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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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,
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.