Peace begins when expectations end.
Graphic Image of a Peace DoveAnon

This time of year, without fail there always seems to be an increase in the number of people who get angry while driving or complain about those that drive poorly in the winter months. I personally do not believe that there is an increase in poor drivers in winter, just that winter conditions emphasize how bad drivers are year round.  However, I do believe that there is an increase in angry drivers.

My point of this post is not that people are poor drivers, but more to address anger.  I believe that the root of angry drivers and anger as a whole comes from expectations. An expectation is something that we place extremely high emphasis on and to a certain extent, something that we demand to be done a particular way – “my way.” Unfortunately reality does not cater to our demands and expectations (regardless if they are realistic) and when reality does not match with our expectations we are left with the thought, “why.” Why would someone drive so poorly or why someone wouldn’t just do “X”? Whatever the expectation is doesn’t really matter (bus arrival time, house chores, employer demands, etc.) as it will always lead to the same outcome – emotional disturbance.

The problem with expectations is that many people expect different things. So what happens when people’s expectations do not align? For example, one person expects to drive to a destination as safe as possible versus another person who expects to get to their destination as fast as possible. This is where tempers begin to flare.  Both parties are holding expectations of another and neither are being met. The higher the value we place on our expected reality, the greater the emotional disturbance when reality does not coincide.

Anger commonly comes from the mentality, an expectation, that others should just do as we do and the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, most individual’s utopia is best suited for one person – our self. In our mind if everyone would just act and think the way we act and think everyone would get along. The problem is that we all have different desires and perspectives on what those thoughts and actions should be. As a Cognitive therapist, I find it extremely important to let go of expectations, all expectations, as they do not motivate us, but actually inhibit us. Many individuals with high expectations of self and others may notice a common theme throughout their lives – they are often angry at the world and tend to push people away from them.

In a world driven by expectations, which creates an excessive amount of unnecessary negative emotions, there is a simple cure. Tolerance. When we realize that the way we do things is our preference and not the only way for something to be done, we can let go of those negative emotional states that create ongoing conflict and arguments in our life. Sure our preferred method may be more effective or efficient, for ourselves, but another individual may find our way just as trivial. By developing tolerance for others actions and trying to understand other individuals, while not assuming that we have all the answers or that our way is the “right” way, we can lay rest to the unwanted disturbing emotional outbursts that we often find ourselves apologizing for after.

Anger not only affects those around us, but negatively affects our self as well for:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
Statue of BuddhaBuddha

“Buddha’s statue near Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh India” by Purshi – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –