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“I’m so angry I could just spit!”

Okay, that little gem is brought to you courtesy of my own, gentle-natured Mom, who I think I saw really angry maybe five times in my entire life.

I find it quite remarkable that I never heard her say a curse word until I was ten-years-old when she dropped an entire jar of pickles on the kitchen floor.

I remember I was more mesmerized by the fact that she had just said the bad version of the word “Shoot!” than I was at seeing glass, pickles, and pickle juice spread out all over the linoleum.

But I digress!

“I’m so angry I could just spit” was the phrase I remember her using when she was riled about something, although spitting never made any sense to me as something to do when one was angry.

And I never saw her spit, just for the record!

I believe I have either learned and/or inherited my mother’s slow-to-anger nature, as it does take a lot to make me angry.

But sometimes I get really angry.

Hopefully about the kinds of things you’re supposed to get angry about: unfairness, discrimination, when I see or think that intentional harm is being done. Anger is the flashing warning road sign that tells us “Hey, in case you hadn’t noticed, something really wrong/unfair/hurtful is happening!!!

Maybe you want to do something about it?”

Feeling anger isn’t a bad thing, even though it can feel really uncomfortable.

It’s the appropriate response to feel in situations where someone is being treated badly.

If I kicked a puppy across the room (would never happen…this is for illustration purposes only!)

I would hope that you would feel angry!

ANGER MANAGEMENT

Anger is the emotion you’re supposed to feel in certain circumstances, to tell you to pay attention to something that’s not right, and maybe do something about it.

And, as if by intelligent design, we are given a burst of adrenaline to give us the extra energy we may need to do something about it!

Not that we necessarily are supposed to DO anything, or CAN do anything about the circumstances.

This is where good old “anger management” comes in.

Somehow, with all this adrenaline flowing, we’re supposed to be able to figure out whether we are supposed to take action and if so, what action and when to begin it.

This is where the intelligent design thing kind of fails us.…adrenaline doesn’t do much for allowing for calm consideration of a situation.

You have to do something to mentally slow down (it’s called “cognitive override”) and not react impulsively.

But, you may still need to do something about all that extra energy you’re now walking around with.

Otherwise, you just might spit on somebody!

SHOULDN’T I JUST POUND ON PILLOWS OR SOMETHING?

Some people say that “getting their aggression out” really does help…pounding pillows, throwing a carton of eggs at a tree or in the shower, beating your mattress with a tennis racket are examples.

But more recent research suggests that acts that simulate violence may actually increase feelings of aggression, instead of decrease them.

What is probably more effective is to do something to use up that extra energy…constructively.

Like go for a run until you’re tired.

Clean your house from top to bottom.

Tackle that project you’ve been putting off.

Put your energy into something that you’ll actually feel good about when you’re done.

Then you’ll be in the best place physiologically to then engage your mind and think through what you want to do…if anything.

WHAT DO I DO ONCE I’VE GOTTEN RID OF THE ANGRY ENERGY?

Once you’re physically calm, anger management involves looking at the situation that got you angry and deciding if you really do feel called to respond in some way.

And if so, what would be the most effective way to create the change you want to see?

It’s no secret that when we react impulsively out of angry energy, without thinking first, we rarely create effective change.

I’ve learned this the hard way, more times than I care to remember.

I’ll never forget one time early in my professional career, someone in the agency I was working for screwed something up which affected me (imagine that happening at an agency!).

And I was having what I thought was a bad day, decided to take their error personally, and decided that this was the “last straw.”

So, feeling all the angry energy and not taking any time to really think through what I was doing, I called the particular someone in question and proceeded to ream them out over the phone, feeling quite justified at the time.

But as soon as I hung up the phone, I felt horrible.

I’d just treated someone really badly for making a human mistake.

And they might not make that same mistake again with me, but now it would be out of fear that I’d blow up at them again, not because they understood how important it was to do something differently.

I made a promise to myself that day not to ever do that to anyone again.

I learned that I’d rather take the time to think my response through than to have to regret what I said in a moment of anger.

If I’m angry, I try to take an immediate ten minutes to go do something completely different, talk about something else, and get my mind off of the incident so the adrenaline has a chance to stop flowing.

If I’m still agitated with the angry energy, I go work it off doing something that needed to be done anyway until it’s all burned out.

THEN I come back to the problem and figure out if there is anything I can or want to do about.…and most importantly, I try to figure out what is the best way to go about it if I really do want things to change.

I don’t do this perfectly every time, but it’s a goal to shoot for.

Give it a try next time you’re really hacked at someone.

I’m pretty sure it beats spitting. 🙂

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