“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” Theodore Isaac Rubin

 

 

 

 

 

 

You get cut off in traffic. You almost get in an accident. But you don’t. You are frustrated. You are a little scared. But you’re safe. You start screaming profanities and grumbling about this other person. How can they do that? Don’t they know what they could have caused?! They need to be taught a lesson! This goes on for at least 5-10 minutes. If someone is lucky and they call you during this you will vent to them about it. When you get to your destination you vent to anyone who will hear. Total time spent on your life on this almost accident: 1 ½ hours. Looking back how do you feel? Good? Relieved? Avenged? Justified? Take a moment and really, honestly, think about how that feels. How your life has improved? If any. Well, your heart isn’t beating fast anymore…

I’m going to challenge this completely, keep an open mind with me.

That 1 ½ hours has actually made your life worse, your mood worse, your soul worse. It was only a quick fix. It only made you feel relieved and avenged at the moment. Even though your venting decreased your heart rate, at the same time, it’s planting seeds of destruction in you that can grow in other places of your life. Here’s the problem with your 1 ½ hour solution: the driver who cut you off has. no. idea. They did not learn a lesson, they have no idea who you were, perhaps have no idea what happened, maybe they know what happened and feel horrible and just came from a difficult meeting at their kid’s school or at work, or a loved one dying, maybe they don’t care at all, or maybe they did learn a lesson because someone else was in the car with them and gave them the same verbal beating you would have to “teach them a lesson”. If you truly want to teach someone a lesson, think about doing something constructive and go work for the police, the DMV, the city council or some other place where you can actually make a difference. I am 100% for justice and making a difference, but where it actually makes a difference and also doesn’t impact your mental health and people around you.

Now I want to take this thinking about traffic and apply it to your life. Where are you trying to “teach people a lesson” with your cutting looks, verbal comments, or perhaps ignorance? The problems I’m talking about are where the other person is clearly in the wrong. The driver clearly was not paying attention and could have caused a real accident. That is not cool at all. That is dangerous. However, the situation and the behavior is the problem, not the person on the inside. I am not immune to this. If my husband contradicts himself, I want to “teach him a lesson” so he gets it and changes. If he changes, things will be better. He needs to change. I am good. How much time in our life do we spend soaking in this?

Ughhh… just writing this flips my stomach around and around. Because it’s not who I am. It doesn’t feel right at all. But I still mess up and attack others. I want to love my husband and the people around me. No matter what. Even if they mess up. I want to bring light into this world, not darkness. Even when tough things come my way. I want others to extend this same grace to me. I want them to love me no matter what I do. If I do something clearly not okay, I want them to communicate this to me, but in love, not in criticism.

Here’s my question to you, are you honestly improving your life when you are venting emotionally after some little situation on the road or even with a loved one? They clearly have done something wrong and it’s not okay!! The problem needs to change!! Is that the key to getting them to change? Let me give you an alternative to these situations and be open to how you will feel after trying it differently. Warning: If someone is clearly causing abuse or harm that is a different story. I am merely writing about daily problems and situations that we seem to experience.

Here is how you can change your lens when you are hit with a tough situation or problem in front of you:

  1. Validate yourself and the situation. In the case of someone cutting you off, you can say to yourself “I almost got in an accident. I am feeling scared and my heart is beating.” If it’s about a loved one you can say to yourself “I am confused by what they are saying. I love them but I am feeling a little hurt and need some clarification”. You do not want to ignore it if something isn’t okay. Start with connecting with how you are feeling. This shifts “venting” to purposeful validation. Way different and more efficient for your mental health.  
  2. The problem is the problem. Attacking the person will not improve the situation. It will only bring them and you down. We are going to have issues with other people. We can’t avoid that. It is going to happen. Us having expectations that problems won’t arise with other people will only cause more hurt. When we attack the person, it just spins the situation around and around and nothing is solved.
  3. Flip your lens to truly see the other person. Most people are doing the best they can with what they have. Get curious. What is going on with the person? What do you think caused the problem or wrong choice to happen? Instead of attacking, start to wonder. This unfolds possibilities instead of more problems. Princess Diana said, “The greatest problem in the world today is intolerance. Everyone is so intolerant of each other”. We need to shift towards loving other people no matter what and drawing boundaries where boundaries need to be drawn.
  4. Sometimes just be silent. We often think we need to say something to fix problems and other people. Sometimes the greatest solution is to not say anything. People are usually aware of their problems and know they need to change something. When we can be supportive and loving no matter what, they will see us as safe and come to us, asking for advice. This allows for greater breakthroughs instead of us trying to tell them what they need to do. Silence can also allow you to get more curious and see things you didn’t see right away. Silence can solve a lot.
  5. Move on. Yup. Move on. Get on with your day, with your life, your loved ones or your job. You’ll find that you don’t “miss” these little aggravating moments. It might be hard at first but as you move out of that grumbling space, you will find more joy. When you have more joy you will notice an improvement with your relationships and other things in your life.

Honestly, I am writing this blog to myself. I need it. I feel a shift occurring in myself just writing this. I want to love others more than I criticize or want them to change. I can’t control other people or situations, I can only control me. I want to move in this life loving others and at peace with myself. One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This may seem hard at first, especially when there is a big fat issue right in front of your face. It’s like you have a different lens and your eyes see the situation and the person differently. Try it and see how you can flip situations faster than you ever thought. Problems stop becoming problems and people start loving who they are and loving others. I guarantee you won’t miss the grumbling.

You don't have to disrespect and insult others simply to hold your own ground. If you do, that shows how shaky your own position is.  - Red Haircrow

Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys. - Rita Schiano

 

 

Heidi Waldoch, MA, LMFT, CDWF - Rogers & Lino Lakes
Heidi is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, MN Board, AAMFT Approved Supervisor LPCC Board Approved Supervisor, Certified Daring Way Facilitator, speaker and the owner of Bridging Hope Counseling.