Among the emotions that can lead us to procrastinate, you will most probably be surprised to see me include hostility or anger. There are basically two reasons why I do this.
First, anger often accompanies anxiety which, as we have already seen it, is one of the main causes of procrastination. Second, not only is anger often the motor of actions of revenge, but in order to take revenge, many of us will procrastinate indefinitely about what we are asked to do—at least, on a more or less conscious basis. By behaving in this way, we think that we harm others. But what we fail to realize is that we often do ourselves a lot of harm as well.
For example, if Mary harasses John (her husband) with recommendations and orders regarding a variety of things, it is possible that John, in his anger, will not only drag his feet and procrastinate, but that he will also harm himself at the same time. We can also refer to the classic case where a child is insulted by a comrade who calls him all sorts of names and, in his anger, not only punches his “enemy” but also breaks his wrist.
Like all emotions, anger is the result of a thought that we often hold unconsciously in our minds. This thought consists in believing that:
- One should not behave as he does, or that
- One should not have behaved as he did, or that
- One should behave as he does not, or that
- One should have behaved as he did not.
Let’s also notice that an anger-creating thought always includes:
- A command or order—for example, “he should” or “she must”, or
- An interdiction or ban—for example, “she should not” or “he doesn’t have the right to.”
In other words, anger is not caused by the single fact that we find an unhealthy behavior in others, but by the thoughts we have in mind about this unhealthy behavior.
Now this is quite amazing to see how we—adults and generally rational persons—can indulge in such illogical thinking. When we claim loud and clear that what happens should not happen, needless to say it simply borders on madness! As a matter of fact, that we affirm that the sun should rise in the west or that we claim that John should not annoy us simply refers to the same erroneous thinking. Let’s face it: if the sun should rise in the west, that’s what would happen in reality… and if John should not bother us, that’s what would happen in reality as well.
Therefore, we are sure to be mistaken when we declare that the sun should rise in the west—because it actually rises in the east—and that John should not cause us trouble—because that’s what he actually does.
We can also conclude that the thought that causes our anger is always false, irrational, and unrealistic. The fact that there are in our lives lots of painful, tedious, costly, and unpleasant things is beyond any doubt. However, let’s remember that none of these things are forbidden by reality because what reality forbids never happens.
That being said, it is obviously impossible for us never to get angry. Reality simply does not forbid us to feel this emotion! What happens is that anger-creating thoughts spring to our minds at almost all the frustrations of our lives, immediately causing us to be angry or hostile. However, it is possible for us to moderate both the intensity and duration of our anger—that is, if we get to think in a more realistic and rational way.
In Part 2 of this article, I will introduce a very powerful argument to help us counter the misguided idea that causes our anger. Stay tuned!
© Chantal Beaupre 2011
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