Your car starts to make a funny noise on the way to the
grocery store. You feel your heart sink
a little. “Not you too,” you say to yourself as you tell the two kids, an eight
and ten year old, in the back to stop fighting or they both will be grounded
from their electronics. No one is happy, not even the car.
Shopping for groceries on a slim budget is giving you a
headache. It doesn’t help that you have to keep saying “no, we can’t get that”
down every aisle as your kids beg for their favorites. Your annoyance is
After getting the kids and fewer bags of groceries than you
wanted back in the car, the engine doesn’t just make a funny noise it starts to
sound like a dying cow.
“No, no, NO!” you scream.
This can’t be happening. You could barely afford groceries,
there is no way you can afford car repairs and there is no way you can afford
being without a car.
In a situation like this, frustration, anxiety and worry are
all understandable emotions. For some it may be just an every now and then bad
day. For others, it may be a typical every day. Either way, it doesn’t feel
The usual reaction to this frustration is a burst of anger,
but that only helps for a moment until the worry comes back. In our anger, we
have upset our kids, a service person, or others who happened to be around.
This has us feeling worse, and more frustrated.
It feels like a trap.
And, it is a trap as long as we believe that it is the
situation that is having us feel so bad.
Now, I can hear you saying, “But it is the situation. If the
car wasn’t breaking down, the kids weren’t screaming and I had plenty of money,
I wouldn’t feel this way.”
That seems logical, but it keeps us in the trap.
So if it’s not the situation that is having us feel so bad,
what is it?
It is what we believe about the situation that has us
feeling bad and therefore trapped.
Let me explain.
We feel good when we are going towards what we want, and we
believe that we can get there. We feel
bad when we aren’t. Take, for instance, driving to a destination with plenty of
time. Even if you find the road under construction and your planned way
blocked, you would just look for a different route. You wouldn’t feel worried
or frustrated. You might feel a moment of annoyance but then you would focus on
what you need to do to get to where you want to go.
Now, if you were taking this same trip but needed to be
there at a certain time, this same situation with construction blocking your
chosen route would create a much different set of emotions. The emotions may
quickly go from annoyance to frustration and anger or even panic. Why? Because
you believe that the obstacle is going to keep you from what you want. It
hasn’t yet, but because you believe it will, every slow car and stop light
starts to reinforce the belief that it will, and therefore, the negative
emotions increase. You are thinking more about what will happen when you are
late, and what idiots block a road during rush hour than you are about what
path will get you to where you need to be on time.
The bad feeling we get is from believing that something is
going to keep us from what we want and there is nothing we can do to change it.
Fortunately, when we notice that we feel bad, we have a choice. One option is
to believe that we are not going to get what we want. We become upset with what
we think is in our way and then feel anxious and worried about what we believe
is coming. Another option is to believe
there is the possibility of it all working out, and that things will get better.
We are then able to shift our thoughts to what it is that we really want and
look for ways to get there.
In our example, even if you have a deadline but believe that
even though you have to take a detour you will still find a way to make it, the
emotions you feel are a lot less stressful.
So, it is not the situation, but what you believe about the
situation that determines how you feel and react. For things to get better, you
have to believe they can.
Okay, but how does knowing this help when you have a broken
car, screaming kids and a small budget? Knowing that it is your belief about
the situation that is having you feel bad doesn’t take away the fact that you
still have a car that is not sounding good and kids to feed. By believing that
you can find a solution does make a difference in how you feel and react. Believing that there is a way to work
things out has you looking for options that you may miss if you are worried or
You could keep believing that things are not going to work
out and blame your car, your ex or the economy for your bad luck. You can even
worry about what disaster the future will bring to you next, none of which will
move you any close to what it is you really want. Or you can believe that you
will find a solution that will move you closer to what you want.
You have a choice to believe
things can work out
believe that they won’t.
It’s up to you.
What will you believe?