Winnie the Pooh could not express the frustrations in his life with true expletives, so when faced with an unmet expectation, he would simply utter, “Oh, bother.” I don’t know what your version of “Oh, bother” is. As I’ve said before, for almost my whole life, mine has been “Goddamn!” (Pooh could never have said that.) A look at how Pooh uses “Oh, bother” is giving me a new perspective on how I can begin to change a habit I really don’t need anymore.
I find that yelling “Goddamn!” is a consistent and efficient way to rapidly make my displeasure known to all around me. It’s my Knower/Judger making a quick judgment that I’m unlucky. Again. “How could that happen to me?”
Now what does that do for the good and welfare of anybody? Really?
For the moment, I feel good that I’ve vented. I’m entitled. After all, I’m the one who just got screwed (or, like Pooh, ran out of honey!). I’ve met a Momentary Emotional Need (MEN) to feel sorry for myself, and I’ve enlisted those within earshot to do the same.
And when Pooh says “Oh, bother,” don’t you feel sorry for him? Then there’s his buddy Eeyore, who thinks that the whole world is made up of “Oh, bothers.” Eeyore just knows that nothing is going to work, so he is expecting to be frustrated. Maybe he even feels jilted if he’s not…for then he can’t convince the world that he’s right!
The difference between Pooh’s outlook and Eeyore’s outlook is that Pooh has some balance. Some things do go right in Pooh’s world…and he recognizes them and is grateful for them.
From Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh, here’s a list of Pooh’s top five Zen tips:
1. Be happy and those around you will be happy…thus bettering our society.
2. To be happy you must accept yourself as you are.
3. Remember that your emotions and reactions to others are totally in your control
4. Do not build a wall around you; open yourself to all that life offers.
5. Stop and breathe the air—think about all the living things that make the air what it is.
My K/J judges that Pooh’s “Oh, bother” addresses #3 above in a much more acceptable manner than my method. Pooh allows himself to meet his MEN in a mild way. I suppose he’s working on it. So am I.
What is the catalyst for these reactions? What makes us reach back and react with more or less frustration when something doesn’t meet our expectations.
Let’s make a list of possible frustrations:
- Son didn’t mow the lawn.
- I didn’t win the lottery.
- Direct report didn’t get his assignment completed.
- I didn’t lose those five pounds.
- I missed a fairly certain putt.
There are many little unmet expectations 24/7/365. Some bug us and some don’t. Honey, of course, is right on top of Pooh’s list…not having it always gets an “Oh, bother.”
Missing the putt is one of mine. It usually gets a full-scale “Goddamn!”
After I’ve yelled my version of “Oh, bother,” I find myself feeling like a 10-year-old throwing a tantrum. Basically, I am. It’s a repeated pattern I learned growing up.
The problem is that getting all pissed off at a frustration is normal when you’re 10. It’s part of life, teaching us how to cope with things. But if we’re rewarded for our responses (Mom sympathizes with us, holds us, or tells us it’s OK), then the pattern begins to embed. I now have a rule about how to react to frustration.
So here I am 57 years later with data that is completely different from the data I had when that habit became embedded. First, I’m a grown-up now. Second, that putt is not life or death. It’s just a putt!
What are your patterned responses? To what frustrations? How important are they, really? Report late? Son didn’t mow? Lottery didn’t pay out? Putt didn’t go in? Flat tire? Meeting canceled?
I’d like to make a deal with Winnie-the-Pooh. I’ll stop using my response and take up “Oh, bother”…and he can become even more enlightened by letting stuff go. If we succeed, there will be more honey for all.