Never get angry again 

While we might not like others’ behaviour towards us, should they really have such a big impact on our self-esteem and mood? After all, it is not other people’s responsibility to make us happy. It is our responsibility to make ourselves happy. 
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I just finished a book called Never Get Angry Again by David J Lieberman

As a curious person I am always trying to understand why I, and others, think and react in certain ways and what we can do to leverage our strengths and mitigate the impact of our weaknesses. 

I read a lot, so some of the main messages in this book were familiar. You have probably already heard that we can manage our emotions and feelings better when we: 

  • breathe 
  • meditate 
  • exercise, sleep and eat well 
  • assume the positive intent of others 
  • are curious about people’s actual meaning and intentions and  
  • keep a journal. 

But there was one concept that was new to me that I will definitely draw on when feelings of anger or frustration arise. You may have heard before that when our reality doesn’t meet our expectations, we get frustrated. You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Lieberman took this idea further and added another dimension that really resonated with me. I am paraphrasing and my interpretation goes like this:  

desires > expectations > reality => anger and frustration 

Simply, when our desires (what we want) lead to expectations (what we expect) and when our reality (what is actually happening) is less than our expectations then we feel angry and frustrated. 

For example, we might want people to treat us in a certain way – understand or listen to us, give us a promotion, or recognise us (DESIRE). 

We then expect to be treated or recognised in this way (EXPECTATION). 

And then when we are not treated in this way (REALITY), we get angry, upset, frustrated, resentful etc. (FEELINGS). 

The book outlined a few things to consider when we feel like this. 

  1. Are our desires actually realistic, fair and achievable? For example, is it reasonable for your boss to know that you are having a difficult time with a colleague, at home or with your workload if you haven’t told them? Is it realistic to expect another pay rise or promotion when you were just given a pay rise last month or if 15% of the team has just been made redundant? 
  1. How realistic are your expectations in relation to your desires? As above, are they fair, realistic, achievable or even properly understood? How clearly have you communicated your expectations to others, and also to yourself? Do others actually know what you expect from them, or do you just assume they should know? 
  1. What do you feel when your reality does not meet your desires or expectations? Do you feel hurt, unheard, uncared for, unrecognised or unrewarded? Are you actually angry at a particular person or the current circumstances, or are you reliving a previous experience or situation? 
  1. How do you react, and is this reaction beneficial and useful? How does your behaviour or reaction help you to achieve your goals? Or are you actually hindering your ability to achieve your desired outcome? 

One of the final questions posed in the book was: ‘Should we be expecting others to make us happy or unhappy?’ In other words, should we allow the words, behaviours and reactions of others to determine how we feel about ourselves? While we might not like others’ behaviour towards us, should they really have such a big impact on our self-esteem and mood? After all, it is not other people’s responsibility to make us happy. It is our responsibility to make ourselves happy. 

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