Archive for January 1st, 2012
How we deal with stress, disappointments, and frustration determines the essence of our personality. Anger may do more harm than any other emotion. First of all it is very common and, secondly, it upsets at least two people–the aggressor and the aggressed against. There are two problems: how to prevent or control your own anger and how to handle someone aggressing against you.
The overall effects of anger are enormous (Nay, 1996). Frustration tells us “I’m not getting what I want” and eventually anger is related to violence, crime, spouse and child abuse, divorce, stormy relationships, poor working conditions, poor physical health (headaches, hypertension, GI disturbances, heart attacks), emotional disorders, and so on.
For reasons I hope to soon make clearer, Americans are amazingly violent compared to people in other countries. In 2002, approximately 290 million Americans suffered 23 million crimes. 23% of those crimes were crimes of violence. For every 1000 people over 12, there was one rape or sexual assault, another assault resulting in an injury, and two robberies. Yet, criminal violence is fairly predictable (not at some specific time but in general) in the sense that 50% of males convicted of a crime between 10 and 16-years-of-age will be convicted of more crimes as adults. Also, being exposed to violence in childhood (at home, in their community, & in the media) is associated with the child having poor health (Graham- Bermann & Seng, 2005) and with them being violent as an adult. We could do something about these things but we don’t, perhaps because we believe aggression is just “human nature” and/or because we are angry and thus indifferent to stressed kids, especially if they are of another race or a different economic or ethnic group. Also, our society is far more insistent on punishing rather than preventing adolescent violence/crime/misbehavior (another reflection of our own anger?).
The crime rate soars in the U.S. and our prisons overflow; infidelity and spouse abuse are high; 1 in 5 women has been raped, 683,000 women were raped in 1990 (30% were younger than 11!); our murder rate is several times higher than most other countries. We are prejudiced. We distrust and dislike others. Even within the family–supposedly our refuge, our safe place, our source of love–there is much violence. Between 1/4 and 1/2 of all wives have been physically battered which causes great psychological trauma too (Goodman, Koss, & Russo, 1993). Physical fights have occurred within 12- 16% of all marriages during the last year. In 50% of these instances it is mutual violence, i.e. both try to beat up on the other. But children 3 to 17 are the most violent: 20% per year actually abuse their parents; 93-95% are a “little physical” with parents. In addition, last year 10% of children were dangerously and severely aggressive with siblings. Nearly one third of us fight with our siblings. About 25% of all murders are by teenagers. There are 1.2 million cases of child abuse per year.
One of the most appalling statistics is that among women who die while pregnant or within one year of pregnancy, 30% are murdered (Chang, Berg, Saltzman & Herndon, 2005). The percentage is a little higher in young teen women (especially black) who have not gotten good prenatal care. A similar study by The Washington Post found that 2/3rds of these murders involved domestic violence. Many were slain at home by husbands, boyfriends, or lovers. In spite of our TV preoccupation in early 2005 with the Laci Peterson case, we aren’t doing much about helping women during this stressful period in their lives.
One in eight high school students are involved in an abusive “love” relationship right now. 40% of youths have been in a fight in the last year; 10% were in four or more fights last year. 25% of young males have carried a weapon at least one day in the last month (of that 25%, 60% carried a knife and 25% a gun). Boys and men are much more likely to carry a weapon than a female, but don’t assume that only men act violently. Recent studies suggest that college (not high school) women are more likely than men to kick, push, bite, and slap in anger, especially when they are jealous. Hostile, aggressive young people tend to come from broken, angry, violent homes. Violence comes in many forms and in many situations. On the extreme end of the scale, there are mass murderers, serial killers, terrorism, wars, rape and sexual violence, domestic violence, parent-child or sibling violence, violence by psychotics and people with antisocial personality disorders, child physical and sexual abuse, and ethnic or religious groups or nations that go to war. I do not intend to imply that these acts are similar. I’m simply pointing out the wide diversity and regrettable frequency of violence. Since the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, there has been a lot of attention on preventing violence by terrorists (mostly by capturing or killing the terrorists first) but little serious research has been done to further our understanding of the causes or prevention of angry aggression. (Levin & Rabrenovic, 2004, provide a sociological view and discuss ways small groups have reduced hatred). Much research is needed.
Of course, anger isn’t only expressed in horrendous events—it is a part of everyday life. A survey of 6,000 families published by the British government (Flouri, E., 2005) found that 89% of children born in 1958 were “never” or only “sometimes irritable.”
Most children were “mild mannered” but boys were more commonly rated by their mothers as “frequently irritable” than girls between 5 and 12. Moderately angry children do not necessarily become angry young adults. Anger seems to wane with age. When these children get into their 20’s and 30’s, the angry women slightly outnumber angry males. Angry young adults have more health problems and are less likely to have gotten married. Among the more extreme “consistently angry” children, they remain more angry and dissatisfied with life in their 30’s than their less angry peers in childhood.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It’s that time of year again, when we decide to quit smoking, lose weight and spend more time with our family. It’s a new year, so how about a new you, right?
Yet few of us stick to our New Year’s resolutions for any sustainable period of time. (And many of us make the same ones year after year.) Just ask any health club manager. He’ll tell you that all those members who signed up so excitedly in January stopped coming around by St. Patrick’s Day, often sooner.
What’s worse, many who fail in their attempts to turn over a new leaf return to their vices with a vengeance; now the smokers have gone from one pack a day to two and the dieters have switched from tofu and celery to doughnuts and Doritos.
All of this begs the question: Why do we continue to make these empty promises to ourselves every year?
Of course, much of it has to do with our belief that the first day of the year is magical, transformative. For many of us, January 1st represents a clean slate, a new beginning, a fresh start – choose your euphemism, it’s all the same.
The truth is we’re no more likely to make a significant change in our lives between December 31 and January 1 than, for example, June 22 and June 23. January 1st is an artificial date for resolutions, much like February 14th is for romance. (If you love someone, do you really need a national reminder to show it, particularly with such banal gifts as roses and chocolate?)
We make changes for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we’ve hit rock bottom; we’ve had a brush with death, or we want to be a better role model for our children – none of which have anything to do with the date on the calendar.
When we make changes when we want to, rather than being influenced by the calendar, they have much more meaning to us. More importantly, it greatly increases the likelihood that we follow through with our plan.
A second problem is that declaring your New Year’s resolutions has become less about personal choice and more about societal expectation.
Each year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, friends and colleagues ask us about our resolutions for the upcoming year. We feel obligated to come up with something because everyone else seems to have made a resolution and we don’t want to feel left out or appear that we’re not trying to improve ourselves. So, we provide a canned response like “exercise more” without really meaning it, dooming ourselves to failure.
Another problem is that most people don’t understand how difficult it is to make changes. Lasting change takes time and often involves many fits and starts. That’s because old patterns die hard, even when we want to destroy them.
However, many of us believe that come January 1st we need to make a clean break with past behavior, or begin a new behavior altogether. So, people go cold turkey with their vice or they throw themselves headlong into some new activity like jogging and believe that some nebulous inner strength will act as a substitute for any real plan, one that involves accountability and measurable, realistic goals.
When we invariably slip up – and so many of us do — we tend to believe that we have failed in some deep and meaningful way and we return to our old ways. This is faulty thinking.
Ask any substance abuse counselor and she’ll tell you that relapse is not failure, it’s simply part of the recovery process. Most addicts require several relapses, of varying lengths, before complete abstinence.
To put it another way, change isn’t a sprint around the block; it’s two steps forward and one step back. Expect bumps in the road, embrace the little victories and keep moving in the direction of your goal.
A few tips on making changes:
- Keep it realistic and measurable (it’s easier to stick to a goal of 20 minutes of walking per day than the vague ‘work out a few times a week’)
- Limit yourself to one change at a time
- Do something you genuinely want to do rather than something you think you should do (for example, don’t vow to drop 30 pounds if what you really want to do is learn Japanese)
So, this year break from tradition and resist the temptation to make a New Year’s resolution. Instead, make changes at your own pace throughout the year. You’ll find that you’re happier and healthier for having done so.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )