Imagine you are in your car driving to work in the morning. As usual you are in a hurry, and traffic is backed up because stupid people have to slow down to see some guy changing his tire on the freeway. You are tired and hungry because you haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and maybe, just maybe, you are unfortunate enough to spill coffee all in your car.
The natural reaction in this situation is to get frustrated.
The worst-case scenario is that you let that frustration get the best of you, which leads to you doing or saying something you’ll regret. The best case scenario? You follow the advice of Albert Ellis, the second most influential psychotherapist in history according to 422 APA psychologists, and just don’t believe in getting frustrated. (Carl Rogers was first, Sigmund Freud was third).
How do you not “believe” in frustration? You could read Ellis’ “How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable About Anything—Yes, Anything,” or you can stop relying on one word: “should.”
The reality is that events don’t make you frustrated — your beliefs do.
We normally believe traffic shouldn’t be this bad, idiot drivers shouldn’t be gawking at minor incidents, and Starbucks should make a coffee lid that doesn’t pop off and spill in your car’s cup holder. Everything should go a certain way — your way, specifically. We have these set expectations for things, and when they don’t go the way we like, we get frustrated.
But the reality is the universe doesn’t always go our way. Why should it? Nothing “should,” “ought” or “must” go your way — your smarter side knows the world doesn’t work like that.
“ … if you understand how you upset yourself by slipping into irrational shoulds, oughts, demands, and commands, unconsciously sneaking them into your thinking, you can just about always stop disturbing yourself about anything.”
In fact, Ellis developed a simple “ABCD” plan to help change your easily frustrated mindset to a more rational one.
A is for adversity. It’s a fact that everyone in the world faces it — you aren’t the only one. Shit just happens.
B is for beliefs. You only have a problem with the adversity because you believe it should be different. You think life shouldn’t be this hard? Ask yourself how that’s rational.
C is for consequences. Do you lash out in anger because you believe you’ve been wronged? Do you want to sit there feeling angry or sorry for yourself? Don’t make things worse; none of that is productive.
D is for dispute. Challenge your way of thinking and overcome your emotions. Change your perspective on the situation. The universe owes you nothing; you deserve nothing. It may not have been the first time this has happened, and it probably won’t be the last. It happened, it will pass, and insignificant things like one bad day won’t alter your entire life.
” ‘I would very much like or prefer to have success, approval, or comfort,’ and then end with the conclusion, ‘But I don’t have to have it. I won’t die without it. And I could be happy (though not as happy) without it.’ “
You’ve probably heard this before: The key to being happy is to lower your expectations. It’s not that you have to settle for expecting the worse — your expectations are just impossible and irrational to begin with. You can still hope for the best, but save yourself the unnecessary stress and always expect and mentally prepare yourself for failure.
As Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet”:
“There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”