Aspen, eating dinner on a cloudy day. I wonder what makes him mad? Photo by Rachel Andrews

Why isn’t the economy getting better and why is Congress at a standstill and why do we have such uninspiring candidates to choose from? Why are people still buying Velveeta and why do people buy into the propaganda about corn syrup? What kinds of questions are you asking yourself or others these days? What ticks you off? I ask you this because what ever it is, comes from you. You can look outside yourself and see where you need to take action on your own behalf, by what is upsetting you the most.

Are you mad because the Republicans in Congress have decided to still get paid, yet not do any work to further along the legislation that sits on their desks? The term being used for this is Congressional obstructionism. This got me pretty mad when I heard about it, but you know what? I have several projects on my desk that I’m not attending to. There are started books, ideas for videos, and all sorts of creative tid-bits floating around in note form in my office. If this issue bugs you too, ask yourself, “where in my life am I falling short of the obligations I made?” “What did I sign up to do that isn’t getting done?” The beauty of looking outside for information about where we are stuck is that often, the anger subsides when we make the connection between outside and inside. I am no longer carrying anger towards Congress, for example, which frees up my energy enough to actually tackle those notes.

I do want to mention that this technique will show you yourself only. This really has nothing to do with Congress or the makers of corn syrup commercials. What those institutions are doing may be awful, but this is not about judgment. It’s simply about informing yourself of what you are not acknowledging directly about your own life. After all, nothing can alter your mood for you. It’s your response to the situation, and owning it is empowering.

After looking at the big issues of government and food, you can check out your closer relationships. What about your parents or friends, or even your spouse? What is it that gets your goat? Does it make your skin crawl when Becky leaves her kids home alone when she goes to the grocery store and you feel they are too young to be unsupervised? Do you get into fights with your mate about why he always has to have fresh milk in the house, but he will never shop for it himself? Being aware of what sets you off and then asking yourself why, will benefit both of you.

The initial awareness that you may be overreacting to something should immediately calm you down. In that instant you are taking back the projection. You realize that something about your reaction doesn’t fit with the circumstances and that maybe the issue lies within yourself. Even if you only get this far, it will create a much happier environment to be in.

Understanding why you respond to that particular scenario so violently, though, is really key to dissolving it for good. Take the hypothetical behavior of Becky from above, you are judging her for a parenting decision she makes. She is asserting her right to judge the safety of her home and the maturity of her children. This is a bold move in today’s society, when there are so many unspoken rules governing child rearing. What bold move are you avoiding because of a fear of being judged? How are you judging yourself? Or, it could be so simple as, “I really want to leave my kids at home when I grocery shop but am afraid that other people won’t like that.” This really can be a straightforward process.

In the issue above regarding the husband wanting fresh milk in the house but not wanting to get it himself, just take the bones of the argument and look at that. He wants something done for him automatically. He probably sees it as a simple courtesy. So what does it mean for you? What simple courtesy do you require of him? Sometimes we expect things from our mates because we feel they should know what we like. Does he do something nice for you that you take for granted? Or does he sometimes forget to wash out the sink after he shaves? It could be something so small here, but it would most likely be something that you appreciate and have come to expect, but is sometimes forgotten about – just like the milk.

I know these are hypothetical issues, but it’s easy enough to translate into any life. Find the overreaction to an outside stimulus that ends up driving you crazy, and write it down. Then write down what is happening. Take the words Congress, husband or neighbor out of it. Just write down what is happening, like, “not getting any work done”, or, “wanting something done automatically.” Then, lay that statement on top of your life and see where it fits. It’s a simple puzzle, sort of like a riddle, that can free you from feeling neurotic.

Cheers to your less stressed and more empowered self!