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Why We Get Upset When Things Don't Go Our Way

Beverly majored in psychology and health science and has a strong interest in improving the mental, spiritual, and physical lives of others.

Some days it seems like not only are our wires crossed, but tangled in an unruly bundle. How do you find the right switch to plug into reality without blowing a fuse?

Some days it seems like not only are our wires crossed, but tangled in an unruly bundle. How do you find the right switch to plug into reality without blowing a fuse?

When Life Goes Unexpectedly in a Direction You Don't Want it to Go, How Well Do You Cope?

Everyone has a story to tell about when something went unexpectedly wrong in their life. At the time it may have seemed like a horrible experience you just want to forget about, but in retrospect you may have learned something that helped you cope with future unforeseen circumstances and produce a better outcome. Still, having things go wrong, especially if it seems to be happening on a daily basis, can really wear you down and make you think there is something wrong with you or that 'the world' is out to get you. Below is a brief guide to help you deal with frustration and unforeseen circumstances that threaten your happiness. It's not an easy path to follow, but it does help improve your outlook if not your outcome when things don't go exactly as planned.

My New Year Resolution to Cope Better with Life's Unexpected Irritations

At the beach where I live we have these pay to park meters everywhere. You have to put in your money and take a ticket and then put the ticket back on the dash of your car. If you are technologically savvy you can download the parking ap and pay by phone, even getting updates to tell you when the meter is about to expire, but if you are like me and don't like to carry your phone everywhere you go or don't have enough memory left to add a new ap without deleting some of your favorite photos, then you pay with coins or by credit card.

I had been saving quarters in a used glucose tablet container for this very purpose and put in 32 quarters; enough for four hours, when all of a sudden the screen went blank and all my coins came shooting back out the slot and toppled over the ground. I picked them back up and put them back in, going for less hours this time, which was stupid because then I could not go back and add more hours unless I waited until the current hours had expired and I didn't know how long I was going to be out there. To be honest I was kind of upset with the inanimate machine which spit back my money like it was not good enough for it, but I laughed it off, determined not to let something so simple spoil what turned out to be a beautiful day.

How often have little things made you upset? Have you given human emotions to machines or assumed someone who accidentally bumped into you did it on purpose? If you burn the roast do you blame it on the oven? If you find great prices on tickets to a long awaited event but your phone loses contact with the ticket office just as you are entering your card information and when you log back in all the tickets are sold out, do you wail to the universe about how unfair life is? If so, you are in good or bad company depending on how you view it. While everyone gets upset over things that don't go as planned, some of us are more likely to get our feelings hurt or feel like there is something wrong with us when mishaps steal the joy from under us. It's like being bullied by life and not being able to do anything but endure, so for us, it is harder to laugh it off and make the best of a bad situation, but there are a few tricks that will help.

Three Tips to Help You Overcome an Unpleasant and Unexpected Outcome

The first step to overcoming anxiety, upset and a rising anguish that seeks to set your anger afire is to to remove yourself from the situation and look at it with new eyes. View what is happening as a learning experience not an affront to your dignity. Writer Jeff Steinmann in an article for Huff Post said that when we get frustrated when we cannot control irritating factors, we need to approach the situation like we are doing a scientific experiment. Instead of getting frustrated, you need to step back and look at why you got the result you got. If you keep catching your toe on the edge of a rug and nearly catapulting through the window, then maybe replace the carpet or put a piece of sticky tape to hold it flat to the ground rather than cursing the carpet for having a death warrant out on you every time you step near it absentmindedly and forget to lift your feet higher.

The second step to not letting unpleasant things get to you is to formulate a plan to prevent them from reoccurring. I have to remind myself to ACT NOW! Follow step one by removing yourself mentally from feeling abused so that you can focus on the issue more clearly. You are not stupid. The whole world is not out to get you. Now that we have that clear. ACT – Acquire Conscious Thinking. When something goes wrong, and it will, think about what you can do to turn the situation around. This requires step one... looking at yourself or the situation objectively with no preconceived ideas that you are being abused. Focus on the solution to the problem rather than on the feelings the problem elicits, You are not stupid, the world does not hate you... step one. Step you locked your keys in the car again. What steps can you take to prevent doing that again? What caused you to do it? Were you so focused on something other than what you were doing that you took yourself out of the present moment and were dwelling on the past or speculating on the future rather than the NOW? Focus on what is in front of you. Consciously be aware of what you are doing that lead up to the situation you are currently in and move forward to step three.

Step three is to plan for all contingencies. Are you always running out of something? Do you find yourself stuck in the bathroom without toilet paper? Did your new shoes wear a blister on your feet? Did you spill something on your shirt? A lot of these mishaps can be avoided by thinking in advance. When you walk into a bathroom stall, have some tissue in your pocket or check to make sure there is paper on the roll before you do your business. Don't wear a white shirt if you plan to eat spaghetti for lunch or keep a spare pair of shoes and clothes in the car or your bag with a first-aid kit including pain relievers and Band aids.

The more prepared you are for minor disasters, the better able you will be to prevent them. If you are having a bad day at work or school and someone wants to take out their issues on you, you can still use these techniques to remove yourself from reacting negatively. Observe the accusing person the way Freud would view a psychotic patient. If indeed you have done them wrong, apologize and say you are sorry. Disarm them so they have no ammunition left to use against you. Smile and say, “I'm sorry you feel that way. That was not my intention and I don't know why you would think I would do or say something like that. Maybe we need to calm down and discuss why this made you upset with me or if something else is going on that made you feel this way?” This takes the pressure off of you and makes them take a closer look at their own actions. Always be pleasant not judging when you do this and you will be amazed at how it disarms someone. Just knowing you are open to correcting the issue, even if you don't feel you caused it, is often enough to start a civil dialogue where you can both work through issues rather than let them fester and rise again.

Review The Steps and Put Them Into Practice

  1. Remove yourself emotionally from feeling like you are the target for everything that can and will go wrong. You are not at fault. If you are, don't beat yourself up or let others berate you. Learn from your mistakes and become a better person because of it. Do not be abusive to yourself, your computer, your phone, your shoes, your partner, anyone or anything. That solves nothing and only sets you up for future melt-down patterns that make the situation worse not better, This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is ONLY a test. There is no need to panic. If you have to or if you can, try to walk away from the issue for a bit and return with a clear head and go on to step two.
  2. ACT NOW – Acquire Conscious Thinking to actively solve the situation and create habits that will allow you to do so more easily in the future. Do not focus on past failures or anxieties over what the future holds. Focus on the NOW. Do what you can to alleviate the situation. If you have to ask for help, do so and if people refuse to help you, don't get upset with them. Having a person you can contact to bring you a spare set of keys, a fresh change of clothes, recite the grocery list you left on the kitchen counter, etc. is always a plus, but if you don't have a person you trust, you can always move on to step three.
  3. Plan ahead for all contingencies. If you lose your phone a lot, try to formulate a plan to make sure you only place your phone in a designated spot. Get a belt holster or secret slide in pocket like runner's use to keep it on your person or have a fancy charging pad and always place it there. Put an ap on your computer that allows you to track where your phone is located. If you lock your keys in your car, get a spare one and keep it in your desk drawer or locker or hide a spare one if you have an old style key or find a designated person to keep a spare set for your house and vehicle. Better yet, make it a conscious habit to pat yourself down or hold your key to your face whenever you get out or put a bell on your key so it makes a noise or lock your car door with it and listen for the sound of the beep. It all depends on what type car you drive, but the better you plan for something to go wrong, the less likely it is to be a major pain when or if it does.


New Year: New Lessons: New Chance to Grow

As I was walking along the beach with friends after going back and putting more money in the meter with a credit card this time, some of my other friends said the pay meters where they were parked were not working and how awful it was that the beach charged so much money to park on a holiday when other nearby beaches allowed you to park for free all year long. I don't really mind paying. I don't go there that often and they provide pretty decent restrooms and showers to wash the salt and sand off and the view is worth a little extra money. I don't want to complain. Still, when my friends walked a little further than I had anticipated, I wished I had brought my phone so I could add more money and stay with them and didn't have to worry about paying a fine if I stayed out too late.

Just before I headed back, we came across this guy dressed in a shiek-like outfit. I am sure it has a proper name (agbada maybe?). On his head was a brightly patterned green and gold headscarf that looked Egyptian or Arabic and long white thin pants and a long white shirt coat of the same cloth and thickness. Around his head, holding the head covering in place was a spiraling band of gold with black intertwining metal and a snake's head sticking out like an Egyptian God in the front. In his hand was a twisted shofar or ram's horn. It just so happened that several of the friends I was with were Jewish and explained to those of us who weren't that it was Jewish tradition to blow the shofar to ring in the New Year.

Even though it was a little bizarre to see an African American from Atlanta dressed like a shiek standing in the Atlantic Ocean blowing on a ram's horn, it was oddly exhilarating and we stood as if being transported back in time. It was almost magical with the fog hanging over the ocean and the sun peaking out behind a sea of gray clouds that spread so far they rivaled the depth and breadth of the oceans itself. I hated to leave, but after paying $14 for parking, I could not imagine having to pay a $25 or $35 ticket and besides, I had never gotten any tickets and didn't want to mess up my perfect law abiding record, which brings me back to the conclusion of this article!

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I don't know about most people, but I don't like to mess up things. I generally follow the rules as long as they make sense and are designed to make things run smoothly for everyone concerned. In other words, I like to do things the right way. I like efficiency and productivity: smooth sailing not rough waters. I like to behave properly, though I am not beyond being silly or above saying and doing things I will later regret. Still, I generally try to do the best I can with what I have because doing so makes me feel good about myself and good about doing the right thing to help others.

No Matter How Bad You Think You Have It, Trust Me You Are Not Alone

As I was walking back to my truck at the beach I saw a middle aged man inserting his charge card into the parking meter machine as his wife looked on at a distance. He was leaning forward trying to read the instructions, which is actually kind of hard to do with black digital writing on a poorly lighted khaki green screen in direct sunlight. After a few failed attempts the man said, “stupid machine” as his wife gently guided him on what buttons to push to add more time and get a ticket to print out to put in the dash of the windshield. I felt his pain, but inside I was laughing. I knew exactly what he was feeling. He felt stupid and he was blaming it on the machine not on himself. So why do we do that? Are we trying to deflect our embarrassment of self-failure toward an inanimate object or the people who designed it?

I remember just the other day I was trying to drive in the dark and the rain. The pavement was black and you could not see the lines on the road. The traffic lights reflected off the pavement like a Christmas display at Times Square and I found myself driving in an emergency lane thinking it was the main road and then getting mad at myself and then the designers of the road. I felt like there was something wrong with me and that made me upset with the conditions that made me feel this way. I was indignant and embarrassed and a little scared that I might have to stop driving at night in the rain anyway and that made me feel old and fearful that the freedoms I loved would be removed from me all because whoever designed the roads and lights had not done their part in designing them for those of us with aging or impaired vision corrected by lenses. Why should I expect the world should conform to me to make my life easier though and why should this make me upset?

Once You Are Aware of How Unfair the World is, You Can Either Do Something to Make Things Fairer or Accept and Endure the Indignities

Years ago I took part in a disability awareness day. I have never quite looked at the world the same since then. I discovered that sidewalks and uneven ground were a nightmare to navigate and that life in general is set up to accommodate the able bodied, even down to toilets, pay windows and doors and that when you feel excluded, you feel hurt, like either there is something wrong with you and you don't belong or that other people are excluding you and don't care as long as their needs are being accommodated. If you have problems with the way things are then you need to deal with it. It is not their problem it is yours, right?

I went on-line to see if there was any research on why we feel so hurt and angry when things do not go as planned and of course came upon one of those 'we-answer-all' forums where people were telling this girl that she was childish and needed to grow up and get used to disappointment and not expect the world to change to meet her expectations but to accept that she had no control over the things that bothered her and to just suck-it-up like everyone else and learn to cope. Like that was ever a good thing to say to anyone, but especially to someone who is sensitive and feels mortally wounded when the fast food clerk puts pickles on their burger when they clearly said no pickles and then gave them iced tea instead of coke. The world has come to an end!!! That's how I used to feel anyway before I stopped eating hamburgers, drinking cokes and going to fast food restaurants, but there are some things you can't really avoid especially if you make your living doing them, like typing on a computer or downloading photos or selling yourself (or rather the product you created) on social media.

I have gone into a tear laden tirade when trying to upload a story to Hubpages when my internet connection seemed slower than dial-up or it took ten minutes to download one picture when I had thirty I wanted to upload to a volunteer group who were excited to share their exploits with others. So how do you handle situations like that? How do you not let frustrations and disappointments, especially daily or even minute by minute ones drive you up the wall? What if your spouse or children or your boss or coworkers are plucking an unpleasant tune on your very last nerve until you want to get up and walk out and say, “Have fun without me, go find a new whooping cushion to abuse because I am out the door folks!” Oh and don't tell me you have NEVER been there because even the best of us feel hurt and abused at times.

A lot of the troubles that cause us frustration are created by us, but sometimes things happen that are not in our control and we humans like to be in control. If you think about it, being in control of things means you have mastered them. They do not control you, you control them and as a benevolent being, you will of course do your best to be fair and not harm anyone or anything to prove you are the boss and they are not. Unfortunately a lot of people use control to take advantage of others and things and this brings a lot of hurt and angst, especially if you feel powerless to stop it.

The bottom line is that if we act like victims, we will most likely feel we are being treated unfairly by life in general. We will expect things to go wrong. We will expect to be treated poorly because of the way we look, the way we dress, the color of our skin, the sex we are associated with, etc. If you are part of the elite group of people, the charming personality, the good looks, the money, the brains, then you may be less sensitive when things go wrong, but none of us are immune to feelings of frustration when things don't go the way we want them to go.

What Actions Yield the Best Results in Changing Things that Seem Unfair?

Stay positive. Don't panic, don't blame, don't give human qualities to inanimate objects, Do not dehumanize the desk clerk or your teacher or the university system or the hospital staff workers or anyone or anything. This creates more unfairness not less and while it may make you feel superior for a while, when you come down off your Megatron high, you will see that cooperation and encouragement, not crushing the spirit of those who oppose you will yield better, more long lasting results.

Don't form unrealistic expectations. People are unpredictable at times, as are circumstances. Things will not always go as planned and that's okay. Be open to change and try not to take it personally. Understand that you have bad days too and would want someone to understand and forgive you. If someone is flat-out rude to you and dismisses your concerns as invalid, find ways to get your point across without getting yourself in trouble. I write for Hubpages to express my opinions, but you can ask to see a manager, write a blog, create a review online for all to see. Contact the corporate manager or the Better Business Bureau or write a letter or formulate a group of people to address what you feel is unjust and provide detailed ideas on how things could be made better or suggest a compromise which would be beneficial to all parties concerned.

If you receive constant frustrations in your life they will impact you negatively and make you bitter and angry and may cause you to shut down your emotions until one day you explode in rage and do more harm to yourself than to those you feel have wronged you. I remember dating a Ranger who nearly destroyed a cigarette machine (yes, I am an old person!) because it took his money and did not release his cigarettes. He beat the machine and yelled at it and cursed until his whole body turned red and sweat poured out saturating his clothing.

When his friend walked up, he said, “You know, all you have to do is go to the concierge and they will replace your money or give you a pack they have behind the counter?”

You see, it is often as simple as that. State your needs, express your concerns, seek solutions, take a time out to cool down if you are angry or upset. Keep in mind that people feel emotions differently and often based on past experiences that you might never have felt. It does not mean they are crazy or mental, but you can help them by trying to get them calm, make them laugh at the situation. Let them know that you have felt upset too, but this is how you handled it and made it better.

Unfortunate events happen to everyone. Unfairness is a given. Some people seem to get all the good stuff while some seem to get the worst and are told that it is their fault because they didn't work hard enough or try hard enough or they had a negative attitude instead of a positive one. Yes, life is unfair at times and if you were dealt a bad hand to begin with, it is going to be harder to do well in the game than someone who was dealt a great hand, but who said you had to play that game or those cards? Lay the cards down. Find a game you are good at. Don't resign yourself to play an unfair game, but do remain civil and search for alternative outlets for your angst that will not harm others. ”

You've heard the saying, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,” or at least a little wiser and more cautious. Just know that if things are not going right in your life, there are steps you can take to make things better. Even though we can't control everything and make our lives perfect pictures of peace and paradise, we can learn from the bad things and use what we have learned to help others and make the world a little better place for those we marginalize thinking they got what they deserved so why should we care?

Life is a give and take kind of thing. If you can't take anymore upset, don't cause more upset to change the balance. ACT NOW! Think about what you can do to make things better even if it is simply to laugh at yourself or lovingly correct someone who is being obnoxiously rude toward you.

There is a story that says when a butterfly flaps it's wings thousands of miles away it creates a current that travels the world. Think about that next time you want to throw your computer up against a wall when it fails to follow your commands and expectations. As a Christian I wonder what God would like to do to me when I fail to follow his commands, yet how loving he is to withhold judgment and to encourage me to repent of my sins and make a greater effort to work within the confounds of my existence not only to make my life better but to help others in their own journey. It's humbling to let go of hurt feelings. Doing so requires forgiveness of self and others. That takes work but the results are worth it.

The story about the butterfly goes on to say that when the winds from the butterfly wings reach across the seas, they are strong enough to cause a hurricane. I would highly advise you not to cause such a flap that you destroy things in your wake, but you do have power to control some things and to lift up others on the gentle winds that you create by floating like a butterfly and carrying sting salve or an epi pen around in your pocket in case you run into stinging bees.

Just because life is not always fair, does not mean you need to blow up or suffer in silence and endure. Try making small changes and addressing small issues rather than letting them get the best of you and you will take great strides toward a better future for yourself and others.

© 2019 Beverly English

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