Reality Check: You and Me Against the Problem

Just when everything seemed to be going well, Amy got a wakeup call. It was a “heart incident,” and it demanded that she turn her attention toward aspects of her life that she had neglected.
You probably know the drill. Amy could no longer ignore her health and assume that life would carry on as normal. Nope. She would have to get regular exercise. She’d have to cut down on the delicious meals that she loves. She was even told to find some way to reduce her stress.
Amy understands that if she wants to live a long, healthy life, she doesn’t have a choice. These changes are for her own good.
Knowing the stakes, Amy went all-in. She walks; she swims; she’s upped her veggie intake and reduced the home-made desserts and fast food takeout. She cut down on her commitments. She even told her children that as Mom needs some peace, they are now responsible for working out their own conflicts.
These changes are undoubtedly helpful. But Amy noticed another change: she’s angry.
Amy’s anger reminds me of a passage in Choice Theory by Dr. William Glasser. He says, “…people feel obligated to try to force us to do what they know is right. Our choice of how we resist that force is, by far, the greatest source of human misery.”
Her anger isn’t so much about the new diet or having to get off the couch and on to the exercise bike. She knows that’s important. But Amy has noticed that everyone feels free to tell her what she should be doing. Even casual acquaintances poke their nose in with comments, “Are you still doing your exercises?”
Whether intentional or not, anger is turning out to be Amy’s choice to resist that force; that source of “human misery.”
The easiest target for Amy’s anger is her partner, Steve. He’s trying to help, but isn’t particularly skilled in the art of encouraging so his comments are less than perfect. It’s easy to perceive Steve as being more bossy than supportive when he says, “Isn’t it time for your walk?”
When Steve reminds her of the doctor’s instructions, Amy bristles. When Steve raised his eyebrows at Amy’s plate of cake; Amy snapped at him. In Amy’s perception, Steve has become the problem rather than her own ailing heart.
Thus, Amy’s relationship with Steve is deteriorating. She has choices. The choice she has been using—directing the anger that comes with her loss of freedom toward Steve, is not helpful for Amy, for Steve, or for her heart.
What other choices does Amy have? She could tell Steve that she appreciates his help and concern, but she needs to manage this herself.
She could choose someone else to help her stay on track—someone to whom she’s less likely to direct her anger.
She could even decide to respond to all of Steve’s reminders with, “Thank you” regardless of whether gratitude is exactly what she feels at the moment.
If Amy believes that she can’t let go of her anger, then it’s worthwhile to at least consider where she wants to direct it. After all, the enemy is the disease. The enemy is not each other.

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