Pat's View: The ripple effect of anger
By Patrick Robinson
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
When you see someone you know treating someone else badly what is your reaction? Do you stop to ask yourself if the victim of verbal (or worse physical) abuse deserved it? Or do you respond more viscerally with a wish to look away… or worse to see more?
When you see someone shouting at someone else in traffic, honking their horn, clearly angry or worse chasing someone or waving a weapon what is your reaction?
Now let’s reverse some of that. Have you ever said something in anger to someone else you now regret? Have you ever been in a fight that was completely unnecessary and that you should have avoided? Have you shouted at someone in traffic or worse chased someone that you thought did you wrong?
If you knew right now that tomorrow you might be triggered into some behavior like this what would you do to prevent it?
Most of us, in fact most people are happier if they are free of conflict. Unfortunately that’s not how life works as you already know.
Each of us sees things through our own frame of reference.
But all this being said there is something larger at work here.
Stress can cause people to behave in ways even they would not recognize or if shown a video of their behavior express personal pride about. The pandemic we seem to still be living through has caused an incredible amount of stress obviously. But lack of money, increasing costs, interpersonal conflict, illness both physical and mental , and just plain frustration or disappointment can cause some people to reach a boiling point. We live in a time of unprecedented stress, which means we need to work harder to deal with it.
None of this is unknown to you if you are a thinking, feeling human being.
What I want to bring to your attention however is the “ripple effect” that reactions to stress can have. The easiest example of this is anyone in a position of power or responsibility who clearly cares very little for those under them. You may have had this experience and have undoubtedly heard about “Bad Bosses” who abuse employees. When that happens, the ripple of anger gets carried out wider and in some cases when it’s systemic or chronic carries forward down from generation to generation.
Anger is a human reaction to many situations of course but looking at life in America today, we seem to have crossed a new threshold and
it’s up to each of us reverse this course.
The first step is to be accountable yourself. That means using “I” statements instead of being the finger pointer in every situation. Your feelings are your own after all and framing everything with the word “You” makes you the judge and jury. It’s far less likely that an unpleasant situation will be resolved through accusation and attack.
Next, you may have heard about simply taking a deep breath, or counting to ten, or some other means by which you go ahead and feel the anger, but give the heat of it a few moments to pass. You may well be justified in how you feel. But unless you are literally being physically assaulted or threatened, an immediate violent response usually isn’t required. Give it a minute.
The ancient wisdom of the Golden Rule still applies here. You want to be treated well? Treat others that way.