“Oh No!! My day is RUINED!”
I must admit it’s probably my commonest negative emotion. I call it irritation or frustration but those are really just forms of anger.
Is it ever OK to get angry? Yes, briefly, if it spurs you into taking action, but don’t stay angry while you’re taking that action, and don’t get angry over things you can’t do anything about, or things that you can deal with without needing to get angry. And don’t let it expand so you live your life in a frequent state of anger, it’s not good for you!
So if you find yourself getting angry at small things, for example people who brazenly drop litter, how can you reduce that anger in order to live a happier life? Here are a whole lot of suggestions—just ONE might help you:
1. Ask what story you are telling yourself e.g. “They do it just to annoy me” or “They are RUINING my enjoyment of this view”.
2. Imagine a friend with you who is much more annoyed than you—How would you calm them down? (This also works for fear and probably all negative emotions).
3. Who is this anger harming? (Only you!!)
4. You are actually choosing to get angry—or at least choosing to stoke the flames with your inner dialogue, giving yourself permission and encouragement to get more and more angry—but why? Because you subconsciously think it’ll help in some way. Maybe to allow you to let off steam, or give you strength to confront the other person, or to make them suffer. But these perceived payoffs are all false aren’t they? Getting angry doesn’t make you feel better either during or after, it just makes things worse. You are more likely to get what you want by calmly thinking of a plan. And as for making them suffer—they don’t even KNOW that you are quietly fuming! And if they did they probably wouldn’t care. So choose not to get angry, or choose to allow just a twinge of anger and then push it away, “Not today thanks!” “You won’t get me.”
5. If you get angry you’ve lost and they’ve won!
6. What would James Bond do? Would he stop on his important mission to save the world and think, “Oh no, look at that, someone’s dropped a chocolate wrapper outside the gates to Blowfeld’s hollowed-out volcano, oooh, that’s SO annoying, I can’t concentrate at all now, my day has been RUINED!”
7. Break the loop by imagining asking a friend for advice on how to handle it.
8. Will you be able to look back and laugh at it in a month’s time? Or at least, in the case of the litter, will you even be able to remember it? Will it make ANY difference to your life in a month’s time? (Only if you get into a pointless punch-up with the litter dropper!)
9. Describe it as a First World problem—“Me, in my posh house in a nice clean area, massively upset by one or two bits of litter!” Have you seen India? Travel broadens the mind; we realise how lucky we are. Wonderful and amazing though India is, with its fantastic food and lovely people, it does also make me realise how lucky I am pollution-wise to be living in the UK. And lucky to have food and a roof over my head. If litter is your biggest issue in life, or even in your top 20, you are lucky indeed.
10. Is it your own fault in some way? So don’t get angry and be blaming others. This is often the case with driving and arguments with friends. In the case of litter it’s not your fault, but you are still responsible for how you react to it.
11. What’s your objective in the situation? And will getting angry get it resolved, or leave you better off afterwards?
12. Have YOU ever been guilty of the same thing—e.g. dropping orange peel out of your car window, or when you can’t find a bin and there’s already lots of litter there, adding to the pile with one small extra thing? I hope not, but I probably have…
13. Why has the other person done what they have? There’s probably a good reason for it, and maybe you would have done the same. Again, maybe this applies to things other than litter, perhaps a person who has parked selfishly, maybe they are having some sort of emergency, or just a really bad day?
14. Aim lower—maybe a spotless world with no litter is aiming too high, expecting too much from life? Have you taken on the futile task of trying to tidy up the whole area or every single piece of litter?
I hope these are helpful. Maybe you can choose something that regularly annoys you, or wait till you next get angry and consult this list—and try one of my methods, perhaps use it regularly from now on—and make your life that little bit happier, free from one more negative emotion.