L: “ My husband made me angry because he did not wash the dishes.”
S: “Can you imagine someone else in the same situation having a different reaction?”
L: “Umm.. I guess so”
S: “What are some ways another person might react?”
L: “They might not notice, they might ask their husband again to wash the dishes, they might just ignore it.”
Our flawed perception is in thinking that the characters reaction is dependent on the characters disposition. We mark it up to a personality trait. “She’s laid back, I am uptight... He’s easygoing, I am rigid... and because of that I yell, sing, scream, laugh, or cry” When we blame it all on personality we dehumanize ourselves. Painting ourselves as hopeless creatures at the mercy of our personality. Humanity is much more than riding the waves of our personality traits.
If it is not our personality that determines our reaction, then why do some of us react differently to the same event? The answer is in your story. The story that you say to yourself about an event precipitates your reaction. Back to the above the scenario; When Ms. L’s husband did not wash the dishes she created a story “He must wash the dishes when I ask him to, he is so forgetful I can’t stand it, he is always forgetting everything it is so awful.” Albert Ellis called these self-talk phrases, irrational beliefs. Irrational beliefs are extreme phrases; must, have to, should, and I can’t stand it. Now, someone else can create a different story and it goes something like this “I wish he would’ve washed the dishes” or “I do not like it when he forgets to wash the dishes but I can stand it.” Same situation but a different attitude = a different behavioral and emotional reaction.
Two 9-year olds are at Coney Island Beach. It is perfect beach weather and they are running toward the ocean. Toes first and then they begin to brave the cold water by going waist deep. They are looking out at the sea and they notice a wave approaching. Before they can inhale the wave is upon them. Tumbling forth the wave washes over them. The first little girl pops up to the surface and begins to scream and cry. “What a Horrible wave, I got so scared, this is awful!” The second little girl pops up to the surface with loud giggles. “This was so much fun, I loved it, when is the next wave coming!”
Your husband can’t make you angry, your boyfriend can’t make you anxious, your wife can’t make you feel guilty, your friends cant make you feel ashamed, and life does not make you depressed. People and events don't make us react; we react based on the story we're telling ourselves.
At My Therapist New York we help you change your story. Want to find out how? Let's get to work!
Sara is a therapist in New York offering individual psychotherapy, couples counseling, sex therapy, life coaching, family counseling and more at http://www.mytherapist.info