Help me manage my disproportionate anger with life's frustrations!
December 6, 2017 3:22 PM   Subscribe

When things go wrong, I have a temper about it. This sucks and is not fun! I get disproportionately angry or irritated about things that I have no control over, and I'd like to learn how to manage or assuage those feelings. Examples inside!

I experience this relatively frequently with work, which is what prompted this question. Weeks ago I detailed a project to our #2 Person at work and he enthusiastically gave me the green light to pursue it. These projects often involve interviewing people outside of our company. I started sending emails and coordinating schedules over the ensuing weeks, and when I went back to #2 to finalize dates, he told me he had never cleared the project with #1 Person. As #2 has a great deal of autonomy in running the department, it didn't occur to me that this could be a possibility, we have no established protocol with this sort of thing and a 'yes' from #2 is usually a firm 'yes'.

I showed the original documents to #1, who does not seem super hot on the project, and now I don't know where it's going to wind up. I'm extremely frustrated by #2's actions and embarrassed by our department… gaffes like this are common. I don't want to have to send emails apologizing for wasting everyone else's time. I'm also disappointed because I was personally quite excited about this project.

Rationally, I know this isn't anything I had control over, but when things like this happen, I will stew about them for way too long, and I will feel very strong negative emotions, usually anger. I would like to be able to just move on with my day, or compartmentalize these events without feeling personally affronted. I will rant to friends to try to vent and I find it almost makes it worse

I've always had a temper, and I really dislike that. I have an awareness in the moment when I'm feeling overwhelmed with frustration, but I find it very hard to actually cope with those feelings. I've seen similar asks with advice like exercising/cooking, all of which I do! I'm generally a very happy person with a comfortable life situation, so I can see things more clearly after the fact and appreciate all the silver linings of my life, but when I'm mad, I'm just mad. What can I do to chill out in the moment when things hit a snag?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The example you gave was not so much "things hitting a snag" as "being expected to carry the can for management that didn't do its job properly" and strikes me as absolutely legitimate cause for considerable irritation and personal affront.

So I suspect that the real issue in this situation is not the anger and irritation, which any reasonable person would experience under these circumstances; it's the unproductive stewing over it afterwards.

Assuming there's no generalized anxiety going on, it's quite often the case that unproductive stewing is the last resort of a mind that's been given no decent alternative options. If you find that most of the things that leave you in this state are work-related, it might be a good idea to start thinking less about what you need to do to cope with feeling taken advantage of and more about what power, if any, you have to drive process improvements at your workplace.

I will rant to friends to try to vent and I find it almost makes it worse

Again, this is evidence that something is badly wrong with your workplace. If the best you can do about shit going down at work is vent to friends who don't even work there, then doing so is quite naturally going to achieve nothing but rubbing your nose in that intolerable situation.

If you genuinely don't believe that you can drive positive change in your workplace's culture, read Sick Systems and consider working elsewhere.

Even if you choose not to do that, "oh look, they fucked me again but they pay like a winning slot machine so they're worth it" might become a useful anti-resentment mantra. Simply reminding yourself that you are where you are because you chose to be might well be re-empowering enough to dispel the rage and frustration for another day.
posted by flabdablet at 5:20 PM on December 6 [3 favorites]


I suggest looking into dialectical behavior therapy. The skills you learn can and would help you in dealing with those kinds of situations.
posted by old_growler at 7:54 PM on December 6


I don’t know that you’ve described disproportionate anger here unles you stewed for a week, punched a wall, or snapped at an innocent coworker or something. To me you describe a frustrating work situation that pissed you off because it was mishandled and you care about your work.

Is work the only thing that induces this sort of response? Others will have good suggestions about letting go and of course that’s always worthwhile, but I’m reading a work problem, not a you problem.
posted by kapers at 8:28 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


My 3rd AskMe question:

How to deal with anger at things you can’t control?
posted by bendy at 12:08 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


Seconding everything flabdablet wrote. FWIW I became much happier when I finally got more management responsibilities, thus having a way to implement process improvements.

Also this: Even if you choose not to do that, "oh look, they fucked me again but they pay like a winning slot machine so they're worth it" might become a useful anti-resentment mantra. Simply reminding yourself that you are where you are because you chose to be might well be re-empowering enough to dispel the rage and frustration for another day.

Sometimes the "because you chose to be" is tricky in an economy where we can all feel as if we need to hang on to our jobs for dear life (i.e. it's not entirely choice), but it does help to recognize that you are a part of it and how. That recognition helps identify ways to change/improve.

In any case you don't have to send apologetic emails. I've seen things like this happen; businesses are complex beasts. Sometimes things fall through and they've truly fallen through, and the reasons being given aren't the whole truth (not saying it's untrue, just that humans being human, it's uncommon to get the whole truth). Sometimes things fall through and then all of a sudden they come back and go well. Sometimes they fall through, you rage at it, and a couple of months later you thank your lucky stars that it never happened for reasons that only became clear in that time.

Having at least some ability to improve things helps a very great deal. Do what you can to focus on that. If you are in a workplace where you truly can't, then yes, consider moving on.
posted by fraula at 2:14 AM on December 7


For me, flabdablet's last, "ok but they are actually paying me for dealing with this", helps a lot (especially against the backdrop of having free-lanced for longer than I care to be reminded of. As a freelancer, nobody pays you for wrangling your customers into their spot. And customers behave like a litter of Goldendoodle puppies. Law of nature).
posted by Namlit at 3:52 AM on December 7


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