Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2005

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LAWYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
(410) 685-3993 | (410) 685-7878 | (800) 492-1964

Richard Vincent
Director, ext 3040
Carol P. Waldhauser
Assistant Director, ext 3041

THE LAP ZONE:
"The Unattractive Look of Anger"

By Carol P. Waldhauser

With his cranky, angry look, John Doe, Esquire, was in no way attractive. His eyes, steady and piercing, rarely moved from side to side. Instead, they stared straight ahead, resembling laser beams cutting through a plaster wall. Moreover, any attempts to communicate any point with John when he wore this face were virtually futile, a condition only made worse by his disinclination to admitted himself wrong on any point.

No words could adequately express the amount of time that John spent worrying about his cases, clients, cash-flow, employees and, most of all, his family. Of course, John knew that all jobs involved pressure and stress, but in his view the practice of law had more than its share of both, what with the uncontrollable paper chase, inflexible deadlines, unforgiving traffic, as well as the demands and expectations of clients, opposing counsel and family. At work, John’s distress surfaced in anger.

One day after having been reprimanded by a judge for his cranky, unacceptable attitude in Court, John took a long look into the mirror. John did not like what he saw in the glass – the unattractive look of anger. Rethinking the pattern of his behavior and his emotions, John asked himself, “Do I want to display an unattractive and unprofessional image while living a life full of anger, anxiety and disease, or do I want an attractive, professional look which reflects balance, serenity and wellness?” Suddenly, John decided that he wanted to shed his angry ways and image. John began to retool.

Through anger research is has become obvious that those who mismanage their feelings of aggression far outnumber those who express it effectively. In his acclaimed book Make Anger Your Ally, author Neil Warner categorizes people into four classic anger-mismanagement types, based on the behaviors that they typically employ. They are somatizers, self-punishers, exploders and underhanders.

As their name implies, somatizers present a passive behavior style which takes its toll on the body. They are individuals who choose not to express their feelings of anger overtly, but rather suppress them for fear of rejection or loss of approval by those who have caused a grievance. In other words, this management style promotes the martyr role.

Self-punishers are a second group of passive mismanaged-anger style defined by their channeling of anger into guilt. Characteristically, these people often get angry with themselves for getting angry with others. As a result, they deny themselves the proper outlet for their emotions.

Exploders embody the stereotype of uncontrolled aggression. These are people who express their anger in a hostile manner, be it verbally or physically. They erupt like a volcano.

Underhanders are like the exploder, but the underhander exhibits an active style of mismanaged anger that inflicts mild abuse on individuals in his or her proximity.

Warner notes that we each tend to employ all of these mismanagement styles at some time or other, depending on the situation and the individuals involved. However, we tend to stick with one predominant style, and that style becomes part of our personality. Consequently, it is suggested that we begin to recognize our feelings of anger, and then channel them into more creative outlets.

Creative Anger Strategies
Based on the works of Carol Tavris and Harold Weisinger and incorporating many of the steps in the spirit of 12-step self-help behavioral-modification programs, the following suggestions are provided to assist you in learning how to manage your anger more creatively and thus reflect a different image.

Know your anger style. Are you predominately passive or active? Are you the type of person who holds anger in, or are you the kind of person who explodes? Become aware of what your current style of anger is. Make mental notes of what ticks you off and how you react when you get angry.

Learn to monitor your anger. Keep track of your anger in a journal or even on a calendar. Write down the times that you get angry and what precipitates it, then look at the patterns of circumstances or behaviors that lead to the boiling point.

Learn to deescalate your anger. Rather than showing an immediate response, count to 10, take a walk around the block, get a drink of water (not gin), and try to take deep breaths, using mental imagery to relax. In other words, give yourself time to diffuse!

Learn to out-think your anger. Think of some ways to resolve this feeling in a constructive manner that makes you and everyone involved feel better. Anger carries with it much energy. How can you best utilize this energy? Learn to construct rather than destruct.

Get comfortable with all of your feelings and learn to express them constructively. People who are unable to express their feelings openly and directly are most vulnerable to stress-related disease and illness. In other words, don’t ignore, avoid or repress your feelings. Anger, especially, is like acid – it needs to be neutralized, and it is neutralized by creative, constructive expression.

Plan ahead. Some situations can be foreseen as potential anger provocations. Identify what these situations are, and then create viable options to minimize your exposure to them. Watch out for triggers such as traffic, long lines, etc.

Develop a support system. Find a few close friends you in whom you can confide to whom you can vent your frustrations. Don’t force a person to become an ally; rather, allow him or her to listen and perhaps offer insight.

Develop realistic expectations of yourself and others. Many moments of anger surface because the expectations that we place on ourselves as well as others are too high.

Recognizing that much of his anger shared space with his deepest fears, our attorney John decided that he needed both an anger-management workshop and counseling. Through counseling, John began to implement the aforementioned positive coping skills for dealing with both his anger and fear. Additionally, John learned problem-solving techniques, stayed in shape, turned complaints into requests, learned to let go of resentments and made sure that he put a statute of limitations on his anger.

For more information on this subject, contact the MSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, or e-mail cwaldhauser@msba.org.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2005

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