I work with a lot of people who are often in conflict with people they work, or aspire to work with, or in their personal relationships. Time and again I see people become frustrated, angry, and hostile, all a result of having fixed and expectations of one another. Some hold onto and wear their resentment like a badge of honor. It's an exhausting way to live. Helping people recognize and reframe these control-based expectations is essential to real movement toward agreement, better experiences and overall emotional intelligence growth.
The source of anger and resentment is unmet expectations. Simply put, you are not here to live up to other people's expectations. Nor is anyone here to live up to yours. Think about the times you have been angry, aggravated, frustrated or downright pissed off. What was at the root of your upset? Chances are something you expected did not happen the way you wanted or assumed it would. Expectations can be good when used to energize and motivate in a positive direction. However, when entangled with unrealistic suppositions often developed in early childhood, they are likely to cause disappointment. Common reaction to disappointment is anger, resentment and depression.
Often when people come up against what is their idea of right and wrong, they tend to revert to old coping pattens of thinking. These 'rules of life' might have helped you make it through childhood safely and securely but they no longer are useful if they get in your way as an adult. In an effort not to lose what is really a false sense of control and security, people unrealistically expect all people to behave a certain way and presume all situations should turn out as they think they should. If any of this sounds a bit familiar, know that in these circumstances you unwittingly set yourself up for an unhappy experience. You will likely feel the blunt force of disappointment, anger, resentment, and rage.
What you don't realize is that this powerful negative emotion was stirred up by no one other than you so that you could 'be right' in the situation. You seek your validation through making others wrong. Being right makes you feel better about yourself because it gives you an excuse to direct your anger, your blame, at someone else instead of taking responsibility for your own agitation.
Know this: Any time any one or any thing controls how you value yourself or how feel, you are a victim to that person or thing.
No other person or situation can make you angry. Events alone do not cause anger. If someone does or says something that is not in line with your expectations you have the power to choose to react or respond. You can blindly react as if on autopilot as you run you old victim oriented "how dare she do this to me" routine that holds you back from moving forward or you can stop and deliberately decide how to respond.
Resentment is a thief that you invite in to steal your personal power. The more you resent the more you will feel victimized and powerless. Your emotions are indicators of whether or not you are about to act in a way that supports you or adds insult to injury. If you feel good, or at least calm, you are fully present in a position to respond productively from a centered place. If you feel bad, you've slipped into old thinking patterns of the past and are reacting automatically and irresponsibly from a disturbed place. Resentment over stymied expectations is not your friend in any circumstance. Pain can happen, anger and resentment is a choice.
If you discover that you've been hit in the fact with a thwarted expectation take a breath. Instead of cursing, believing that you've been foiled yet again, ask yourself the following questions:
Was your expectation realistic? Just because you would do or say something in a specific situation does that mean that everyone has to act in the same way? Do you even have all the facts? Are you making up any of the details of the circumstance? Are you making assumptions about the other person's motivations, agenda, thoughts or beliefs? How do you know what you assume to be true is absolutely true? Is there any other way the situation could be perceived?
And one more question:
Even if this other person disrespected or devalued you in some way, was it what you expected them to do? If so, look within to reveal where you disrespect or devalue yourself through your thoughts and beliefs about you. You cannot get that which you do not already have. If you want to be valued, respected, or loved you have to respect, value and love yourself first.
Once you've examined your expectations, change your thoughts, and decide upon the best course of action.
If someone has maligned you in some way, it is not within your control to alter another person's behavior. The only thing you really can change is your inner image of that person in such a manner that you are feeling less disappointed, hurt, bitter, cheated, or wronged by them. Truth is, everyone is doing the best they can with the light they have to see. Some people are missing a few batteries in their flashlight. Others have no idea how to turn on a flashlight. They are in the dark, unconscious to, their own unrealistic expectations and misguided thoughts that their actions are based upon. You can choose to dim your light to match their or shine your light to brighten their way.
As you begin to appreciate others in spite of their faults, you begin to appreciate yourself in spite of your own faults. You are doing the best you can and have opportunities to learn new, more productive, ways of thinking. As you do so, you will enjoy renewed energy, a more positive attitude and much better experiences when you let go of beating yourself up over unmet, often unrealistic, expectations of yourself.
"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." - Carrie Fisher - Author, Actress
Copyright (c) 2009 Valery Satterwhite