Friday, March 11, 2005

So I think ....

Anger!I have an anger problem. I sometimes find myself flying off the handle, usually over stuff that in the larger picture is really not that important. Like whether a co-worker uses headphones to listen to a program or allows it to play so I can hear it across the room. Or whether someone cuts me off in traffic; or when people stop to sample everything they can at the local food warehouse and block the lane. Ask my wife how I am when I get "scary."

And come to find out, there is a vicious loop to this kind of behavior. The hormone that causes aggressive response, the "fight or flight" juice cortisol, itself feeds back into the brain and lowers the controls on the aggressive response. So the more pissed I get, the more I am ready to do something. And that's not good. A 6'5", 233 pound man in a bad mood is not a good thing, especially if he is behind the wheel of a car.

I know that every body gets angry -- we all have that response at one time or another -- and in my case it usually stems from frustration and fatigue. I'm tired because I don't get enough sleep, so I have to rush to get the day started, which is frustrating because I don't like being rushed. Then once I choke down some groceries and get out the door, I have to deal with traffic -- other sleep-deprived, stressed people who are trying to get to work just like I am.

And once I get to work, the deadline pressures, and the noise, and the conflict that happens from working with other people up the level of cortisol. And throw some caffeine on top of it, and we are primed for a problem. Usually it comes out as smart comments, or other more passive-aggressive things. But sometimes, it comes out more aggressively, either in my driving, or in the way I respond to people, or in my general attitude.

I don't mean to be a prick, really I don't!

I heard one psychologist use a cognitive-behavioral way to deal with it, but I have not been able to remember it when the heat is on. The counting to 10 method is part of it.

1. Think! Why am I angry? What triggered this response? (Am I frustrated, threatened, etc?)
2. What do I want to come of this? (I want to be left alone, I want to resolve this conflict, I don't want anything to happen)
3. How do I reach that resolution? (what steps can I take to reach that goal?)
4. Work the plan.

This guy, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, says that anger can be managed. I don't like the way I feel when I lose it. I don't tend to be an exploder, like Bobby Knight; I tend to be more like the Manhattan Project -- building the pressure until the core melts down. Now I know why the Apostle Paul said "don't let the sun go down while you are still angry." He didn't say "don't get angry." Even Paul did that. But he said don't let it hang around. Don't keep it like some treasured possession. So that's what I need to learn to do. Let it go.

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