The “Me-to” movement and Anger Mastery

As I am writing this, the “Me-to” movement seems to be gaining momentum.

Following the revelations of sexual indiscretions and the abuse of power by males in the entertainment industry toward “subordinate” females, many women and men have come forward in different industries to both acknowledge the abuse of power that exists and support those who have been victimized and have chosen to share their stories.

When I thought about the “Me-to” movement, I realized that these individuals not only were angry (understandably so) but were also mastering their anger (using the energy of their anger to accomplish a goal).

Let me set the stage for you.

Anger is one of 6 primary emotions (mad, sad, glad, fear, disgust, and surprise) which appear in all human cultures and some subhuman species.

With the exception of glad and surprise, the primary emotions evolved, through the emotional process, to keep our ancestors alive so that we, as a species, could survive.

While there are many ways to conceptualize what emotions (or feelings) are, I choose to think of all emotions as tools. I will elaborate below.

Here is the short version of how the emotional process  worked when we lived in caves and continues to work now.

You are hardwired to scan your surroundings for possible threat and to REACT to it.  This was very useful to our ancestors who faced threats that would literally kill them.

Once a threat is subconsciously detected, the Amygdala (part of the brain) sends a fast track message to the Thalamus to prepare the body for fight (battle) or flight (escape).  This is our emotional reaction. Again, all of this is outside your awareness.  And, if your life is at stake, this is exactly what you want.

The Amygdala perceives all threats as survival based.

The challenge, today, is that the threats we face are more psychological than survival based.

As our brain continued to develop and we evolved beyond our cave ancestors, the thinking part of the brain, the Cerebral Cortex, began to take on a more significant role in our lives.  So, while the fast track message went to the thalamus, a slower track message was now sent to the Cortex.

It is this message that gives us the opportunity to think about and assess the nature of the threat (survival or psychological) and choose how we want to respond to the perceived threat. This is our emotional response.

Emotional Mastery and emotions as tools

Think about your cell phone (or computer) for a minute.

While you now may have mastered it so that you can rapidly send a text, download a song, or watch a You Tube video with relative ease, you probably were not so proficient when you first encountered the phone.  While you may think of it as your lifeline, your  phone is just a tool.  Your proficient manipulation of your phone is merely proof that you have mastered it as a tool.

The same process applies to other tools such as a car, a table saw, your smart TV, a sewing machine, or your anger.

Anger

The emotion of anger is a tool which informs you that you have perceived a threat that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it and prepares you to go to war.

Let me repeat this: Anger PREPARES you to go to war.

It is important to emphasize that anger does not CAUSE (or force) you to do anything.

Anger Mastery involves understanding what anger is and what it does (the emotional mastery cycle) and then using the energy of one’s anger to effectively do what is necessary to eliminate the threat.

Let’s go back to the “Me-to” movement.

Clearly a threat has been identified. While the short term “threat” is the men who have abused their power, the longer term threat is to change the climate which empowers and perpetuates this abuse.

People who get angry and lash out at others are reacting to their anger. We saw some of this when the revelations of sexual transgressions first began.

The “Me-to” movement, while still encouraging victims to come forward, is focusing its angry energy on bringing about cultural changes.  This involves an approach other than direct attacks.  Choosing how one can most effectively respond to the threat is what anger mastery is all about.

I discuss in much greater depth the whole topic of mastering anger in my most recent Amazon best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool.  You can download the first two chapters of this book by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post above and clicking on the link provided.

To get a broader understanding of emotions as tools, I recommend my first book Emotions as Tools: Control Your Life not Your Feelings in which I discuss the emotions as tools model and specific emotions of anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt and shame.  You can download the first two chapters of this book by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post above and clicking on the link provided.

I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

Responsibility and Accountability: A different approach

Announcement:

Before I begin the New Year with an article I think you will find interesting, I want to let you, my readers, know that starting with today’s post, I will be posting new articles every other week rather than every week.

While there are a number of reasons for this which I won’t go into, what I would like you to know is that I am still very interested in providing content which is relevant to you.  With this in mind, I hope you will continue to leave comments (We review all of them.) about both the content I provide and any new content you would like me to address.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

-The Emotions Doctor-

Happy 2018!

I want to start the New Year with an article on responsibility and accountability because I am suggesting you begin 2018 with a different approach to how you interact with others.

And, by the way, the principles I discuss below can also be applied to yourself.  This can improve your self-esteem and your self-respect.

Someone with whom you have a “relationship” at some point will either do something “wrong” or fail to do something “right”.

That person could be a child, a spouse, or, maybe, an employee.

Perhaps you are angry because their actions are perceived as a “threat”.

Here are some possible threats:

  • to your view of right verses wrong,
  • they have negatively impacted your goals or your business,
  • or you are convinced that they just “should” not have done what they did.

You want to hold them accountable for their actions in order to:

  • make things right,
  • get justice,
  • or teach them a lesson.

Okay, while each of the above makes sense, I suggest that you avoid being too quick to rush to judgement.

Here is something to think about.

Your anger tells you that you perceive a threat in what this person has done.

Let’s agree that their behavior is a threat (whether or not it actually is).

When you move to the next step about what to do to deal with the threat, the issue becomes a bit more complicated.

If your desire is to “hold them accountable”, then you are assuming that the actions they took (or failed to take) were intentional.

If they chose to do something wrong or chose to avoid doing what was expected, then your assumption is correct and corrective action, or punishment is appropriate.

Notice the words I have italicized above.

But, what if something else is going on?

Let me explain.

When we hold someone accountable for their actions, we assume that they are capable of doing what is expected.

To be accountable is to be held RESPONSIBLE.  

If one is capable of doing what is expected, then they are RESPONSE ABLE.

I am making a distinction between Response Ibility vs Response Ability.

Before you decide how to deal with the behavior of another person, it is important to determine:

1) if they could have done what you expected and either chose not to (or just screwed up) or

2) they could not do what was expected either because they lacked a specific skillset or tool or because they completely misunderstood what was expected.

To hold a person accountable when they lacked the ability to do what was expected will elicit anger because the imposed consequence is viewed as unfair and, therefore, as a threat to their view of right and wrong.

Anger will lead to resistance which will interfere with learning.

If the goal is to change the undesired behavior, then it is important to determine that the individual was indeed response able before we hold them respons(e) sible.

In a business context, it may be your responsibility as an employer to help them secure the training they need.

As a friend (or parent), it is your responsibility to do what is necessary to make your expectations (and the reasons behind them) clear and appropriate and to  facilitate the relationship moving forward.

I welcome your comments.