair to me. The lamb who is getting eaten by the lion does not see this as a fair situation. The lion, on the other hand, sees it as perfectly fair. He’s hungry and needs to eat. The lamb is just trying to live.

Your boss needs those reports done. If you don’t finish them she will see it as fair to reprimand you for not doing your job. You may not see the type of reprimand as fair because your office is understaffed and you are overworked. Or maybe you see the reprimand as fair, but don’t like how your boss harangues you about it in front of your colleagues. She may view it as the right thing to do, as her perception is that embarrassment will get you to finish the job next time so you won’t risk getting embarrassed again. And neither will your colleagues.

The thing is we can view these situations and events as neutral, and not take the punishment. When you are embarrassed, put down, yelled out, treated poorly in some way, you can make a decision to not continue to be in those situations. You can decide your exit strategies. Plan for your responses when those situations happen again. Tell your boss off, quit your job, tell your parents you don’t like the way they are talking to you. And be prepared for the consequences afterward.

We don’t have control over what other people say or do to us a lot of the time. We do, however, have a choice in what we will do about it. You have to be willing to accept the consequences, which could be good or bad. When you change things people react. They have no choice. You just bucked the status quo. You never know what will happen when you do.

However, you do know what the consequences are when you don’t change. You feel crappy, down on yourself. And that is accepting the status quo. And you don’t have to be ashamed of accepting the status quo. That is, also, a perception. If you don’t look at it through a lense of shame, you won’t feel ashamed.

Every situation is different. Everybody lives a different life. Everybody has different support systems. There is not a right, one way to do something that will work for everybody.

Change means taking risks, which could be just too much for you to handle right now. That’s okay. Just know you have a choice to change if you want to. It starts with how you think.

It is usually cognitive distortions that hinder our movement to change. What cognitive distortions are you using to perpetuate and feed your anger or fear? It is shoulds, mind-reading, predicting the future, all or nothing? You can google “David Burns Cognitive Distortions” to find out which ones you are struggling with. Then you can work on how to counteract those distortions?

You are still a work in progress. You continue to grow and change.


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