We all know the feeling. Your friend talks behind your back; your boyfriend cheats; your teacher gives you a low grade after you worked your ass off; your boss blames you for something you didn’t do.
You deserve to be pissed off, right? Or at least that’s what your friends tell you over drinks after you’ve explained to them why you’re not feeling so great.
In the moment, your friends’ advice feels good and helpful, but I want to talk about why letting yourself settle into emotions just because you’re told you deserve to feel them isn’t really the best course of action.
Anger can be a natural and instinctive response to problems, but if we let it take over our emotions, it becomes crippling.
Strong feelings like anger indicate we should change something about how we’re interacting with people and/or whom we’re interacting with. Let anger be a sign that it’s time for an evaluation, but don’t let it influence that evaluation.
It’s far too easy to let anger cloud our judgment, especially when we are stuck in thinking we have the right to be angry just because our friends say so.
Societal norms tend to dictate when we should be angry or emotionally hurt, and it’s easy to lose sight of what we’re actually feeling when our reactions are prescribed for us. They act as a crutch, helping us justify anger that perhaps isn’t actually valid.
Rather than get mad because we ‘should’ or ‘deserve’ to, it’s important to take the time to evaluate our reactive feelings. Why am I feeling this way? What part of that other person’s actions is bothering me, and why is that the case? It will be easier to recognize people’s intentions if you aren’t caught up in being angry.
Let’s take the typical example of a significant other ignoring a phone call. Rather than getting mad simply because society says significant others ‘should’ return phone calls, take the time to look into the issue.
If he or she was slammed at work, then there’s no point to be mad because he or she didn’t intend to neglect you. If he or she purposefully ignored you, then maybe you need to reevaluate your relationship. Either way, getting to the bottom of the issue will put you in a position where your feelings become honest, not superficial.
What you’ll probably find is that once you pinpoint your real feelings, it will be a lot easier to take action and deal with whatever is causing your anger, allowing yourself to move on and decreasing future potential for negative emotions.
If you constantly find that someone is frequently giving you good reason to be angry or hurt, then it might be time to create some distance. Trusting yourself to make that distance will be easier since you’ve based your actions on your own feelings rather than on social norms, and chances are you won’t be left second-guessing yourself after the fact.
Make your decisions according to what you know to be true for yourself, and don’t let the opinions of society justify emotions that won’t help you in the long run.
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