I’m angry at everything…

… including myself.

Can our elder help a letter writer overcome their anger and – after a year of staying home due to Covid – their lack of motivation?

Dear EWC

For two weeks, possibly longer, I’ve just been angry, angry at what I’ve been seeing on the news, angry about my medical problems, and I’ve been angry at myself and my lack of ambition and drive to seek a career and education. I thought it was just a phase, that I was just being grumpy and sad, not depressed or anything. But my anger has made me say things to my mom I regret, so now my ears are open. A bit more about myself. I’ve always been a homebody, content with being in the background. For the past year, I’ve been lazy and irresponsible with my future thanks to Covid. I know I must act now for my financial safety: get a job or an education. I have no motivation to do either. In the past year, I’ve gotten too comfortable sitting in the dark by myself, so the thought of getting a job and interacting with people terrifies me and angers me greatly, especially due to what’s been happening this past year or so across America nearly has me steaming mad at people. I’m going to talk to my doctor about my anger at people, fear, and lack of motivation. In the meantime, any advice?

Grandpa-Matt replies

I feel that you are quite hard on yourself. Your self-directed anger is never a motivator for action or improvement. We all have this little judge in our brain, whose job is to encourage us to do better but uses the stick instead of the carrot. Calling yourself lazy, lacking ambition, and irresponsible only intensifies internal anger. 

Occasional anger is normal. Everybody experiences this emotion. We get hurt and angry because we have expectations that haven’t been met. Anger is a troubling feeling. It often shows up when we or others do not behave in a way that you would expect them to act. We all have expectations for everybody’s actions. The trouble is that they or we behave in a way to trigger our upset. 

I learned that we set up this experience of anger when we set our expectations much too high. If we think that we should always act in the way we expect, we are doomed to experience upset. This is because no one can consistently behave in an expected way. We are all human and sometimes fail. So we sabotage a relationship (with ourselves or others) every time we expect perfection!

This is where our fear comes into play. Early in life, we got the idea that somehow we haven’t measured up to the expectations of those we looked to for approval and acceptance. We took on the fear that we weren’t enough, not good enough, capable enough, talented enough, bright enough, etc. I am not a therapist, so all that I can express is my thoughts about the emotional causes when fear shows up. In my lifetime, every time I noticed that I was afraid about something, it always concerned what future events could negatively impact me. It didn’t matter whether it was about meeting new people, or risking rejection when asking a girl on a date, or envisioning a poor performance in school or at work, etc. 

Some fears help you to survive. They keep you from walking in traffic, or touching a hot stove, or taking dangerous physical risks, etc. There is danger in the world, and fear is a powerful emotion. As long as you don’t dwell on the future possibilities of not coping, you will be OK. 

It appears to me that the experiences of procrastination and lack of motivation that you are dealing with both have a common cause. They seem all to be justifications for avoiding producing positive results. Each of them gives you a reasonable excuse for avoiding responsibility for achieving a goal of yours.

I think the most significant and bottom line of these issues is fear. Some say it is short for Forget Everything And Run. Let’s look at why you stop, put off, delay, abandon, and or avoid applying yourself to goals you have assigned yourself. When we look deeply at our fears, it is usually the fear of failure or rejection that grabs our attention. 

Many people procrastinate because of this deep-set fear of failure. Rather than fail, a person will put off going through with the task, so they won’t have to admit failure or face criticism. In a way, accepting defeat in a job gives a person evidence that confirms the judgment that they are not good enough.

The error in that type of thinking is that people haven’t separated in their minds what a person does from who they are. For example, when I consider who I am, I know that I am a bright, intelligent, and resourceful man. And I do fail in a lot of things. I can’t dance, I can’t sing, I can’t solve Sudoku puzzles and a great many other things. But those are things that I cannot do, yet I am not a failure as a human being. 

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, failed the first one hundred times to be successful in developing the bulb. He didn’t quit. Later Edison said that it took 100 steps to find the right combination. He deserved success because of the mindset that his failures did not bring shame, but instead brought motivation, confidence, and determination. He knew he was on the right path and was OK. 

What will motivate you to action? In the sport of greyhound racing, an artificial or mechanical rabbit is used as a lure to motivate the dogs to chase it as fast as possible. With these animals, the drive is more instinctual than psychological. This is where you differ from the animal in the metaphorical race in which you are engaged. I don’t think the animals choose whether to do their best or not. Human beings do have a choice. 

Motivation is a minute-by-minute decision, just like walking. You regularly choose to take one foot and move it in front of the other, and the next step and the next, and so forth. The minute you decide not to take that next step, you are at a standstill. You will stay in that position forever until you choose to move forward. When you were a small child learning how to walk, you fell many times, but those failures didn’t stop you. You were a brave child! You are now a valuable, worthy person, capable of putting aside the fears and moving forward.

Motivation is another word meaning choice. Be clear that you are choosing to stop working the moment that you stop. It is your responsibility. Take charge and keep deciding to move ahead. Right now, in my view, you are choosing the path of failure. Maybe it is to prove that you are right in thinking that it is hopeless for you to create a long-term series of successful actions. 

Only you know the answers. We are just looking at the possibilities. If, for example, your favorite person’s life depended on you completing a group of tasks, would you do them quickly and to the best of your ability? Or if 5 million tax-free dollars were given to you to complete tasks, would you put the immediate effort into working to get the money? I’ll bet you would get right on the job. Or if 5 million wasn’t enough, how about 10 million? I believe everybody has a price. It is all down to a question of motivation. The bottom line is that you have to choose to have things different for yourself. 

I think your first step is to rebuild your self-esteem and claim your worthiness to have what you want in this world. Self-acceptance is the key. This research will assist you in this quest. Start by reading this article on the website.  Interacting with people will become easier as soon as you realize that you are OK and a valuable, capable, worthwhile human being. Loving and accepting yourself is the key.

I hope this assists you in choosing to break out of the shell of protection that you have built for yourself. Please write back if you need further assistance. Please let us know if our advice is helpful to you. 

Article #: 474886

Category: Self-Improvement

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