Unfulfilled expectations are a frequent source of anger for me. I presume that people will do the job they were hired to do, companies will provide the services promised, products will work as designed. When these expectations are met with a disappointing reality an irrational rage bubbles over. This video from The Book of Life, "How Not to Be Angry All the Time", does a good job of explaining how optimism is tied to anger and yet the solution that it proposes is one I am unwilling to accept.
The video suggests that the way to grow reliably calmer is to get a lot less optimistic about life and that pessimism is the cure to anger. Do I need to learn to "stamp on all my hopes more effectively and allow years of experience to dampen my hopes for what might be" to become less angry? Is life just a "sequence of disappointments, misunderstandings, sorrows, grief and catastrophe with moments of joy few and far between"? NO! This is not the way that I want to approach life. According to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in their recent work, The Book of Joy, our essential nature is joy, in union with the Divine, and our purpose in life is to avoid suffering and discover happiness. I prefer to hold the optimistic view that joy is our birthright.
Yet how do I hold on to optimism in a way that doesn't lead to anger when it is unfulfilled? How do I recalibrate expectations so that they are not unrealistic but not so low that they leave me unhopeful? In my recent experience with lost luggage, I no longer expected the bags to arrive with the flight and so I didn't get angry when it failed to arrive. On the other hand, when I tried to pump gas in a driving rain storm and pump after pump wouldn't work, I lost it and rage came boiling up. The frustrations were many - I was in a rush, I was dressed up and in heels, the weather was nasty - and regrettably I took them out on the clerk. In looking back on the situation, I think that the expectation that the pumps would work was reasonable under normal conditions, but not in that driving rainstorm. Optimism can be tempered by reality, but should not be abandoned and replaced by pessimism. Instead, when optimism is misplaced or frustrated by unusual circumstances having a process for approaching the situation with compassion - for ourselves and for those around us - can minimize suffering and lead to more happiness and joy.
What do you think? Do you agree that behind some of the most grumpy, angry people is a desperately optimistic person? Is pessimism the solution to anger?