Recently I came across a story of three teenagers who went out to commit a random and senseless act of violence. They shot and killed a jogger, who happened to be an international student from Australia. One of the teens would later inform the police that they killed the jogger because they were bored.
The truth is this; it wasn’t boredom, it was a controlled tantrum. A controlled tantrum that typically emerges from feelings of hopelessness due to an inability to cope with life’s disappointments. In my practice, I encounter people from all works of life, from adults to teens, who suffer from a sense of hopelessness to varying degrees, and sometimes they cope with their hopelessness by going through short bursts of controlled tantrums.
Unlike typical tantrums, where a person loses control over his or her bearing by experiencing an emotional meltdown, before engaging in sabotage of a relationship or property, controlled tantrums occur when people engage in seemingly meaningless sabotage of relationships or worse, violating the rights of others, while maintaining composure. With controlled tantrums, people unpredictably premeditate to violate social norms, simply because life is not going their way. From committing fraud, to murder, these actions are committed by even the most unsuspecting of people.
There is a reason for this phenomenon, and that reason is our love affair with messages that guarantee specific outcomes. From teens to adults, people fall for the lie that if their lives don’t follow a specific script, all sense of meaning and purpose would be lost or vice versa.
I have worked with kids, who resorted to a life of self destruction, because their grades weren’t good enough to get into college, which meant for them that there was no hope of a decent future. Or the executive, who intentionally began running his small company to the edge of bankruptcy, because he was going through a divorce and he was determined to leave his soon to be ex, penniless. These are stories of people who bought into a singular message, a message that guaranteed one of two outcomes, depending on if things went their way or otherwise.
The truth is that any message which states that your life will shape out in a particular order based on one of two outcomes is a lie. For those who claim that singular messages are legitimate, my response is that for every lie you believe in, there is the outcome of self fulfilling prophesy.
Recently, a client asked me if I believe in the string theory or a multiverse theory, my answer was that I lean more towards the multiverse theory, because there are multiple outcomes to any circumstance, and that besides death, nothing in life is guaranteed. Granted, singular messages present with the advantages of keeping us focused in achieving a single and preferred outcome, however in order to truly live a fulfilling life, we have to be prepared to accept and heal from disappointment. We have to be prepared to believe that there are other outcomes that would favor us, which we can use our skill sets to achieve, even if we have no idea what these alternative outcomes could be.
For the teen with poor grades, there does exist other options to make a bright future a reality, for the executive intentionally bankrupting his company, there are other ways to achieve peace of mind and content, rather than placing your happiness in the hands of others. If you have experienced disappointment, even after you invested a lot of energy into achieving a specific outcome, all is not lost, there are simply other outcomes that can benefit you, which you haven’t considered yet.
On Monday, August 26th, I will be posting a follow up to this post about how to use imagination to simultaneously heal from the emotional wound of disappointment and discover new options.
Ugo is a psychotherapist, and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.