How to Make Yourself Miserable, Twitter Style

I’ve been reading some of my Twitter posts and there seems to be a pattern developing:

You need to take this crowded elevator from the 5th floor to the 4th? Really? I don’t see a limp. I should stab you and get it over with.

How bout you drop the umbrella when under scaffolding so you don’t hit us with it? I’d remove your thyroid with a rusty pen if I knew how.

It’s a big elevator. Stop standing so close to me or I’ll punch you in the neck. Hard.

How much ammo do I need to take out every NYC mom who works a stroller, Bluetooth and iTouch simultaneously while running over my feet?

What can we learn from the words that sound eerily like those of raging, homicidal maniac? That firearms and brass knuckles shouldn’t be for sale anywhere near my office? Perhaps. But if you look more closely, I’m engaging in one of the most common cognitive errors that make people miserable: “should” statements.

“Should” statements are part of the repertoire of our inner monologue that tells us how the world is supposed to work. Sometimes these thoughts are conscious: you should have told me that you were sleeping with my sister. That wasn’t very nice of you to withhold that information. At other times they are just below the surface of conscious thought, almost like an automatic mind set. In the first example of Dr. Rob’s Homicide Log (above), I’m not actually walking around muttering my beliefs on the elevator system in my building. But there is an implicit rule that I’m stating: if you can walk one floor down, you have to. You shouldn’t waste other people’s time by stopping the crowded elevator so you can have a trifling convenience. If you do, I will be silently enraged. And while many will agree with me, there is a problem with this way of thinking (aside from the fact that I’m a seething pot of anger).

The problem is that I’ve created an arbitrary rule about how the world should work, how it’s supposed to be. There is no law or decree that says anyone has to walk down a flight of steps instead of using the elevator. I simply created it in my own head. And that simple rule, that subtle command has made me very angry because the world is not functioning the way I insist. Moreover, implicit in my statements about how things must be, I’ve decided that my mood will be dictated by the actions of others. I’ve essentially become a glorified version of a petulant child who screams when he can’t have a candy bar for supper. That’s what I want, so therefore it should be.

This is not to say that everyone should simply roll over and take whatever comes at them without question. Far from it. However, being a wailing brat never put anyone in a position to change social etiquette. That approach simply makes a person look self-entitled and arrogant. What does put people in a position to change daily policy is the recognition that certain behaviors are far more pro-social than others. And if I had tweaked my thinking just a bit, into something more factually accurate, such as,it’s unfortunate that this person is slowing up the elevator; everyone would be better served if he simply walked, I’m no longer angry, at least not at the same level. Annoyed would be a better term to describe my mood with that mind set. And not only does annoyed feel a lot better than unbridled rage, but it actually makes me more likely to adequately address the behavior that I’d like to change should I so choose. When emotions run too high, interpersonal effectiveness suffers. You know a lot of people who respond well to a stranger whose blood is boiling over a simple elevator stop? Me neither.

I’ll keep typing out my murderous musings on Twitter because people seem to enjoy them and it’s a format for me to see, in print, how neurotic my mind can be. Feel free to call me out on these dysfunctional thoughts, however. I can use all the help I can get, especially in a city like New York.

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19 Responses to “How to Make Yourself Miserable, Twitter Style”

  1. Dorothy says:

    For a second there, I was worried you were going to stop posting your cranky twitters and then the new expression that I coined was going to be obsolete (the expression is used in sentences such as “I almost went Dr. Rob on them !”).
    Like you say here, there is a value in seeing what stories we are creating in our mind. I also think there is a value in discharging negative emotions in a humorous and harmless way (Twitter) such as the one you’re using.
    As a therapist in training, I know that I sometimes put the impossible expectation on myself to be an infinite well of patience, kindness and positive emotions. Seeing your cranky and honest posts and tweets helps remind me to approach things with a sense of humor and that I’m a human, not the Robot of Love, Mindfulness and Patience.

  2. Tam says:

    There are certain people I have a very hard time tolerating. I think of them as “people whose heads are full of lines” – lines that other people shouldn’t cross. Rules that they become angry when others don’t follow, but that are either of their own invention or are wildly unrealistic.
    Don’t be like that 🙂

  3. The world would be an easier place if people just did things my way.

  4. Yasmin says:

    Very insightful post, Rob. I will have to remember this the next time I start having homicidal thoughts regarding the old man driving below the speed limit in front of me.

  5. Sean says:

    The problem is that I’ve created an arbitrary rule about how the world should work, how it’s supposed to be. There is no law or decree that says [so] I simply created it in my own head. And that simple rule, that subtle command has made me very angry because the world is not functioning the way I insist. Moreover, implicit in my statements about how things must be, I’ve decided that my mood will be dictated by the actions of others. I’ve essentially become a glorified version of a petulant child who screams when he can’t have a candy bar for supper. That’s what I want, so therefore it should be.
    I know this is a side track, but the above quote (with the slight modification) sums up the psychology of most economists, in my opinion. And I love studying economics in my spare time.

  6. Hannah says:

    I’m so glad you deal with these issues, and offer glimpses into how to manage our lives better.
    I feel that many people might come to the realization that how the world works, and how we’d like it to, are different realities that we’d love to see collide. Having pointed the ‘should’ problem out, how do you put your self righteous anger on hold, without popping a vein? When we feel the urge to strangle, do we turn on the therapeutic soothing Dr. Rob voice on? I guess if done right, you wouldn’t suddenly snap from all the pressure of trying to hold those violent alternative worlds from happening… right? But what if it wasn’t just a stranger, but someone you have to interact with a lot?

  7. Joe says:

    Could it be that you just need to adjust your thinking? Instead of tweeting, or twittering, or whatever about the mom with the stroller and electronic gear, there’s always a good “watch it!” Confront your tormentor.
    Sometimes that’s impractical. Criticizing someone you’re gonna be stuck on an elevator with could end badly, but you can always picture them losing a foot to diabetes, a perfectly natural reaction to their extreme sloth that doesn’t require you to do anything with a rusty pen or, say, a ten penny nail.
    Just a couple thoughts.

  8. Paul says:

    Dr. Rob, I suggest you start (?) drinking during the day. Little annoyances like that don’t phase you when you’ve got a happy little buzz on. If you’re already drinking, drink a bit more.
    (IANAD)

  9. Fifi says:

    Thanks for discussing this topic. It’s an epidemic. The antidote for me was in one of those “Are you fucking nuts?!!” experiences. A Texan friend, when perturbed by rule-breaking behavior, instead said, “Well, bless her little angel heart!” This made me laugh. It’s difficult to maintain an emotional boil when laughing.

  10. Leo says:

    The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that lies over your trachea (the tube that carries air to your lungs). It is just below the voice box. If you’re going to be using a rusty pen, try not to nick the parathyroids, they’re a little more useful than the thyroid.
    (b^.^)b

  11. First, I had no idea you were in Twitter! Now I’m tweet-stalking you and keeping an eye on that pattern. Of course, I’m afraid to analyze my tweets.. but I will say for the most part I try and keep my miserableness (is that a word?) contained to inside my head.

  12. This is somewhat tangential to the post, but both Tucker Max and Ryan Holiday have discussed how to keep your cool in the face of idiocy, so to speak.
    Tucker uses the
    internal vs. external sense of self dichotomy pretty frequently. I believe he generally means how to avoid being emotionally chained to the opinions and perceptions of others, but I suppose it could be applied to some inconsiderate yokel wasting everyone else’s time.
    Ryan writes extensively about stoicism, which is all about the metaphorical “inner citadel” where you’re unperturbed by Joe Douchebag who has no urgency in his life, thereby causing him to assume others don’t either. I haven’t read “The Inner Citadel” but I liked his review (was Google searching for a blog post of his and it popped up, to appear less creepy):
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R3FJE8XS0TV3H0
    My two cents. I’m a cauldron of rage sometimes but I’ve noticed huge improvements in my patience in the past year simply by making daily attempts to be more consciously understanding.

  13. Amber says:

    Ugh, maybe I need to keep an eye on the damned twitter thing again just for your updates.
    Sadly, I could see myself saying some of that shit, not all, but some. I have zero tolerance for what I think may be ignorance or rudeness. Both make me very angry.

  14. mm says:

    I found the elevator example you used amusing because I was in a packed elevator (one of the slowest I’ve encountered) coming down from the 20th floor after it had stopped at a few floors. As we are surging towards ground, it indicates it is stopping at the 1st floor. The guy at the back groans and before the doors open, launches into, “Geez, just couldn’t handle the one flight of stairs”. The doors open and in predictable irony, there is a rather old lady waiting to hop in. Most people chuckle and share inside jokes. I digress….Two things. You’re absolutely right in that seekign to impose our view of the world on others and getting angry when others don’t conform is self-destructive.You have a vested interest in living by the rules, values and views you have but beyond that, sometime you just have to live and let live. Second, we never quite know why some people do what they do so don’t be too hasty to judge.
    p.s. Anger management classes 😉
    p.p.s Give up the tweets!

  15. […] the fact that she hates me and wanted to have me committed as a danger to others after reading my Twitter posts, she readily gave me some interesting thoughts on the […]

  16. Willow says:

    The elevator comment … I wonder how often someone thinks that of me … not knowing that I may look fine, but my muscles leave much to be desired because of Myasthenia Gravis … lupus doesn’t help the issue when the arthritis in my feet act up. Limping? I know it will make one joint feel better, but the others significantly worse, so I work very hard to not limp but walk bilaterally even.

    There are many days at school I don’t take the elevator because, quite frankly, I get tired of the dirty looks I get for taking the elevator (someone like ‘you’ should definitely be taking the stairs …was actually said to me by a nursing professor once, in reference to my weight)

    So I take the stairs … in the 3 semesters I’ve been at this school, I’ve fallen down the stairs 9 times … yes, 9 times. Some day, I’m going to get seriously hurt because I’m afraid of the thoughts you expressed.

    keep in mind ..only 25% of all disabilities have ANY visible sign … that means 75% have no limp, no wheelchair, no need for a cane … you simply cannot see them.

  17. […] you’ve read my twitter posts, then you know how I got myself into trouble. In the simplest terms, I decided that people should […]

  18. Margorie Smolski says:

    Great post, I bookmarked your blog so I can visit again in the future, Thanks

  19. […] that my mother clarified her position about self-worth over the years, allowing me to focus more on my homicidal rage instead of my own esteem. But many people never get those messages and can only see self-esteem as […]

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