Think about this the next time someone cuts you off in traffic or in a grocery store line: Anger can bring on a heart attack or stroke.
That’s the conclusion of several studies at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere. One study of 1,305 men with an average age of 62 revealed that the angriest men were three times more likely to develop heart disease than the most placid ones.
Angry older men, as stereotypes go, are most vulnerable. But excessive ire can take a toll at any age. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine tracked 1,055 medical students for 36 years. Compared with cooler heads, the hotheads were six times more likely to suffer heart attacks by age 55 and three times more likely to develop any form of heart or blood vessel disease.
The conclusion is clear: Anger is bad for you at any age. “Among young adults, it’s a predictor of premature heart disease later in life,” says Harvey Simon, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Most anger research has focused on men, so whether the same risk applies to women remains unknown. One study, published in 1995, found that, during two hours after an angry outburst, a individual’s risk of having a heart attack was more than twice that of someone who had not lost their cool. Out of 1,623 people in that study, 501 were women.
“Almost all the anger research I’m familiar with has focused on men,” notes Simon. “However, based on a 2006 study of road rage, I would guess that women are less prone to severe anger and thus to its deleterious effects, which include heart attack, stroke, and even impaired lung function.”
A Harvard study, published in August, concluded that men who showed high hostility at the start of the eight-year investigation exhibited significantly poorer lung function at the end of it. “This research shows that hostility is associated with poorer [lung] function and more rapid rates of decline among older men,” notes Rosalind Wright, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Strokes of anger
Over the years, then, anger increases a man’s and, probably less so, a woman’s chances of heart disease. But, what about a single burst of rage, the guy who cuts in front of you just before the exit ramp? The answer apparently is “yes.” In the Harvard study of 1,623 patients, which included 501 women, intensive anger more than doubled their risk of heart attack if the emotion occurred in the two hours previous to the heart attack.
In an evaluation of 200 stroke patients in Israel, researchers linked a bout of intense anger to a 14-fold increase in risk of stroke within two hours of the emotional incident.
Results from a study published this year found that of more than 2,500 patients treated in emergency rooms in Missouri hospitals, about 500 of them were torn by anger just before the injury. The greater the anger, the higher the risk, researchers concluded.
Anger comes in many doses: annoyance, irritability, frustration, vexation, resentment, animosity, ire, indignation, wrath, and rage, for example. Most people know when they’re mad. If not, someone is bound to tell them so, sooner or later.
Psychologists have developed a scale that rates anger levels. It’s a true-or-false test that presents statements like: “At times I feel like smashing things.” “I easily become impatient with people,” “I’ve been so angry at times that I’ve hurt someone in a physical fight.”
Once you decide how irate you are, you need to decide what to do about it. For a start you can see your family doctor about the wisdom of taking an aspirin a day. Harvard researchers recently found that a single low-dose (81 mg) pill can reduce anger-caused heart attacks by 40 percent. In other words, a daily aspirin may cut the risk of breaking an angry heart by almost half.
How to be cool
Simon adds more advice in the September issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, which he edits. “Try to identify the things that bother you most and do your best to change them,” he suggests. “Learn to recognize warning signs of building tension, such as a racing pulse, fast breathing, or a jumpy, restless feeling. When you recognize such signals, take steps to relieve the tension. Often something as simple as a walk can cool things down.”
Don’t boil in silence. Talk out your feelings with your spouse, partner, or a good friend. If that doesn’t work, write down your feelings. Try to explain to yourself why you are so irritated or vexed.
Simon also suggests learning to meditate, or experimenting with deep breathing exercises. Also, you can, with practice, change behaviors that light your fuse. Here are some examples: Don’t always try to have the last word. Try not to raise your voice. Don’t curse. Wait a few seconds when you feel on outburst coming on then try to express yourself calmly. Don’t grimace or clench your teeth. Practice smiling.
If all such efforts fail, angry people can seek professional help. A 2002 study reported that stress management classes can protect men from anger-induced heart problems, and individual counseling may be even better.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Malcolm is a Pleasing Child. He has been pleasing since he was 4. He is now 42 going on 5. He has a lifestyle which appears to be dedicated to the pleasing of others. Beneath this facade there lies a darker reality. As a Pleaser, Malcolm doubts his worth as a person. He deems himself unworthy of being pleased. He sacrifices self-pleasing in favor of pleasing others who are worthier than himself. The Pleaser’s Lifestyle is one long good intention for others. He means well, but he doesn’t do well. He does not do what reality requires, he does what he requires in order to overcompensate for his self-contempt.
We say to ourselves, “He’s just doing that to get approval.” We content ourselves with this surface explanation, and we fail to ask the next obvious question: “Why does he need so much approval in the first place? Why isn’t he cured of this need when he gets it?” The answer is that the Pleaser is trying to solve a problem within himself that he doesn’t know how to solve. His solution cannot work. It does not relieve the pain of his self-contempt. Pleasing is the only trick he knows. He has to keep doing it.
As with most good intentions, pleasing behavior seems positive, but it is not. The Pleaser’s true goal is not to make people happy, it is to keep from displeasing them so that they will not beat him up after school. His sense of himself is so thin that a mere look of disdain is enough to unravel his fragile composure. A “dissatisfied customer” constitutes a threat to his existence. To displease is to court annihilation and that is unacceptable. His true purpose, then, is not positive, it is negative; it is the prevention of the bad things that happen to those who fail to be sufficiently pleasing. He doesn’t care about you, he cares about himself!
The Pleaser deceives himself into thinking that he is only being considerate of his fellow human beings by bringing a ray of sunshine into their lives. He has good intentions for others, without realizing that his good intentions are self-indulgent, counter-productive and ultimately self-destructive.
The Pleaser lacks the adult judgment that it takes to discriminate between appropriate pleasing and over-compensatory, inappropriate pleasing. He solves the problem by being pleasing all the time. It is hard work, but for him it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The Pleasing Lifestyle is a carryover of a childhood role into adulthood where it is inappropriate and counter-productive. Pleasers are afraid to give up this role because they do not know what will take its place. To them, this negative, paper thin role is better than no role at all. They do not realize that there is a more gratifying way to go through life than living to please others.
As a consequence of this ungratifying lifestyle, Pleasers are susceptible to feeling impotent, out of control, alienated, insecure, naive, trapped, immature, anxious, and depressed. These are all facets of self-contempt. The harder they try to relieve their distress in counter-productive ways, the worse they feel.
The Pleaser often plays the role of the Clown, the Entertainer. He makes himself the butt of his own jokes to show he “can take it.” People may wonder why he is “on” all the time. They think he’s having a swell time. He doesn’t really have any choice. He feels compelled to behave in accordance with his definition of himself as the Pleaser and his attitudes towards himself, other people and life. He is acting out a role in a script that nobody wrote.
As we have seen, Pleasers are not motivated by a genuine concern for the happiness of others. They have an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda of which they are only dimly aware. Their negative purpose in pleasing is to avoid being hurt by others. They prophesy victimization and disaster, and they feel that they can avert these disasters by placating those who have the power to hurt them. It’s the only hope they have. Unfortunately, these counter-productive attempts at pleasing often result in the fulfillment of their prophesies of abuse, rejection, abandonment and other forms of disaster. In the end, they stop trying. They “melt down,” they “burn out.” They have become discouraged.
Some Pleasers think that they can regain their vitality by going to the other extreme. Their motto becomes, “No More Mister Nice Guy.” The irony is that they weren’t a nice guy to begin with. The second wrong is that this phony role won’t work either.
Pleasing as Self-Indulgent Mischief: The Pleaser is convinced that his activities are other-directed and self-less. He is completely unaware of the self-indulgent, over-compensatory nature of his “pleasing” behavior.
The self-serving nature of the Pleaser’s activities becomes apparent when he is prevented from pleasing people his way. When the intended Pleased expresses a preference of his own, the would-be Pleaser experiences unpleasant, sometimes incapacitating conflicts On the one hand, he wants to please in order to avoid the unacceptable consequences of displeasing. On the other hand, he has his own notions as to how the Pleaser should be pleased; and his way is the right way! Thirdly, he dares not express his reservations openly for fear of displeasing his customer, and ruining the whole effect.
He must suppress his anger for fear of rejection or abandonment, which would invalidate his own worth as a person still further. He “solves” his dilemma by complying with the Pleasee’s request, but under silent protest. He does not perceive himself as “giving,” or as cooperating with his fellow human being. To the self-centered Pleaser, this accommodation is perceived as “submission’ to the “unreasonable” whims of his partner.
Mike is a Pleaser, too. He feels that he “knows” how people should be pleased; in fact, he knows how to please them even better than they know themselves! He knows what’s best for them. Since he does not experience himself as valid in his own right, he cannot appreciate the validity of his wife’s legitimate preferences. He discounts Marge’s preferences as “wrongheaded.” His preferences are right, and they are worthy to prevail.
Mike cannot stand to be wrong. He has to be right, even perfectly right. His agenda has nothing to do with his wife’s preferences in the real world. His agenda is to be right and not wrong. In his experience, wrongness is punished, and he has been avoiding wrongness all his life. When he says, “It’s the principle of the thing” to justify his nonsensical insistence, we say that he is just being stubborn. But why is he stubborn? What difference does it make whether they go to his movie pick or hers? The difference is that her pick is the “wrong” one because it isn’t his. His worth as a person is now at stake. If he is wrong, he will take it very personally, as if it were a reflection on his taste in movies. He would lose his shaky self-respect. His stubbornness is his way of maintaining his hidden agenda, which is preventing the invalidation of his worth as a person.
Antidotes To Pleasingness
A. His wife can try saying to him in a firm tone, “Mike, it would make me so happy to go see a movie. Won’t you do it for me?” This ploy distracts him from the phony issue of comparative film judgment. He may see an advantage to himself in making his wife happy for one evening.
B. Or, Mike’s wife might say, “It makes me angry when we always have to do things your way, whether it makes any sense or not. Now, you can go to your movie and I’ll go to mine and I’ll meet you at Barneys for a hot dog afterward.” This approach uses the wife’s legitimate anger to shock Mike out of his childish striving for superiority at her expense. It dispenses with the issue of which movie is “righter” than the other. Often, when Mike comes out of his shock, he goes to the movie with his wife because that wasn’t the issue anyway.
Gilda is a professional Pleaser. She wants to win both ways. She wants to relieve her own distress, and she wants a pat on the back from us for doing it. But because her misguided efforts are usually inappropriate and unrealistic, she very often fails to receive the recognition and approval that she requires to validate her shaky personhood. Instead, she often finds herself excluded from get-togethers, scorned by the very people she tries so hard to please.
She spends much of her life despising the ungrateful wretches upon whom she has had the misfortune to expend her energies and efforts. She finds her relationships to be a succession of such ungrateful wretches, one after the other. She has contempt for them and for the whole human race. But this contempt does not deter her from starting all over again when a new Pleasee moves into the building.
Not only is Gilda angry at the failure of her beneficiaries to recognize and appreciate her “goodness,” she is angry at herself. She is the “stupid” one for doing it over and over. She should “know better” by now. But she doesn’t. Since everything is her responsibility, her unhappiness must be “her fault” in the end. Since her goodness was unappreciated, she feels that it was all for nothing too. She feels worthless, angry at herself, and this anger turns into depression. Instead of relieving the pain of her self-contempt, her counter-productive, self-indulgent pleasing has only made it worse.
There are many events ripe for unearthing family dramas, often featuring a popular story line about competing loyalties. Though there are variations on the plot, the focus here will be on this dynamic as it plays out with men and boys and their mothers. Many men, caught up in powerful family dynamics from childhood, are plagued this time of year with having to choose between their mothers or their wives, as practical decisions regarding shared holiday time take on added meaning and consequences.
Holidays typically recreate old family dynamics as adult children reunite with parents, creating pressure from the original family system to replay the same patterns as before. This pressure invites conflict as new boundaries, competing with earlier ones, are tested and challenged. How the scene unfolds, and the outcome, depends on the level of differentiation achieved by the man from his mother, and the security of the boundaries he has established around his marriage and new family.
Loyalty binds are part of a common dysfunctional family dynamic which occurs when mothers use their sons to make up for previous loss, and lack of connection with -or anger at- their husbands. In such families, mothers often have a history of unresolved trauma, loss, or insecure attachments with their own mothers. This leads to a parallel and compensatory style of attachment with their sons, whereby instead of the mother tuning in to the child’s emotional states, the reverse occurs, requiring the child to adapt to the mother’s needs,
“Good enough mothering” involves a delicate dance of noticing and attuning to the child’s own rhythm, and adjusting one’s own rhythm to be in sync with the child’s need for closeness or distance, stimulation or retreat. Healthy attachment requires mothers to be secure enough to allow their children to safely differentiate from them without pulling them back in with the threat of anger, withdrawal, and/or guilt. Unresolved issues from the mother’s own childhood, particularly around separation and loss, can impede her capacity to allow the child’s needs and rhythms — not their own — to guide attachment.
As the child becomes an adult, a mother with this anxious, insecure attachment style may refuse to let go, secretly needing to remain the primary love attachment. This may not become apparent until her son finds a romantic love partner and devotes himself to her, allowing a competitor to enter the scene. The situation is then often enacted in full drama around family events and holidays when the mother’s explicit demands, and [unspoken] expectation of “loyalty” (e.g. exclusive love) from her son, conflicts with his role as a husband.
Jason’s mom required a possessive, symbiotic union with her son to guard against experiencing buried feelings of loss and abandonment. Losing her hold over Jason as he shifted his loyalties to his wife was the ultimate threat to her sense of security and control. When Jason married Kelley, the split he felt as a boy when he had to choose between his mom and dad – was recreated between his mother and his wife. This split became most apparent during their first holiday season together, when Jason’s mom made him feel guilty about how he divided his time, accusing him of abandoning her, and directing hate and blame towards Kelley
Jason’s parents divorced when he was a very young boy. Growing up, when he was at his dad’s, his mom called him frequently, asking him if he was ok – even when he was happy – and reassuring him that he had other people (her family) who loved him. She communicated to him in a variety of explicit and implicit ways her hurt and betrayal over his dad, which made Jason feel responsible for taking care of her.
Jason coped by developing a pattern of emotional detachment and blunting his feelings with both parents, so as not to let on that he was having too good a time with either. He experienced muted enjoyment with his dad in particular, often acting as if he were less excited than he was, especially when his mom phoned him, which was often. He felt particularly protective of his mom – the “abandoned one, ” often hiding the nature of his relationship with his dad, though it was secretly vital to him, and feeling guilty for leaving her alone. Jason’s father, in turn, took his son’s blunted reactions at face value, worrying that Jason did not like him or enjoy their time together, often pulling back in reaction or becoming angry.
Jason was in the dark about how he felt because both parents imposed their own feelings onto him. No one helped him understand what was happening or gave him a safe space to experience his own natural reactions, which went underground. Without help articulating their own and other’s states of mind through words and emotional resonance, children do not develop a “sense” of themselves. This self-awareness or inner wisdom is needed to guide us, allowing us to gauge what it happening in our relationships, and make decisions that are true to ourselves.
In place of authentic experience, Jason developed an adaptation to relationships in which he was detached and “other directed”. His reactions were driven by fear and dread of his mom’s unhappiness. When she was angry or hurt, through a process of “projective identification,” he took on her feelings as if they were his own, experiencing the weight of her depression, and the related feelings of guilt and badness she projected onto him.
Projective identification is an unconscious psychological process occurring in relationships whereby one person’s disowned feelings are put into the other. The recipient identifies with these projected feelings as if they were his own and both enter into a shared delusional cycle. In this case, Jason experienced his mom’s rageful accusations of abandonment as an emotional truth, feeling depressed, guilt-ridden and mad at himself for not looking out for her.
Using guilt, as Jason’s mom did, to control others in relationships disregards boundaries and disrespects the other person’s autonomy. This approach to relationships replaces mutuality and negotiation with greed and emotional blackmail, presuming a lack of faith that others would give of their own free will. It is typically an unconscious process whereby the guilt-tripper feels self-righteous, entitled, and innocent of any misdeed. Emotional manipulation through guilt can be costly – breeding resentment, limiting authentic engagement, and hijacking initiative and genuine desire.
In cases such as Jason’s, the lack of differentiation between mother and son is so complete and unconscious that the man may be unaware of the source of his resentment, easily displacing it onto his wife, usually a safer target than mother. This pattern leads to unintended collusion with the mother, causing the marriage to become divided until the man “owns” his unexpressed conflict with his mom, and recognizes that she is the source of his anger. An absence of anger towards his mother, or the inability to come forward with it is likely a sign of re-experiencing a once adaptive, but now instinctual, response to danger experienced as a child for any such emotional separation from mother.
Jason needs to see what is really happening in order to disentangle himself from his mother’s projections and find a space to think and feel for himself. Awareness of his internal conflict and anger over the emotional burden and manipulation he has had to bear will allow him the courage to set limits with his mom. Standing up to his mom will reduce his fear and avoidance, creating a space for him to act of his own volition and desire and choose his wife as his primary loyalty and partner in life.
Tips for the woman:
• Stay aligned with your husband
• Communicate feelings and requests clearly, without anger, or acting out
• Don’t demonize or bad-mouth his momRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
When you or your partner feels an intense, negative emotion, you can bet that he or she is having a fight or flight response. This response happens in your brain stem – the part that is made for basic survival. When you feel threatened physically or emotionally, your brain stem sends surges of chemicals into your body to help you fight or flee.
When you feel jealous, you’re experiencing a threat to your primary attachment. The basic survival part of your brain feels that if you lose this person, something terrible will happen. It puts you on high alert to avoid this perceived danger. For many people with chronic jealousy, there is an old wound to a primary attachment. This may be an old relationship in which you were betrayed. Or it may go back to your earliest childhood.
If your parents were preoccupied, stressed or had difficulty knowing what you needed to feel safe and secure as a baby, you may have grown up feeling like you were on your own, craving close connection, but fearing that you could never really have it completely. If your parents were overburdened, they may have accidentally given you the impression that you were a burden or that you need for closeness was too much or that you were too sensitive.
When an old attachment wound gets triggered in the present – maybe your spouse or partner travels a lot, or forgot to call when they said they would – that’s when you begin noticing every little shift in your partner, checking every credit card statement, every cell phone log. It’s a terrible feeling – and even worse if you know, rationally, that your partner is not cheating and has no intention of leaving. Then you might also feel ashamed of being jealous.
Understanding jealousy is the first step to healing. In our next post, we’ll talk about what to do when your partner get’s jealous. In the meantime, we’d love to hear how jealousy has affected your relationships – especially if you found a way to overcome it!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Workers losing their tempers and yelling? Or worse, throwing something or damaging equipment, committing physical violence and even murder? Does this describe the modern workplace? Has “desk rage” now replaced road rage and air rage?
Integra Realty Resources, a national real estate valuation firm, which conducted a workplace survey, concluded that stress in the workplace had escalated in the U.S., reporting that 50% of respondents commonly skip lunch to keep working, and 52% indicating they worked up to 12 hours a day to complete their work. In Integra’s survey of American workers, 42% said yelling and verbal abuse took place where they worked, and 29% admitted they had verbally abused co-workers. More disturbing, 10% of respondents said they worked in a place where physical violence had occurred.
John Challenger, CEO of a Chicago based workplace consulting company, reports that their surveys show that up to 3% of people admit to pushing, slapping or hitting someone at work. With roughly 100 million people in the U.S. workforce, that’s 3 million guilty workers.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and a report entitled Compensation and Working Conditions conducted by the University of Virginia , in 1998 alone, 700 homicides occurred in the workplace in the U.S. A U.S. News and World Report poll says that 89% of U.S. workers said incivility is a serious problem and 78% said it is getting worse. The cost of workplace violence to employers is estimated somewhere between $6 to $36 billion annually.
Along with the increase in “desk rage” has been the “Dilbertization” of the workplace–corralling workers into increasingly smaller workplaces in cost cutting measures. Integra reports that 1 in 8 office workers now work in a cubicle.
The Workplace Violence Research Institute reports that many workers have long and difficult commutes, and often arrive at the workplace already stressed and even angry. Anna Maravelas, author of How To Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress, says that rudeness and anger has spread from the home to the workplace, and is so common that people are less and less embarrassed about it. According to C. Leslie Charles in her book, Why Is Everyone So Cranky? American workers are “overwhelmed, overworked, overscheduled and overspent.”
Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing in the Harvard Business Review, cites the recent case of a JetBlue flight attendant, who verbally abused a passenger and then made an angry exit down an escape ramp. His actions are reminiscent of the movie Network, in which a fictional newscaster, Howard Beal, stands up in the middle of the broadcast to yell that famous expression, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Kanter says that as a result of layoffs and cutbacks, fewer and fewer people are asked to do more and more, and then told to be happy about it, and that can lead to anger and rage. There is potential for workers to “go postal”–an expression indicating extreme physical violence. Kanter argues that the root causes for “desk rage” is anchored in the American culture and reflected in the media’s desire to feature if not stage rancorous political fights as public entertainment. Behind the lost desire to treat people with respect and dignity is the pressure for short-term financial gain at the expense of people, Kanter argues.
The Desk Rage trend is a not-so-hidden time-bomb that could have serious detrimental effects on both productivity and workplace culture. Whether it’s the result of austerity measures such as downsizing and layoffs, or a result of increased workloads and stress, or a reflection of a society becoming increasingly uncivil, remains to be seen. Needless to say it is a disturbing trend, one that employers and executives need to take seriously.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“I’m afraid if I ever let go and just really feel it, I’ll blow up the whole world!” That comment is often made by persons along the way on the journey to wholeness. We fear the enormity of repressed emotions caged up inside of us for what seems like centuries now. We fear that we could do harm if we were allowed to just let it rip.
In fact, some do. Anger management classes are operating right this moment all over the Western world, classes that teach us how to “walk away,” “count to ten,” and other like techniques meant to keep us from behaving on our rage. But anger, on all of its levels from mild irritation all the way up to rage is more than behavior. Yet behavior is what we fear. In fact I’ve heard adolescent boys struggling with rage say, “I didn’t get mad—I know because I didn’t throw anything or hit anyone.” They were totally equating anger only with behavior.
Irritation, frustration, anger, rage: these are all forms of anger. And they are feelings first. But when a person’s rage becomes behavior even before thought has a chance to plug in, it is usually because of one of two reasons: 1) it’s been repressed for a long time, and when someone drops the proverbial straw, it explodes; 2) it works for manipulative purposes.
Either way it has something to do with maturity. I said at the end of the last blog that I’d talk about maturity, and so I am. Maturity is the result of having faced and overcome obstacles by gathering deeper and deeper aspects of self. In other words, when faced with a challenge we don’t repeat a rote behavior, or do what someone else taught us to do, or just do what we’ve always done. Rather, we dig deeper into ourselves to create something original as a solution to the problem or to overcome the obstacle. In the process we learn something about ourselves and/or about life in general.
What has come to be called “uncontrollable rage” comes about as a result of not having developed maturity. We can see this clearly in the example of frustration. When some little thing goes wrong, say a key won’t work in a lock, we generally get frustrated. We feel blocked. What we do at this point is going to make a difference as to whether or not we take a step forward in our psychological growth. Of course, we may have to fail a few times before we can figure out how our frustration can be a catalyst for creativity. But ultimately if we can learn to feel the frustration, hold the tension between the feeling and the act, and then push on just a little further, we find that we can create a solution or even something wholly new out of that frustrating moment.
When we continuously fail to step forward in this way, we do not grow emotionally, and thus we do not mature. And so it is that some will learn that rage works to manipulate or scare someone else into overcoming the frustration for them. Or, they learn that unloading their rage just makes them temporarily feel better—in a similar fashion to the way that using substances can make us forget our challenges in a haze of feeling better—so that we no longer feel motivated to solve the problem or become creative in response to a life challenge.
What most people don’t know is that we have a choice. Feeling our feelings and using them for a springboard for creativity is an option that is always available to us, but one which we can decide not to take. And the more frequently we choose to forgo that option, the less likely we are to mature through the process.
This means that the batterer is most likely to be an immature person whose rages are comparable to a toddler or adolescent temper tantrum. And the notion that batterers are just “out of control” is unfounded. The concept of being “out of control” is based in the notion of external locus of control—or the idea that if the external world cannot stop me, then I’m just beyond control. And it belies the fact that we always have a choice.
In fact, when we talk to people who are willing to really be honest about rage, what we learn is that before they behaved out of it, they were aware of other options for expression besides harming someone or breaking something.
On the other hand, rage as a simple feeling can be quite useful for informing us of where we need to place our boundaries, where someone else stops and we begin and vice versa. Holding the tension between the rageful feelings, for example about a previous abuse or betrayal, can inform us of how much we actually do care about our own well-being so that we can solidly declare “never again!” And the rage has just the right amount of energy to allow us to keep our promises to ourselves.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfil it’s purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about. The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees.
There are a number of different anger/conflict situations that managers will face at one time or another. Each of these situations is slightly different, and may require different sets of skills.
■one employee angry or in conflict with another
■employee angry or in conflict with manager (you)
■one employee angry at someone in another organization
■two factions that habitually square off
We are going to look at employee angry that is directed towards you as a manager.
The Anger Iceberg
You should be aware that the anger you see is much easier to deal with than the anger that goes unexpressed by employees. You should also know that the large proportion of employee anger is not expressed directly to the “boss”. It is this anger that is destructive to your organization since it will surface covertly through activities such as back-stabbing, un-cooperativeness, rumour spreading, and poor performance.
One important management/leadership task is to be alert to cues that indicate that there is anger sitting below the surface, unexpressed. While it may be frustrating to bear the responsibility of identifying and dealing with the “iceberg under the surface”, it is an important part of building a positive climate where conflict can be resolved. If you wait for an employee to broach the subject, when it is clear there is a problem, you may be sacrificing a great deal.
We are going to focus on how employee anger that is out in the open can be dealt with so that there is a potential for increasing the level of respect and harmony, and by extension, productivity.
1. Conflict/Angry situations become negative and destructive when they are not dealt with promptly and effectively. When the situations are dealt with properly, there is a tendency for a team to get stronger and better.
2. While angry employees may appear to want a specific issue addressed, they are looking for something else that they see as equally or more important. They want to be heard. If you don’t provide a means for them to be heard, they will find other more
subversive ways to be heard (and you won’t like it much).
3. Staff will watch very closely to see how you handle anger directed at you. Even if you have a private discussion with an angry employee, staff will know about it. Your ability to lead will depend on your behaviour, and the interpretation of your behaviour.
4. Most people react to anger directed at them with a fight or flight reaction. That is there is a gut reaction which, unchecked, results in “firing back” with an aggressive manner, defending oneself, OR, avoidance. Only in rare occasions will these gut reactions result in dealing with anger effectively.
Tips & Techniques For Dealing With Overt Angry Behaviour
1. When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
2. Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
3. Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:
“You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry at me. What’s up?”
4. If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:
“I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it”
Then follow up on the conversation.
5. Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:
“It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion”.
6. Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.
“George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?”
7. If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are). Trying to prove the employee is
incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.
“George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.”
8. A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.
“George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?”
9. At the end of a discussion of this sort, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:
a) Deal with feelings first
b) Move to issues and problem-solving
c) Go back to feelings (check it out)
Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
From talk show hosts and political party candidates to newspaper headlines and popular books, so much of what we see and read has to do with anger. Anger has become big business. This certainly makes sense, given the extent of the problems we’re facing today. Still, it makes it all the more important to understand this primary human emotion that many think of as bad or dangerous and others are eager to quickly embody and act out. Since much has already been written about anger as a negative emotion, let’s consider how anger can be positive. Let’s consider how your anger can actually be a gift. Here are four ways:
1.Anger gets you more in touch with yourself.
As we’ve certainly been seeing politically and socially, you can’t be complacent when you’re angry. Things that may have been bothering you for a while become intolerable. Problems that may have stayed just under the surface in your mind take center stage thanks to anger. Your anger demands your attention, opening up an inner dialogue between you and the problem and helping you gain clarity about what’s really important to you. No matter what your level of anger, from irritation to rage, you feel it because something matters to you. While your anger helps you clarify what’s important to you in the world around you, that’s only half of what anger can show you. And it may not be the most important half.
2.Anger shows you where you’re habitually triggered.
Clearly your anger focuses you outward, on what’s bothering you, but what makes anger really effective is using it first to help you focus inward. One of anger’s key gifts is that it can shine a light on your inner world. Try keeping an anger diary for a week — just a simple one where you write down the focus of any anger that you experience during the week and add what you wish had happened instead. Then, at the end of the week, look at your anger episodes to discern the pattern that will inevitably be there. Do you become angry when you feel disrespected? When you feel pressed for time? When you feel taken advantage of or misunderstood? Notice your pattern, and, if you want to take it a step deeper, think about who in your family of origin may have shared that pattern. Taking time for this exploration will show you both the outer and the inner cause of your anger, and that dual knowledge will help you decide on your best course of action.
3.Anger focuses you on your power, and, potentially, on creativity you may not even have known you have.
Action will inevitably be required. Anger is insistent. It demands a solution, and sometimes that demand leads to surprisingly creative results, especially if you’ve taken the time to explore your anger deeply. Do you remember a time when your anger demanded that you ask for help with a task? Find a better way to be in relationship? Reprioritize your schedule? Or your life? One of my clients used her anger to help her focus more deeply on her relationship with her family, and her exploration of her trigger pattern as well as her interpersonal communication, led to a more honest and satisfying relationship with her sister.
4.Anger shakes up the status quo.
This is the ultimate gift. The change that may have seemed too difficult to even contemplate becomes possible given the power of your anger. In fact, throughout history, a lot of the changes the world has made have come about with the help of anger. If you simply react in anger, you’ll probably end up causing more problems than you solve, but if you explore your anger, both its outer focus and its inner origins, you can make beneficial changes that you might not even have dreamed possible.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It’s a subject made for the movies! But, unlike its depiction in the 2003 film, Anger Management, treatment for anger management issues is very serious business. Haven’t we all been in a work situation where someone loses their temper? Know the employee with a reputation as the “office screamer?” Sometimes it can even be a boss!
While some people may be prone to outbursts of emotion at work, are these incidents simply a reflection of human nature or are they, perhaps, something more serious that an employer must address? Believe it or not, an employee with significant anger issues may be protected by various laws, if that anger is caused by or related to a medical condition.
As is the case with most employment-related disciplinary matters, the answer to the question of how to manage an employee with anger issues is – carefully. Each individual situation requires analysis to assess the issues involved and to determine how an employer should proceed. Are you dealing with the “office bully,” with an employee who consistently loses his or her temper with other employees, customers or clients, or with someone who just has a poor daily demeanor that manifests itself in regular outbursts, perhaps directed at no one in particular? In short, is this just an office bully or someone who has a mental impairment?
Workplace bullying, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons …one or more perpetrators…in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating or work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done.” Obviously, this definition covers someone who simply behaves badly in the workplace, but it also may describe the actions of an employee with a more serious, underlying behavioral problem. Employers may not, however, play psychologist/psychiatrist in attempting to assess an individual’s actions. Therein lies the challenge for the employer, as it must make an effort to determine the best, most appropriate way to handle such behavioral issues without placing a “label” upon the employee.
If the incident is one for which discipline is appropriate, a part of that discipline could presumably involve the requirement that the employee get counseling – seems simple and straightforward, right? Maybe not.
Requiring an employee with anger problems to get counseling could trigger certain issues and protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). Requiring an employee to obtain counseling could be found to be equivalent to requiring a medical exam. In order for an employer to avoid a violation of the ADAAA, it must demonstrate that such an exam (or counseling) is job-related and that it is a business necessity.
So what do you do with the “office screamer” – the person who doesn’t necessarily become involved in a confrontation with a co-worker or third party, but who has an unpleasant office demeanor that might not otherwise be subject to discipline? While that type of behavior could certainly lead to disciplinary action, a wise employer will want to derail that behavior before it escalates into a disciplinary event. It is possible for an employer – without running afoul of ADAAA regulations – to require that an employee attend a group anger management class. This type of group training can assist the employee in managing his or her interactions in the workplace, without necessarily implying that the employee has a mental impairment.
Anger is a significant workplace and societal issue, and there are professionals who deal specifically with anger management. The basic question, of course, centers around a determination of the source of one’s anger which, in today’s world, can stem from outside forces that ultimately manifest themselves within the workplace. While the majority of employees will not want their personal issues to impact their job situation, some people are unable to prevent that anger from manifesting itself at work. This situation is much more difficult to deal with from an employer’s standpoint. While an employer should be reluctant to delve into an employee’s personal situation, anger left unchecked can have drastic consequences in the workplace. This is an area where an employer would be well advised to proceed with caution and to consult with legal counsel early in the process in order to avoid ending up on the wrong end of an EEOC charge.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Work on recognizing anger early, before it escalates. Point out when voices get louder, faster, more tense, or more demanding. Use unkind sarcasm or failure to follow through on commitments as a clue to anger. Once you recognize your anger, make a polite request. If it works, you don’t even need to express your anger. If it doesn’t work, use your anger to tactfully insist on negotiation, compromise, and problem solving. The anger will pass if you accept it and express it respectfully.
Help an angry or explosive man to express his feelings several times each day. This is an important first step in learning to use anger constructively. Anger often covers up feelings of hurt, insecurity, inadequacy, or fear. Use “I feel (an emotion) when (this happened)” statements, but not “I feel you …” or “I feel (an emotion) when you …” statements, which often lead to critical, blaming comments. Teach him to make polite requests and avoid blaming or verbally attacking you.
Use the next two techniques whenever either partner can’t maintain a calm, respectful tone of voice and carefully listen to the other. First, take a few deep breaths, relax the tension in your body (perhaps by stretching), and slowly count until you calm down, whether this takes 5 seconds, 20 seconds, or more. Imagine your parents and grandparents, a preacher or priest, a respected and well-loved teacher or boss, your counselor, or several policemen are watching how you respond. If you can’t use a calm tone of voice to respond tactfully and respectfully, start counting again and pretend the authority figures are watching.
If this doesn’t help, take a time out. Leave and do something else until you calm down. Be sure to avoid angry thinking when you count or leave to calm down. Repeatedly thinking about the conflict only prolongs the upset feelings. If you tend to blame other people or circumstances for your anger, read or repeat every day, “Nobody makes me angry. I make myself angry over certain situations and only I can change this.” If a man’s anger is intense or explosive, don’t bother with counting: he should leave the situation immediately. If he has ever been violent, he should use time out often, at least several times a week for practice and to develop the habit, even if he feels only mildly irritated and doesn’t really need to leave.
Avoid angry thinking during time out by getting things done or doing what you enjoy. You might work on a hobby, read a good book, or work on projects around the house. Practicing meditation or deep relaxation is an excellent way to calm down. Physical activities such as walking, jogging, exercising, or bicycling help by
eleasing tension. Don’t punish a loved one by leaving for much longer than an hour or two. Be very careful if you drive a car because angry people often drive dangerously. Don’t use alcohol or other drugs when you feel angry. If you return and can’t use a calm tone of voice to respond respectfully, despite pretending authority figures are watching, leave again and do something else. As you gradually improve in dealing with your anger, you should be able to reduce the time you need away from the situation to calm down. Whenever either of you feels angry, use the questions listed in the box to help you think more carefully and logically.
« Previous Entries