What Do You Do With Your Anger?


MP900385327Anger, while generally labeled a “negative” emotion, does have its place in our repertoire of emotional responses. But, how productive is it to use your anger against others, even if it is for a just cause?

Without delving into a mound of research on emotions and psychology, the basic purpose of anger seems to be to drive us to respond to situations that we perceive as unjust, cruel or harmful; perhaps also feeding our sense of self preservation.

It’s good to have this emotion give us a sense of moral outrage, drive us to react, press us to defend ourselves. On the flip side, it can cause us to lash out at people, say things without thinking, even lead to violence. Perhaps it is a good idea to think about the difference between acting because of anger and reacting in anger.

As a child, if you misbehaved and were shouted at in anger, you might have cried and even felt fear. You probably learned not to do the misbehavior again, but perhaps only because you were frightened and not necessarily because the interaction was positive and educational.

Angry shouting in the workplace creates tension and anxiety. Employees work hard out of fear of eliciting an angry reaction rather than because they love their work or because they simply want to do the best work they can.

MP900399201 Social injustices around the world, from slavery to women’s rights, to Apartheid and more, were positively affected by people who were angry about the cruelty and injustice. Were these problems solved because these angry people shouted in the streets, took shovels to the heads of the offenders, or otherwise reacted in anger to the situation? Some of this no doubt happened, but it is likely what eventually solved the problem.

It was the intelligent, thoughtful, angry person – who was spurred into positive action by their anger, that likely made the biggest difference. These people educated the masses, debated the laws and got involved on the grassroots level, rather than in defensive, reactive ways.

Shouting, bullying and berating, and certainly violence, do not win people over to your cause. It prevents them from interacting with you about it at all. They don’t hear what you are saying over your shouting. Perhaps they even avoid a cause they might have otherwise supported, simply because of a bad interaction with someone reacting in anger.

Whatever your political, religious, or social beliefs, whatever makes you angry; stop. Think first. Is this angry response really going to have the effect that you are hoping for? Or is just going to alienate your cause and drive away potential supporters? Or, worse, hurt someone?

MP900430643 Find positive ways to approach what makes you angry. Accept that there might be people that you simply cannot change, let them go and move on to the people you can. Publically flogging transgressors went out with the dark ages. Private (or calm public) discussions and negotiations are likely to be much more meaningful and effective. Treat them with respect and they will respect you, and your cause.

While it is by no means easy to always remember to stop and think before reacting in anger, it can help to keep the simple Serenity Prayer in mind (insert favorite deity as desired):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Mind Your Own Business?


Sandhenge - Tricia GriffithThis is something that I have personally struggled with a few times in life. When do you cross that line in the sand between minding your own business and speaking up? Speaking up on behalf of others, speaking up for yourself, knowing when to keep your mouth shut and when something needs to be said.

Are we all too well schooled in that “mind your own business” adage? I just finished watching a short video on Upworthy.com that made me think about this subject. A hidden camera show tests out the question “What Would You Do?”, and in this case, the video was testing how people respond to a gay couple with children being harassed by a waitress. You can watch the video here.

One of the people who didn’t speak up casually commented that it was none of her business. It led me to think about how many times you hear about people who are mentally abused, beaten, bullied or otherwise mistreated, and something terrible happens. People comment that the signs were there, but they didn’t think it was any of their business; they didn’t want to get involved.

Where does the line of social privacy end and social responsibility begin?

Misty Tree - Tricia GriffithMany years ago, the couple who lived upstairs from us would have serious fights. And I mean, knock-down, drag-out screaming matches. We would struggle with, okay, it’s their business, they’re fighting. But, when they’re shouting loud enough for the rest of us to hear, it can’t help but start to become our business. Then, they start throwing things and you hear things breaking, and you kind of start to reach out beyond that line of minding your own business to thinking, what if one of them ends up dead and I did nothing?

We called the authorities when things started breaking. We didn’t know the neighbors other than in passing, but they had a pretty good idea who called and were less than thrilled with us. Still, I think that having them hate us was better than having something horrible happen.

For many of us, we don’t think twice about calling in animal neglect or abuse, but we get more nervous when it comes to people. Are we afraid of what happens when we intervene on a human’s behalf? Is it fear of confrontation? Do we really think that someone being publically discriminated against or privately abused is not our business?

Forget-me-nots - Tricia GriffithEven if you can’t quite bring yourself to publically call out someone being discriminatory or abusive, perhaps you should look into other ways to do it. Being an introvert myself, I’m not sure how quickly I would be willing to stand up and defend someone in a public place, it probably depends upon the situation. After watching that video, I think I might be more inclined to do so.

However, if you worry that confronting someone publically is out of your comfort zone or maybe even dangerous, you can still take steps to make a difference. Speak privately to someone in charge. Write a letter to the editor. Call the police, call protective services, just call someone.

Sometimes you just need to speak up.