Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Finding the Center of Your Frustration

Use the ABCD Method to Deal with Frustration

Linked above is one of those articles I'm going to return to periodically.  Often.  Possibly daily.  I'm not hypersensitive to frustration, but I certainly know it well.  We've met.  Ask Cliff about the sugar jar.
Four feet of snow last year
defied all of our expectations.
Winter rides were suddenly
impossible, and therein
lay the core of frustration.

It's such an important subject that I'm linking here to another article (yes, there's a Wiki citation, but just ignore that), the one on which the first was based, because you can never have too many ideas when it comes to dealing with frustration.  So sure am I of my personal complicity that I just ordered two copies of Albert Ellis's How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Absolutely Anything--Yes, Anything.  Albert Ellis is probably second-most if not the most influential psychotherapeutic voice in history.  If he says it, you can believe it.

What is frustration about? What makes one episode of, say, "happy bucking" in your horse acceptable while another sends you in paroxysms of anger and might even poke you enough to grab you whip and hit something with it?  In a word, Expectations.  Long ago in another lifetime I knew this.  I wrote about it in an article titled "Get the Should Out" that later wound up reprinted in my blog because even then I suspected it was important for people interacting with animals (even if the animals have two legs and wear Crocs to a formal dinner).

We are slaves to our expectations.  We are this way for a good reason. We're human.  That's it.  We're animals (don't even bother to argue that) who live in a social setting where being able to predict everything from who we will encounter during our day to where we'll kill or dig up our next meal is vital to our survival.  We are loaded for bear with social mores and rules and stipulations.  So we're all about prediction.

We take our expectations to a very high level when we're dealing with competitive situations.  The horse life lends itself to that sort of thing far too easily.  "I only trail ride" does not preclude the post-ride postmortem during which every other rider's abilities and every other horse's training are ripped to shreds.  We smile on the outside, but we're grimacing on the inside every time we feel that we (or someone else) haven't met our expectations.
Our late house rooster, Fluffbudget
and the egg he laid....uh...wait.  What?

Again, ask Cliff about the sugar jar.

My most shameful moment was the one during which my lovely gelding, Prince, became unexpectedly balky during a class at a schooling show.  We were given the gate.  Horrors!  The class was full of beginner horses and their novice riders, and we were the only ones given the gate.  So, I managed to get the horse to walk to the warm-up ring, and there I smacked his balky butt so hard that I broke my crop.  I cried.  Granted, crops in the '80's weren't quite as sturdy as they are now, but still...

It took a week before the shoer informed me that my horse had a case of thrush so bad it had gone into the bone (in my defense, we never saw the shoer, and Prince wore pads all the time).  His pain had to be excruciating, and I should have been (and later was) delighted he hadn't just bucked my sorry ass off in the dirt.  I apologized profusely, fed him lots of sugar cubes (again, this was the '80's), and didn't make him wear the despised yellow rain slicker ever again.  And I never forgot how angry I'd been and how little concern I'd shown for the root cause of the behavior, both his and mine.

We start with expectations and we sift them through an inappropriate belief system that says this shouldn't be happening to me.  It can happen to anyone else, but not to me.  Uh...yeah.  About that....

Read the articles.  Buy the book.  Talk to Cliff (and you can also ask him what happened to the Shop Vac hose).  And if you're getting senior, as I am, think for a minute about how you're not going to notice in a few years when everyone seems frustrated with you because your bizarre clothing choices and attempts to turn on the fan with the TV remote are running counter to their expectations.  It'll be their problem, and you'll go forth in your Crocs with flair.

Now do you get it?

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