DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 2 months ago
In all likelihood, you can recall a number of times in your life when you’ve experienced deep anger and rage. What you may not yet know is the profound PURPOSE of anger – why it’s there, where it originates, and the effect it may have on your physiology if you do not harness what it has to teach you and hold onto it.
First of all, every human being lives by a set of priorities, a set of values, things that are most to least important in their life. This includes you and everyone you interact with, from children to your spouse, from friends to colleagues, from stranger to customers, and so on.
In your hierarchy of values that is unique and fingerprint-specific to you, whatever is on the top of your values list is what you're inspired to fulfill most.
Your ontological identity revolves around it; your primary objective, mission or purpose in life revolves around it; and your epistemological pursuit, what you want to learn and what you want to become greatest at, revolves around it.
Your highest values are also what you are intrinsically inspired from within to do.
As an example, my highest values are teaching, researching and writing. No one has to encourage or extrinsically motivate me to perform these actions because I can’t wait to do them every moment I can.
However, as you go down the hierarchy of values, which are like the rungs on a ladder, your values tend to be more extrinsic in that you likely need outside motivation in order to get them done.
You will also tend to hesitate and procrastinate and find every excuse not to do them unless there is the promise of reward or fear of punishment to help extrinsically motivate you.
In my case, my lower values include cooking and driving. I have yet to wake up in the morning feeling inspired to cook a meal or drive a vehicle! As such, I delegate those tasks wherever possible to someone who loves doing them and who will do them with more skill than I would.
When you expect yourself to live outside the highest values of your hierarchy of values or set of priorities that you live by, you’re likely to defeat yourself.
In other words, when you don’t align your life with your highest values and instead fill your day with lower values, you’ll tend to procrastinate, hesitate, and frustrate when doing those things.
- Anything that's LOW on your values, you’ll tend to procrastinate, hesitate and frustrate when doing.
- Anything that's HIGH on your values, you’ll tend to be disciplined, reliable and focused when doing.
So, anytime you expect yourself to do something other than what's truly most important to you (your highest value), you're likely to self-depreciate and perceive that you're letting yourself down.
However, anytime you expect yourself to live congruently with your highest values, you're likely to be disciplined, reliable, focused, more appreciative of yourself and others, and most likely to get your higher priority actions done.
When you expect yourself to live outside what you value most, you're most likely to end up being angry at yourself.
The same applies when it comes to other people. Any human being that you interact with, your spouse, children, colleagues, friends, etc., when you expect them to live outside their unique set of highest values, they're likely to let you down. As such, they’re not really betraying you - you're betraying you because you're expecting them to do something they're not highly likely to do.
Each time an individual perceives, decides and acts, It's based on what they value most. And every decision they make is based on what they believe will give them the greatest advantage over disadvantage at any moment.
So, anytime you expect a human being to live outside what they value most, you're likely to be let down and feel frustrated because they're not doing what you expect them to do.
They’re not wrong for being who they are, but you may be unwise expecting them to be something they're not likely to do based on their hierarchy of values. Because their identity revolves around their highest values and that's who they intrinsically are, you can rely to them to make decisions that tend to align with their own values – not yours.
As an example, you can rely on me to be teaching, researching, and writing, but you can't rely on me to be socializing, drinking and partying because those aren’t my values. If you expect me to do those things, I’m going to let you down.
When you expect another human being to live in your values or live outside their values, you're likely to experience the ABCDEFGHIs of negativity.
In other words, you’ll tend to experience feelings of anger and aggression, feel betrayed and want to blame them, criticize them and challenge them back. You may feel depressed and despaired, want to exit and escape, feel frustrated and futile, grouchy and grieving, hate them and hurt them, and be irritable and irrational around them – all because you're expecting them to live outside what they value most.
Also, no human being is one-sided in life. If you expect someone to be a one-sided individual – nice never mean; kind never cruel; positive never negative; peaceful never wrathful; giving never taking; again, you're setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations.
Anger is due to unmet expectation. So if your expectations are unrealistic, you’re most likely to be angry because others aren’t meeting those unrealistic expectations.
Anytime you expect others to be one-sided or expect yourself to be one-sided, you're likely to be angry at them or angry at yourself.
Anytime you expect others to live outside their values or live in your values, you’ll tend to get angry because of those unrealistic expectations that can’t be met.
Your anger towards others or yourself is a valuable feedback mechanism to let you know that you have unrealistic expectations.
Blaming somebody for not living up to your unrealistic expectations is delusional. The only thing you can reasonably expect a human being to do is to live according to their own values.
When you get angry, you also create physiological feedback.
Your anger over your unmet expectations activates your sympathetic nervous system that results in a fight-or-flight response.
You’ll tend to get angry, want to fight with them or avoid them, challenge them and criticize them etc.
Your blood sugar likely increases, your muscles get tense and tight, your digestive system shuts down, your testosterone goes up, you get more aggressive, and so on.
In other words, your physiology provides valuable feedback in the form of symptoms to let you know you have an unrealistic expectation.
I believe that anger is your friend, and not necessarily a “bad” thing.
I’m amazed at how people have labeled certain behaviors as “good” and others as “bad”. I believe that thinking to be antiquated.
Every behavior that you have serves some purpose, so when you’re experiencing the ABCDEFGHIs of negativity mentioned above, that's not a bad thing. Instead, it’s simply feedback to let you know that you have unrealistic expectations.
Your anger is under your governance.
It's not what happens to you out there but what you perceive and expect. If you expect something that's not realistic, you’re likely to be angry.
As such, I don't go by what people say but instead by their values. Sometimes people don't want to upset you and so they’ll tell you what you want to hear. You’ll then expect them to do that, and feel angry and betrayed when they don’t do it. It is wise to realize that when something comes up in any individual’s life that is higher on their values that what they promised you, and that they perceive will give them more benefits than drawbacks, they're highly likely to decide to do that instead.
Every decision you make in life is based on what you believe will give you the greatest advantage over disadvantage at any moment in time.
Anytime you expect somebody to do something that they say they're going to do, just know that anything that crops up that is much higher on their values in that moment, they’re likely to go and do it.
If you understand that, and only expect them to live in their values and not always by what they say, you’re less likely to feel angry and let down.
And, while the majority of people have every intention of living up to their word, they may have unexpected situations or greater opportunities that arise that are different - between the time they stated they would do something and when that time came.
As such, I believe it is wise to know that people live according to their values. They don't live according to yours.
If they do something different from what they said they were going to do, instead of judging them and being harsh on them, find out what it is that made them make the change in decision. What came along that was way more important to them that it overrode what was initially important to you. Ideally they will contact you and inform you in advance that they have changed their plans or mind, but they may not do that if they feel that you would use guilt trips or emotional blackmail to try to get them still to do what they initially stated.
If you do, you'll have less anger, and fewer physiological symptoms.
It may also be wise to introspect and reflect for a moment on where and when you have done the same change of plans on someone else to see your three fingers pointing back at you in case you may be pointing one at them. Projecting moral ideals and should onto people will also backfire. People live according to their own set of values not necessarily according to some collective idealism that you think they are supposed to live by.
To sum up
People live according to their highest values and make decisions at any moment according to what they believe will give them the greatest advantage over disadvantage. In other words, they're perceiving, deciding, and acting according to those values. If you don't know what those values are, you're vulnerable to having unrealistic expectations.
It’s wise to try to understand that if someone has done something that's not matching what you expected or what they agreed to do, it's probably because something greater has come up that was way more important to them than what you were offering them in that time.
Anytime you have an unrealistic expectation on another human being that's unmet, you’re likely to react with anger.
That anger is valuable feedback to give you an understanding of how to set realistic expectations according to the individual's values, both your own and those of others.
Once you do that and you own the responsibility for that, you're less likely to have to have a physiological fight or flight response and create illness, chronic anger, and resentment.
It is wise to have expectations of people based on what they truly value in the hierarchy of their values.
When you do, you'll tend to appreciate and love people for who they are, and not who you perceive they are “supposed” to be. In the process of doing it, you'll tend to have less anger and fewer physiological health problems.
Knowing your unique hierarchy of values, or highest priorities, is the most important place to start if you would love to break through from a life of anger and reaction to a life of mastery and pro-action.
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