by Amanda Rosinski, M.A.
In New York City, the public transportation system is heavily relied upon by millions of daily riders. Public transportation can be so helpful, but can also be quite challenging. Recently, I was attempting to ride the train to school so that I could go to my class, but I soon realized that the commute on this particular day was going to be less helpful and more challenging. I waited a few minutes for my train, and then it pulled into the station. But when the doors opened, all passengers got off of the train, and the conductor reported, “This train is going out of service. Everyone please exit the train.” About ten minutes later, the next train pulled into the station. “This train is going out of service. Everyone please exit the station.” I could feel my level of anger rising, as I had now waited 20 minutes for a train with no train in sight, no announcements, and a platform full of passengers. After another ten minutes, I was able to get on a local train. That train took thirty minutes to make three stops. After three stops, I was able to transfer to another train that was moving faster. Overall, my commute that morning took 2 hours and 15 minutes, and it is usually about 1 hour. Needless to say, I missed the majority of my class that day. But not only did I miss most of my class, which was out of my control, I felt very angry during most of the commute, which was in my control.
Why was I feeling angry? An obvious but incorrect option is to just blame it all on the MTA. It’s their fault for all of these delays right? Therefore it’s their fault that I’m angry right? Wrong! I had to own my anger. Yes, there were delays with public transportation that morning, which was the activating event. But that was not why I was feeling angry. I was feeling angry because of my beliefs around this event. For example, I was thinking, “Public transportation should be on time! I absolutely must not be late to class. It will be awful if I’m late to class. I can’t stand it when my commute takes more time than usual. The MTA is terrible.” After figuring out that all of these irrational beliefs were running through my brain, it became quite obvious why I was so angry. I challenged these beliefs and then thought instead, “I would prefer if public transportation were on time, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. I would also prefer to arrive to class on time, but that might not always happen. It’s not great if I’m late to class, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. I will survive my longer-than-normal commute. The MTA had a bad day, but they’re not overall terrible.” All of these beliefs were much more flexible, and allowed my anger to change to frustration, so that once I arrived to my class, I was able to focus and engage in the material.