Furiously Frustrated
Bill Cottringer

In my previous article, “Seeds of Anger,” I think I overlooked the main problem with which we should have more empathy for ourselves and others. The real problem of our day is the frustration that leads either a quiet life of desperation or extreme stress, anger and even violence, or at least vacillating somewhere between these extremes.

In our life stories we all get confronted with three types of conflicts:

• Us vs. life.
• Us vs. others.
• Us vs. ourselves.

The worst type of conflict is called a double avoidance conflict—where both paths out of the conflict have a lose-lose perceived outcome. This is when we are caught between a rock and hard place and end up hopelessly saying, “Dammed if I do and damned if I don’t” The unfortunate part of this type of conflict, is that there is no way to avoid them. They happen all the time. Consider these typical situations and figure out what “at least until” means.

Mary married her childhood sweetheart who turned out to be her worst enemy when it comes to money matters, child rearing philosophy, and where to live. They have been married for 20 years and have two teenage boys. The couple argue all the time and both are miserable, especially Mary who madly wants emotional support and is not getting anything but grief . But she never finished her education and does not have any marketable job skills to survive in a very tough economy. Also, she is not wanting to give up her kids or not being able to give them a decent start in life. She really can’t go from a bad marriage to such a scary unknown one, like jumping from the skillet to the fire. She stays stuck in the middle of this conflict, at least until…

John just graduated from High school. His grades weren’t good enough to get into any local university and his parents couldn’t even afford the tuition at the nearby community college. The job market is not at all promising for his limited skill set. He has a girlfriend who he would like to marry soon, but the situation for that is far from propitious. One of his close friends suggested they join the army together to get their needed start in life and maybe even pay for some education or training for a decent career afterwards. But who wants to volunteer for a war and risk not being able to enjoy the rest of your life? That is a heck of a choice. John can’t make a choice, at least until…

Sally finds herself in torrid love with two women at the same time. One is her partner and the other a casual affair lasting a few years now. Both women are equally wonderful to be around, without any bad habits. Both are extremely attractive, agreeable, happy, fun-loving, sexually satisfying and gainfully employed. She really can’t lose with either one. Now this conflict is starting to appear as a double approach-approach one, but not so. You see, all three women are extremely sensitive to traditional values like loyalty and not hurting other people needlessly. As the Eagles sing though, “Someone is gonna get hurt tonight,” maybe all three in this case. Sally puts up with this turmoil, at least until…

Now here is a simpler one, but not without equal frustration and stress. Fred is a beginning writer. He read about his own double-avoidance conflict from another writer. If he writes for the public, he loses himself, but if he writes for himself, he loses the public. Either way he ends up empty-handed with something of great value in his career. He stops writing, at least until…

What these and other such conflicts do is drive us crazy to find the most desirable outcome, when one may not even be in the cards. But the problem here is that you usually can’t predict what outcome Mary, John, Sally or Fred are likely to get, let alone be able to live with. The only way to unravel such frustration is to realize how these situations developed. And when you finally own your part in getting into them, you realize this is not an us vs. life or us vs. other’s conflict at all, but rather a me vs. me one. Only you have the answer, of which you may be oblivious because it is too close to you.

Thinking about the possible outcome of choosing what to do presents another internal conflict—between your mind and your heart. How do you know which is telling the truth? You can’t, until you make a choice, take action and then study the results, hoping they aren’t fatal. And of course what makes these matters worse is the human habit of judging experiences as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, something to approach or something to avoid. As that isn’t enough we take it a bit further by comparing experiences we having now, to faded memories of the past or unclear ones in the future, that haven’t occurred yet.

My concluding suggestions:

• You got yourself into such an awful conflict and nobody else will help you resolve it. Owning it is the best start.
• You can’t predict the future and after all it is the surprise you want, so be patient.
• Sometimes you don’t have to do anything as time and life often work together to take care of things for the better.
• Always try to be happy with what you have rather than unhappy with what you don’t have, that you probably wouldn’t want.
• Whether or not there is some kind of inherent design and purpose in life, these are the type of conflicts that build character, something always worth having.
• No matter how deep and dark the tunnel is which you are now in, you eventually get out intact. Isn’t that the way of life?
• Although judging experiences as good vs. bad is a very normal habit, it also determines how you usually end up feeling as a result of the judgment, not necessarily the experience.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing); The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press); You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence); The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree); Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers); Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); Thoughts on Happiness and Pearls of Wisdom: A Dog's Tale (Covenant Books, Inc.) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or ckuretdoc.comcast.net.