Anger and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

This morning is a good time for me to write about how to sit with anger and frustration.

One of my very reliable clients has had a difficult time making it to evening appointments due to snow and traffic delays.  (I’m writing this on February 28th, so many readers will understand.)  We decided to meet today (Saturday morning).  I don’t do this all year, but my income has been down because of the weather and there’s nothing special I have to do today.

I get to the office this morning  and…my client does not show up.  I text her to find out whether she is on her way.

Now I notice that, for the second time, a text does not go through.  Also, my scheduling app is not working, and my phone can’t connect to the Internet.

AAARG!  My client probably texted me to say she couldn’t make it.  Who knows how many other texts I did not get. What’s weird is that I got a text from a colleague that came through OK last night, and also one from a number not in my contact list, and obviously not for me.

An intermittent problem……the very worst kind.

I Google the problem and it looks as though I may have to call Apple.  And I know that that could lead to having to drive for 45 minutes and wait in line for 45 minutes at the store…..I could waste my whole day….

This is the type of frustrating situation that I (and many other excessively goal-oriented people) have difficulty coping with.  Shoulders tighten and thoughts turn immediately to how it shouldn’t work this way, I spend too much of my life doing “IT”, and on and on.

Interestingly, this ties in with what I planned to work on with my client this morning.

Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, has come out with a new book of skills.  I just got it and haven’t had time to read much yet.  But already I’m finding it helpful to myself as well as clients.  I had found a couple of worksheets to give to my client for homework.  They fit my personal needs perfectly right now.

I can easily see several alternative ways to look at my texting situation.   I am probably not aware of a development in technology or security that requires that I take some action. The only reason I am described (by my daughter’s technologically expert boyfriend) as “good for my age” with computers is because of the many hours I have spent throwing myself against technological barriers in hopes of breaking them down. (Of course, this metaphor describes my usual IT attitude. – I can get ridiculously desperate about the small stuff).

Linehan’s new skills book inspires me to talk to  my client about nonjudgmental/mindful ways of looking at her frustrating work situation.  Could the nonprofessional attitudes and practices there be due to others knowing no better?   Does it help her to be angry? If she worked at being mindful and nonjudgmental at work, would she be less tense, happier, more productive? Is she doing regular mindfulness practice every day to make mindfulness easier to practice when she needs it?

Things happen to people that are incomprehensibly awful, that can take a lifetime to “sit” with.  I am not attempting to minimize the challenges that people can face in letting go and moving on.  Marsha Linehan also talks about “Radical Acceptance”, but that is a topic for another post.  This one is about living with the minor frustrations of life, which can so easily result in our making ourselves and others miserable.

While I was writing this post my ability to text returned. (I downloaded a new version of iTunes, and all appears to be well.)

Meanwhile, I had something to write about in my blog.

More about ACT, DBT, and related topics in future posts.

References are to: Marsha Linehan, “DBT SKills Training Handouts and Worksheets,” Second Edition, Guildford Press, 2014.