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What should be and the connection to anger

I watched a video of other day on cognitive distortions, I listened as the narrator went through the list to see which ones I might have myself. There were a couple I could identify with, but one in particular really jumped out at me. The tendency to think things "should" be a certain way, then experiencing anger and frustration when they are not.


Up until now, I could not completely put my finger on the source of my anger. While a few things were obvious, dealing with recognizing what was really going on while I was trying to make my marriage work. The lies, the secret debt, the bursts of anger being used to control me. These things did not account for the full fury that I felt towards my ex-husband. Those things are valid things to be angry about, but they are in the past now, so why was I still so consumed. That isn't my life anymore, and I am free of that, so why do I still feel this emotion.


Then I learned about the cognitive distortion of "the shoulds" When we think something "should" be a certain way, and its can create frustration and anger. The moment I saw this, it got me thinking.

The video broke down how to analyze the thoughts.


First, you are instructed to think, "what am I feeling right now/" and I wrote down "anger at my ex-husband for abandoning his kids"


Then the next question was, "what cognitive distortion might you be engaging" It was eye-opening to think about this. I was definitely engaging in the "shoulds" Here is my list:


The kids father SHOULD make his kids a priority.

He SHOULD BE contributing to taking care of them

He SHOULD be spending time with them

He SHOULD have their best interests at heart and be engaged in supporting them into adulthood.

I SHOULD NOT have to be taking him to court in order to compel him to honour these obligations.

As parents we SHOULD be able to communicate in a civil manner to look after their needs

There SHOULD be no animosity.


None of these things are true. I never thought in my wildest dreams he would And for a long time I thought I could reason with him and get him to do the things I thought he should be doing. Just like in my marriage, I attributed it to a misunderstanding. Once you get into that cycle, its never ending turbulence whether your in the marriage or out of it. You are constantly knocking your head against the wall trying to forces something that is clearly not going to happen.


In my therapist appointment this week, we discussed what I can control versus what I cannot. I cannot make him be a father to his children. I cannot make him see them. I cannot make him make them a priority. I cannot stop him from blaming me for all his problems.


I know what it is I am trying to do. I know what my motivations are, and this is all I can do. I have to learn to accept he is not going to be the father I thought he was, and that he promised to be. I just have to accept it and deal.


I have been stuck in this anger trap because he is not doing what I think he SHOULD be doing. Would a good father be doing all those things. Yes he would. But a good father does these things on his own, I cannot make him be a good father. Nothing I say or do will ever change any of that. It never has and it never will.


Finally, the anger I have felt makes sense, and the way to deal with it suddenly becomes clear. I cannot control him as a parent. I cannot control the way he sees me. It's completely outside of my domain.


The only thing I can control is myself. I know what my motivations are, my goal is to do everything I can do for my children to give them a solid foundation for adulthood. It doesn't matter what accusations any one levels at me, or why they do that. That is on them. My ex has always said he knew what I was thinking and why I did things, and he was always wrong, he still is. I have to let go of any notion that I can convince him to see differently. That has always been his leverage and how he controlled me.


Ross Rosenburg posts several videos about recovering after abuse. One of his main points is, "Don't wrestle in the mud with the pig, you just get dirty and the pig likes it"


Would it be nice if we could just get along for the kids? Of course it would be, I see how much the current situation hurts them and it breaks my heart. Is there anything I can do about it. No, nothing. I have done absolutely everything I can possibly do and it has not made any difference. All it has managed to accomplish is to leave me frustrated and extremely angry.


I know the deal I thought we made. I know what I thought he agreed to, and what I believed he would do. He isn't doing it. So all I can do is face the facts and just let it go. He is just showing who he really is. It sucks, its unnecessary but it is what it is and there is nothing I can do about it but let it go. The only control I have is to do what I can for the kids and be there as much as I can for them. I have been told kids are really resilient and as long as there is one person there that provides unconditional support and love they will be ok. I hope that is true.






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