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 )
If a caller upsets you, do you hurl the phone across the room? Do you curse and blast the horn furiously if the driver in front of you takes three seconds to notice the green light? An angry temperament can hurt more than relationships – anger and heart disease may go hand in hand, according to experts.
“You’re talking about people who seem to experience high levels of anger very frequently,” says Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who has studied the role of stress and emotion on cardiovascular disease.
Moderate anger may not be the problem, she says. In fact, expressing one’s anger in reasonable ways can be healthy. “Being able to tell people that you’re angry can be extremely functional,” she says.
But explosive people who throw things or scream at others may be at greater risk, as well as those who harbor suppressed rage, she says. “Either end of the continuum is problematic.”
Gender doesn’t appear to make much difference, she adds. “Once people are chronically angry, men and women seem to be at equally high risk.”
Scientists don’t all agree that anger plays a role in heart disease, she says. But many studies have suggested a significant link. “I think the case is strong,” Kubzansky says.
For example, one large study published in Circulation in 2000 found that among 12,986 middle-aged African-American and white men and women, those who rated high in traits such as anger — but had normal blood pressure — were more prone to coronary artery disease (CAD) or heart attack. In fact, the angriest people faced roughly twice the risk of CAD and almost three times the risk of heart attack compared to subjects with the lowest levels of anger.
Anger may not be the only culprit in heart disease risk. Kubzansky’s own research suggests that other extreme, negative emotions may contribute, too. “Anger is a problem, but so, too, are high levels of anxiety and depression. They tend to co-occur. People who are angry a lot also tend to have other chronic negative emotions as well.
How might hotheads be hurting their hearts?
Scientists speculate that anger may produce direct biological effects on the heart and arteries. Negative emotions, such as anger, quickly activate the “fight-or-flight response.” They also trigger the “stress axis,” Kubzansky says. “That’s a slightly slower response, but it activates a cascade of neurochemicals that are all geared toward helping you in the short run if you’re facing a crisis.”
While these stress responses mobilize us for emergencies, they might cause harm if repeatedly activated. “When they persist over time, they end up being potentially damaging,” she says.
For example, excessive amounts of stress hormones may speed up the process of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in arteries, Kubzansky says.
Anger may also disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart and provoke dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.
Other research suggests that stress hormones may lead to higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance linked to atherosclerosis and future heart disease risk. In 2004, Duke University scientists who studied 127 healthy men and women found that those prone to anger, hostility, and depression had two to three times higher CRP levels than their more placid peers.
“CRP levels at this range are associated with inflammation that is likely to eventually increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke,” says researcher Edward Suarez, PhD. The findings were published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
Besides direct biological effects, lifestyle factors also come into play. Angry people may take worse care of themselves. “People who are chronically distressed may not behave in health-promoting ways,” Kubzansky says. “We know that anxious, depressed, angry people are more likely to smoke, less likely to engage in physical activity, have poor nutritional habits and drink to excess.”
Anger — as well as anxiety, depression and other negative emotions — are a part of life, Kubzansky says. They can serve useful purposes. “But if people find that they have them chronically and at high levels and can’t seem to get away from it, I view it like pain. It’s a signal that something needs to change. This is not how it’s supposed to be.”
Anger is intertwined with other problems that may end up harming the heart, says psychologist Wayne Sotile, PhD. “If you mismanage anger, it’s going to compromise your most intimate relationships,” he says. “It’s going to isolate you from others. The likelihood increases that you’ll get depressed, and you’re going to cause problems in your life that increase anxiety and worry.”
Sotile is director of psychological services for the Wake Forest University Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs and a special consultant in behavioral health for the Center for Cardiovascular Health at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Counseling and anger management classes can help the chronically angry to get their deep-seated emotions under control. But you can take more immediate steps, too, experts say.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
While driving down the highway in the fast lane, the person in front of you appears to have no idea what the fast lane means. After running all over town with the kids, you arrive home. They know they have rooms yet insist that the entire house is their closet and drop things wherever they please. It’s your birthday and your best friend gets you just what you needed, nothing. It seems that in these instances, the first reaction is to take things personally. As if what was done was intentional, a personal attack.
As odd as it sounds, we often think that there are many forces against us and we are innocent bystanders. I don’t agree. While there are some truly random events, much of what happens is our own doing. How we feel and react to the things going on around us will largely determine what happens to us. In the preceding examples, what makes us think that the things that happen to us are directed at us? Instead of reacting with a “How dare you!” we often react with a “How dare you do this to me!” The truth of the matter is that each person is really more concerned about themselves than they are others. It’s survival of the fittest. The person driving slow in front of me in traffic is more concerned about having a wide open lane ahead of them than they are with me getting past.
A lot of our life is spent worrying about what others may think or feel about us. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, we wouldn’t worry near as much about what others thought about us if we knew how seldom they did. When we are emotionally reactive to things in life, we give up our power to choose. If we take things personally, whether intended personally or not, our reaction intensifies. All of the sudden we have to defend ourselves, though many times a response is not warranted. Instead it would be better if we could learn the art of self-soothing. To be able to calm ourselves in the midst of emotional reactions opens a whole new range of responses.
We all have this ability. We are born with it. Just the other day, my 2 year old was climbing up on a toy in the house for the first time. As I watched her, she had a moment of pause just before she stood up tall and proud. In that moment of pause, she gathered herself and found the internal courage to stand. We do the same thing just before we honestly speak our mind, or address an issue with our spouse or kids. Self-soothing can be enhanced and used in all situations. And doing so gives you much more power over life’s circumstances.
To put this another way; you teach people how to treat you. If you feel that many people treat you wrong or take advantage of you, it only happens because you let them. Learning how to self-sooth, then stand up will produce a different outcome. This in turn will change the way others treat you. If you demand respect, trust, love, honor, comfort, or whatever, accept nothing less. Whenever you receive less than you expect, rather than taking it personally and reacting as such, calm yourself and address the issue. Either put yourself in their shoes and see it from their perspective or stand up and be honest, or both. If this honesty comes from both your mind and heart, it carries much more weight than just emotional reactivity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Have you ever wondered why there are times in life when it seems that you are simply coasting along? Throughout life, there are many tasks that must be undertaken in order to experience a life or relationship that is more alive. Granted there will be times when each of us may be bogged down with a particular event or stage in life (I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old in my house, needless to say, life right now is about them). Life has its natural ebbs and flows of emotion. But if you find yourself asking the preceding title question frequently, let me offer you some hope.
First, you are not alone. There are many, many people that have chosen to settle into their schedule driven life and have begun to believe that this is all there is for them and their loved ones. For many people, a routine life full of kid’s activities, homework, one week of family vacation per year, grocery lists, church meetings, carpool, etc. is enough for right now. What about later? When the kids are grown and out of the house (hopefully not boomeranging back). Have you planned that far in advance? Incidentally, did you know that the second most frequent period of relationships experiencing divorce is after the kids are out of the house? When you are forced to spend time with your spouse whom you may have avoided by “diving” into your kid’s life for all those years. You don’t have to wait that long (to change something, not get divorced).
Second, something can be done now that can begin the process of experiencing a life that is more fully alive. Experience a life full of passion, energy, love, adventure, and fun. It begins by asking yourself a series of simple questions: Would you want to be married to you? Would you want you as your father/mother? Would you want to work for you? Be friends with you? When we can honestly answer these questions, we have entered the beginnings of a life transforming process.
Far too often we want or expect those around us to change and accommodate us. We also may fall victim to the stagnating process of waiting for the other person to change before we respond. Let me explain by personalizing this. There have been times in my marriage when I have grown tired of the routine we have established of interacting, but I wait for my wife to do something different before I do. And to compound the issue, while I am waiting for her to read my mind, I get frustrated that she doesn’t respond fast enough or adequately to my unspoken expectations. Now I know how you may be responding to this; if she truly loved me and understood my needs, she should just know. If you are thinking this, you have fallen victim to the Hollywoodization of relationships. Just because you are in a marriage/committed relationship/close friendship/family does not mean that you cease to exist as an autonomous being. One with your own hopes and dreams and fantasies.
Having a life that is more fully alive, starts with you. By answering these questions honestly, you can begin to grow yourself into a better human. However, this does not come easily. This honest assessment of self and life is often accompanied by a spike in our levels of anxiety and discomfort. This is why we settle into the routine of life and don’t rock the boat. What I am proposing is that you have the willingness to stand up and address the things in your own life that get in the way of the life you want and in turn, take charge of your life and become more fully alive.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Everyone tells new parents how hard it’s going to be. But you can’t really know till you’re there yourself, sleep deprived, wanting to do your best at this very important job, and always feeling overwhelmed by the demands. This is an especially hard time for couples.
A lot of people who had great relationships before baby find themselves arguing more, feeling resentful of each other, feeling rejected or abandoned by their partner. If you’re coming into parenthood in your thirties or later, it may also be difficult to adjust to the changes in scheduling. One of you may have stopped working, and you’re feeling the financial pressure. You may not have the support of family or trusted friends and feel like you have to do it all yourself. If you both go back to work, then you may feel worried about childcare or guilty that you’re not with your child enough. And, while tending to the needs of this vulnerable, little person, it’s all too easy to neglect each other, not to mention yourselves.
It’s helpful to recognize that this transition comes with a lot of unexpected stresses. Often there are elements you could never have predicted. You or your spouse may have post-partum depression or anxiety. The baby may have difficulty feeding, sleeping, or some other distress you couldn’t anticipate. You may not have realized how childbirth and parenting would impact your sex life. You may feel resentful of the changes – but also guilty for feeling bad.
A lot of new parents have an idea that they have to pretend that everything is fine, even to themselves. Complaining may seem like you don’t love your child, or that you’re somehow not up to the task of parenthood. Sometimes couples don’t even talk to each other about these feelings, and neither one knows the other is going through the same thing. They end up feeling isolated. Or they fight about cleaning or money, not realizing that what they’re really feeling is lonely and overwhelmed.
If your relationship has suffered since the baby was born, it’s essential that you make some changes right away. When couples ignore problems, they tend to grow rather than to resolve. Talk to your partner gently about how you’re feeling. Don’t attack or criticize. Instead share how hard it is, how different from what you expected. Tell your partner that even though you seem angry or distant, really what you’re feeling is exhausted or overwhelmed. Tell him/her that even though you love your child, you miss the time you used to take for granted, time together and time for yourselves.
Sometimes these conversations are difficult to have on your own. It can feel scary or risky to open up and let yourself be so vulnerable. It may be hard to find the time without distractions to really listen to each other. Your partner may be too defensive to hear you. Or you might not know how to phrase things – so they come out wrong. It may just feel like there’s too much water under the bridge.
If you need assistance getting your relationship back on track, you might want to meet with a counselor who specializes in couples therapy – someone who has a lot of experience working with new parents. Therapy can help you clarify what each of you is feeling, wanting and needing. It’s a place where you can learn effective communication skills. In the process, many couples find a new sense of peace and equilibrium. They find it easier to turn to each other when the demands of parenting get overwhelming. They have more empathy and understanding for each other. They recognize that even though there are times when they can’t give each other what’s needed in the moment, there is still a deep bond of love, concern and friendship.
Couples who take care of their relationships live longer, happier lives and have happier, more secure kids. So don’t hesitate to get the help you need to strengthen your marriage.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Looking information for what usually ask during premarital counseling questions? Here is exactly what you need to know. If уоu аrе trуіng tо mаkе а decision аbоut trуіng premarital counseling, уоu mау bе wondering whаt tо expect. Pеrhарѕ you’re excited аbоut working оn potential problems bеfоrе thеу bесоmе major problems іn уоur relationship. Or mауbе уоu оwn parents gоt divorced аnd уоu wаnt tо dо еvеrуthіng уоu саn tо prevent thіѕ frоm happening tо you. Pеrhарѕ premarital counseling іѕ required іn уоur state. Or mауbе уоu аrе јuѕt а savvy couple whо wаntѕ tо gо іntо thіѕ whоlе marriage thіng wіth уоur eyes open. Whаtеvеr thе reason, it’s rеаllу good thаt уоu аrе соnѕіdеrіng it. Althоugh I mау bе preaching tо thе choir here, it’s important tо knоw thаt research shows thаt аnу type оf premarital counseling helps minimize thе risk оf divorce.
Yоu mау аlѕо bе wondering whаt tо expect іn premarital counseling questions. Whаt kind оf questions wіll соmе up? Wіll thе experience bе anxiety-provoking? Embarrassing? Tоо intrusive? Well, thе good news іѕ thаt mоѕt premarital counseling focuses оn education аnd skill-building. Mоѕt counselors don’t rеаllу focus оn deep, dark secrets оr rеаllу wаnt tо gеt caught uр іn analyzing уоur personality. Mоѕt premarital counseling sessions аѕk questions related tо thе fоllоwіng broad topics:
Does Premarital Counseling Really Work?
Thе premarital counselor thаt уоu choose wіll аlmоѕt аlwауѕ wаnt tо knоw аbоut hоw уоu bоth communicate. Nоt оnlу wіll thе therapist аѕk уоu questions аbоut typical communication patterns, but thеу wіll wаnt tо knоw hоw уоu bоth communicate іn оthеr settings аѕ wеll (e.g. аt work, wіth уоu families, etc). Thе counselor wіll аlѕо assess hоw уоu bоth communicate іn thе session аnd wіll рrоbаblу mаkе recommendations fоr improving ways thаt уоu communicate. Aѕ уоu саn imagine, communication difficulties аrе ѕоmе оf thе mоѕt common issues thаt married couples face. So, hореfullу thе premarital counseling questions thаt thе therapist wіll аѕk аnd thе suggestions thаt thеу give wіll hеlр уоu improve thе wау уоu communicate wіth еасh other. Thеѕе skills wіll hореfullу hеlр уоu talk аbоut touchy subjects аnd аlѕо respect еасh other’s style оf communicating (if уоu hаvе differences іn thіѕ area).
2. Conflicts аnd Conflict Resolution
Yоu саn аlѕо expect tо bе asked аbоut questions related tо hоw уоu manage conflicts аѕ а couple. Whеn уоu hаvе conflicts, dоеѕ оnе person tend tо withdraw? Dоеѕ оnе person tend tо attack? Dоеѕ оnе person tend tо gеt super rational, whіlе thе оthеr gеtѕ emotional? Whаt аbоut making up… Hоw dоеѕ іt happen? Whеn dоеѕ іt uѕuаllу happen? Thеѕе аrе јuѕt ѕоmе оf thе premarital counseling questions and discussions thаt уоu аrе lіkеlу tо hаvе іn premarital counseling. So, hopefully, durіng thіѕ time уоu саn explore hоw уоu typically manage conflicts аnd learn nеw ways оf resolving (or nоt resolving!) fights.
3. Financial Values
Good premarital counseling wіll аlѕо delve іntо уоur financial goals аnd values, bоth individually аnd аѕ а couple. Thеrе аrе lots оf important questions tо explore hеrе including questions related tо thе financial history оf еасh member, financial goals, thе impact оf financial goals оn career decisions аnd family responsibilities, etc. Unfortunately, а lot оf premarital counseling glosses оvеr thіѕ issue оr doesn’t tackle іt аt all. Whісh іѕ rеаllу unfortunate bесаuѕе issues аbоut money аrе оnе оf thе top thrее reasons whу couples eventually divorce. Whаt а missed opportunity! Luckily, thеrе аrе books thаt уоu саn buy оr premarital apps thаt gо thrоugh important premarital counseling questions.
4. Cultural Values
Thе world rеаllу іѕ shrinking іn а lot оf ways. Wіth thе rise оf globalization аnd thе ease оf travel, mаnу people find thеmѕеlvеѕ attracted tо аnd marrying people wіth а dіffеrеnt cultural upbringing thаn thеіr own. Thіѕ іѕ еѕресіаllу relevant іn mу work wіth engaged couples – bесаuѕе аlthоugh I’m American, I live іn South Africa аnd work quіtе а bit wіth intercultural couples. Additionally, people wіth thе “same” cultural values саn hаvе fundamental differences іn оthеr important ways thаt wе оftеn don’t thіnk аbоut (e.g., class differences, regional differences).Thus, premarital counseling wоuld bе remiss іf іt didn’t аѕk questions related tо dіffеrеnt cultural values. Dіffеrеnt cultural values аrе оftеn nоt tоо big оf а deal whеn couples аrе dating, but thеу саn bесоmе huge issues аftеr marriage іf thе couple hаѕ nоt adequately explored thеm аnd соmе uр wіth ѕоmе preliminary compromises. Thе situation gеtѕ еvеn trickier whеn children enter thе picture.
5. Religious Values
Questions related tо religious values аrе аlѕо lіkеlу tо соmе uр durіng premarital counseling. Evеn іf thе couple shares thе ѕаmе faith – thеу саn hаvе major differences rеgаrdіng hоw thеу practice thеіr religious beliefs. And іf thе members оf thе couple hаvе dіffеrеnt religious beliefs, thеn а counselor wіll lіkеlу explore thіѕ wіth еvеn greater depth. Unfortunately, hаvіng dіffеrеnt religious beliefs іѕ а risk factor fоr divorcing lаtеr (Sorry! Don’t shoot thе messenger). Therefore, іf уоu hаvе а dіffеrеnt religion thаn уоur partner, thеn exploring important questions surrounding thіѕ difference іѕ crucial durіng premarital counseling.
6. Family Histories
A premarital counselor іѕ аlѕо lіkеlу tо аѕk important questions related tо уоur individual family histories. Depending оn thе counselor аnd thе circumstances related tо уоur relationship, dіffеrеnt counselors wіll approach thіѕ іn dіffеrеnt ways. Fоr example, ѕоmе premarital counselors hаvе аn orientation tоwаrd аѕkіng іn depth premarital counseling questions related tо уоur individual family history, whіlе оthеrѕ tend tо focus оn present day family relationships instead. Eіthеr way, it’s а good idea tо gо thrоugh questions related tо уоur families durіng premarital counseling.
7. Relationship History
Premarital counseling wіll аlѕо explore questions surrounding уоur relationship history tоgеthеr аnd individually. A counselor mау wаnt tо gеt аn іn depth picture оf whаt factors brought thе twо оf уоu tоgеthеr іn order tо explore thе strengths аѕ wеll аѕ роѕѕіblе challenges thаt уоu mау face аѕ а couple. Thе counselor mау аlѕо wаnt tо knоw аbоut important relationships thаt еіthеr оf уоu hаvе hаd іn thе раѕt аѕ well. However, mоѕt premarital counseling wіll nоt explore раѕt loves wіth tоо muсh depth (unless thеѕе relationships аrе affecting уоur current relationship).
So, hореfullу уоu hаvе а bеttеr sense оf whаt kinds оf premarital counseling questions tо expect іn premarital counseling. Good luck wіth уоur engagement – іt іѕ trulу а wonderful time іn а relationship!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
David Bennett worked hard climbing the corporate ladder and found himself in a great position where he could influence and serve at a high level. His wife and three sons were doing well. Life was great! Then it all changed.
“My wife became ill,” said Mr. Bennett. “For three years we went from one doctor to another trying to figure out what was wrong. No one could give us a firm diagnosis. All the while, my wife was going downhill fast. One physician thought she needed ionic (salty) sea air to breathe and detox her body. He encouraged us to move as soon as possible.”
Willing to try anything for relief, Heather Bennett loaded up the boys and headed to Michigan for a month to see ifa change in environment surrounded by her extended family would help.
“Towards the end of the month I started feeling better, but when we returned to Atlanta I tanked,” said Mrs. Bennett. “I was ready to move anywhere for relief from whatever was attacking my body. If it meant packing up the family and moving to Florida, I was ready to go, David was more reluctant.”
Angry and defensive Mr. Bennett thought the physician was completely irresponsible in telling them to uproot their family and move when he didn’t know if this was truly a remedy. Intense discussions were a regular occurrence as the Bennett’s tried to figure out their next step.
“I was thinking about how hard I had worked to get to my current position,” said Mr. Bennett. “I wanted my wife to get better, but at the same time I wanted to keep my career momentum going. I also thought about the challenge of selling our house in a down economy.”
After speaking with several mentors and wrestling with the situation, Mr. Bennett realized his identity resided in his position at work instead of his calling at home.
“If you ask most business people where family falls on their list of priorities, they would say first,” said Mr. Bennett. “Until your back is against the wall you don’t really know if that is true. I had to step back and realize that my identity is a husband first, dad second followed by work. I will never earn enough money to make up for losing my family. I want to be the only husband Heather will ever have and the only father for my children.”
The Bennett’s decided to make the move. In addition to knowing that this was the best thing for Heather, they also thought this was a great opportunity to model what it meant to take care of your family. Recently, Mr. Bennett was reflecting about the move with his oldest son. His son shared he thought it brought their family closer together.
“I was scared to death of what this was going to do to me internally,” said Mr. Bennett. “It has been ten months since we made the move. We sold our house, downsized significantly and I took a different position in the company. Best of all, Heather is symptom free. We have much less today, but at the same time we have so much more. It is times like these when you really find out what you value.”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 )
The psychology of road rage has always intrigued me. For some reason, it turns normally rational people into raging lunatics over seemingly trivial matters. Usually placid, reserved people are transformed into foul mouthed, 1 finger saluting maniacs and drivers with an existing tendency towards anger are reduced to emotionally charged barbarians.
So what is it about being behind the wheel that causes these transformations? Is it the fact that cars are potential weapons that have the power to inflict devastation and anyone who uses them gets subconsciously charged by this innate power? I don’t think so.
I think it is because of the arrogance effect. That is, everything that occurs in traffic whilst in a car has a built in arrogance to it. This is not really anyone’s fault as such, it’s just a trait that has been built in to the system. Think of this: You are at the supermarket, browsing through the isles, in that ‘supermarket state’ where you are partly looking for something, partly looking at where you are going and partly thinking about the meaning of life. Someone bumps in to you. Startled for a split second, you stop and look at the perpetrator. In this moment, you aren’t offended or threatened, but you are trying to rationalize what has just happened and are looking at the person who has bumped into you for answers. The person immediately apologizes almost before the act of bumping has finished. This apology is usually coupled with a sincere kind of embarrassed smile. At this point you have your explanation: It was an accident and the person who bumped you is sorry for disturbing you. You are totally fine with this. You’ve made this accident yourself many times. You smile back and say something like, “that’s ok” and never think about it again. All is well. Perhaps you are both better people for having had this frivolous interaction.
But suppose that person didn’t apologize, suppose when your eyes gazed at theirs in search of that vital bit of communication, you were met with nothing. In fact, the person who bumped you didn’t just fail to acknowledge what had just happened, but had pretended you didn’t exist and to top it off grabbed the last can of baked beans from the shelf (the one you were just about to put in your trolley). All of a sudden, this interaction is not so pleasant. You would most likely be a little aggravated and retaliate. Needless to say, if this person then retaliated back in the same arrogant fashion in which he or she bumped in to you, things would escalate pretty quickly.
The problem with cars and traffic, is that this kind of behavior is almost unavoidable. When someone cuts you off in traffic, often it is an accident, or it was a necessary maneuver and at that point, you are back at the supermarket and someone has just bumped into you. You are seeking that act of curtosy that allows you to smile and say, “that’s ok” and then move on. The problem is though, that because it happened in a car, there is no way for that person to give you that human interaction that can defuse the situation in a split second. All you can see is the cold arrogance of the back of their car. It’s actaully not their fault (the arrogance, that is) or yours. It’s just that the human element has been taken out of the game and in your eyes, that person is the kind of person who would bump into someone at the supermarket and not even acknowledge that the person exists.
So what do you do? You probably beep the horn. That’s another great problem. While it is is almost impossible to inject that gentle human interaction into the situation, it’s quite easy to pump aggression into the situation. A nice loud pounding of the horn will do the job. True, often a wave out the window can act as a nice gesture of appreciation or apology, but it rarely happens because it relies on both drivers being able to see each other clearly (which is rare) and both drivers being able to not focus on the road for a second (which is dangerous) in order to interact. But the horn happens instantly and unmistakeably. And just like the supermarket scene, once the tone is set, things escalate quickly. Trading horns, slamming on breaks, speeding up and overtaking, swearing and yelling. These are the mild reactions of road rage. These are the reactions of normally rational, peaceful people. When there are a few aggressive people at play, things get very bad, very quickly.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A significant study from Duke, out today, provides the best evidence we’ve had thus far that bullying in childhood is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. The results came as a surprise to the research team. “I was a skeptic going into this,” lead author and Duke psychiatry professor William E. Copeland told me over the phone, about the claim that bullying does measurable long-term psychological harm. “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings. It has certainly given me pause. This is something that stays with people.”
I’m less surprised, because earlier research has shown that bullying increases the risk for many problems, including low academic performance in school and depression (for both bullies and victims) and criminal activity later in life (bullies). But the Duke study is important because it lasted for 20 years and followed 1,270 North Carolina children into adulthood. Beginning at the ages of 9, 11, and 13, the kids were interviewed annually until the age of 16, along with their parents, and then multiple times over the years following.
Based on the findings, Copeland and his team divided their subjects into three groups: People who were victims as children, people who were bullies, and people who were both. The third group is known as bully-victims. These are the people who tend to have the most serious psychological problems as kids, and in the Duke study, they also showed up with higher levels of anxiety, depressive disorders, and suicidal thinking as adults. The people who had only experienced being victims were also at heightened risk for depression and anxiety. And the bullies were more likely to have an antisocial personality disorder.
The researchers also checked to see if the variation among the groups could be attributed to differences in socio-economic status, or family dysfunction/instability, or maltreatment (which they defined as physical or sexual abuse). All three groups—the victims, the bullies, and the bully-victims—had higher rates of some type of family hardship than the kids who didn’t experience bullying at all. For the victims, the risk of anxiety disorders remained strong even when taking into account family problems, though the risk of depression did not (it dropped just below statistical significance if the victims came from a stable home, Copeland said). For bully-victims, the risk of both anxiety and depression held, and for bullies, the risk of antisocial personality disorder did as well. In other words, these results suggest that bullying scars people whether they grow up in a home with two functional parents or with frequent arguing, not much parental supervision, divorce, separation, or downright abuse or neglect. It’s a finding that’s in line with other work, for example by Judith Rich Harris, who in her book The Nurture Assumption, shows that kids are very much influenced and affected by their peers.
Why does bullying have such far-reaching impact? Copeland and his team suggest the experience may change kids’ physiological response to stress, and their ability to cope. This looked especially stark for the bully-victims. “It was definitely the case that chronic bullying led to worse outcomes, but much more the case that being a bully-victim was associated with really significant problems,” Copeland said. The biggest cry for help is coming from that group. Fortunately, it’s a smaller number than victims overall.” Bully-victims, Copeland and others have found, have more problems at home and the most trouble with impulse control and aggression. Sometimes they do the dirty work for popular kids who bully to curry favor with them. “I don’t think things are working out socially for them in a lot of ways,” Copeland said.
It’s important to point out that Copeland and other researchers don’t define bullying broadly, in a way that encompasses a lot of mutual conflict among kids, or one-time fighting. Bullying is physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance—one kid, or group of kids, making another kid miserable by lording power over him. As Dan Olweus, the Scandinavian psychologist who launched the field of bullying studies in the 1960s, has been arguing for many years, this is a particular form of harmful aggression. And so the effort to prevent bullying isn’t about pretending that kids will always be nice to each other, or that they don’t have to learn to weather some adversity.
If the results of this study are dismaying because they indicate that bullying is permanently scarring, the findings also strengthen the argument for prevention. Copeland underscores this idea. “Consider me a reluctant convert, but I’m starting to view bullying the same way I do abuse in the home,” he said. “I honestly think the affects we’re observing here are just as potent. And that’s definitely not the way American researchers look at things. They want to know all about what parents are doing at home. Peers aren’t considered a priority. But these days, with all the time they spend on the Internet, kids are spending even more time with their peers, and that’s a factor we need to pay more attention to.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
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