WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE – DEALING WITH ANGER

By Andrea Braverman, PhD Thomas Jefferson University Psychologist

The difficult question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” has long challenged all of us.  Simply turn on the evening news and there are countless stories that echo with the question of “why” would this happen?  Watching women and men sitting in the infertility waiting room for over a quarter of a century has particularly raised this question for me  and I continue to try to process how such a bad thing as infertility happens to such good people.

Daily life is difficult enough without extra obstacles thrown in our path.  Think about the daily challenges that accompany fertility problems.  Turn on the television in the morning and clench your jaw when the latest celebrity announces their pregnancy or reveals her baby bump with a flourish.  Or think about the ongoing news reports of various “accidental parents” – these many extra issues put our coping strategies into overdrive.

It’s important to know that you are not alone in the many feelings you may experience in a given day (or hour).  Knowing that you have company and that these feelings are normal and haven’t turned you into Ebenezer Scrooge can be of tremendous comfort.  Often it is our unrealistic or unfair expectations of ourselves that lead to so much trouble.  Give yourself a break – the gift of empathy and kindness to yourself.

Have you ever found yourself:

Angry at the world

As mentioned before, there is a lot going on in the world that can make you flat out angry.  People can be incredibly insensitive – sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes out of meanness.  The trick is doing the work to determine which is which so you can decide how to respond.  Why wouldn’t you feel angry if you don’t understand what you are experiencing, managing and feeling?  We all know that many of our friends, family and colleagues can be dismissive because they believe that you will become pregnant (so what are you worried about) or feel that you are too self-focused, or feel ill-equipped to discuss the subject.  Many find at the holidays unfair demands can be made upon you because you don’t have children.  For example, the expectation is that everyone will travel to a family member’s house because “they have young children and you can travel much more easily”.   It can leave you feeling like you are less valued.  Or holidays can bring out the dreaded question from extended family of “so when are we going to see you pregnant?”, a question that   can be so intrusive or awkward.  Just use this rule of thumb – if a friend of yours told you one of these stories, would you feel angry for him or her?  If yes, then cut yourself some slack and understand that being angry at the world makes sense given all that goes on.  It doesn’t make you The Grinch.

What we do with our feelings can be wrong – if I’m angry and I strike out and hurt you that’s wrong.  Having those angry feelings are not.  Remember feelings are not what is right or wrong.

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