Have you ever felt totally frustrated, blocked and upset? On Sunday afternoon I was stuck in traffic on my way into NY City. Major bridges, tunnels and highways were all laden with cars and I was in the middle. I had no way out. My only recourse was patience. It was not an easy task because I was not alone. I had my young grandchildren and my elderly mother with me and I felt highly responsible for their well-being.

That's how life seems at times. We get caught in situations that are beyond our control. We feel totally helpless and uncertain as to what - if any - steps we can take. It's easy to panic, to feel like fighting or fleeing when neither is possible.

I've experienced several such situations in my life. A traffic jam is a minor annoyance in comparison. And each time, after my initial shock and panic, I've asked myself, "How do I want to be in this situation?"

It's not an easy question to answer.

In essence, we do not determine much of what happens to us. Life at times seems to be ruled by the same chaos theory that underlies traffic jams.

So how should we react to chaos? Will we be caught up in it or, like the eye of the storm, find peace and quiet within?

While we are not in charge of life, we are in charge of ourselves. We can decide how to react in any situation, even the most horrific ones, G-d forbid. As Victor Frankl notes in Man's Search for Meaning, "Everything can be taken from a man but ...the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

There were a few moments on Sunday when I lost emotional control. I was driving down yet another ramp to another highway and found it jammed. I banged my hands on the steering wheel and practically cried aloud. My young granddaughter started crying. Until that point in time she was dealing quite well with the long extended journey.

Seeing what happens when I fall apart, I quickly recouped and started singing. We stopped at the next gas station, visited the rest rooms and bought the children a snack.

After many hours we reached our destination. Eventually we all do. It's how we get there that counts.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Mona Spiegel attended Barnard College and then earned two Masters degrees and a Doctorate in Psychology at Columbia University.

As her children grew up and left home, Dr. Spiegel decided to help people not only resolve their problems but also reach their highest potential. She thus founded MyFamilyCoach to provide professional coaching to women who want assistance and guidance but do not need therapy.

Dr. Spiegel publishes the MFC Newsletter and contributes articles to magazines online and in print. She speaks to women’s groups all over the country, on a variety of topics related to women’s development and family relations. Dr. Spiegel is a member of the International Coach Federation and the American Psychological Association. Visit her at myfamilycoach.com.