The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland Florida is still fresh in our minds for at least two reasons.
The first reason is that the event was horrific, didn’t occur that long ago, and no other shooting has occurred which could grab our attention and replace the MSD shooting.
Other shootings have taken place, grabbed our attention, and then faded away.
The second reason is the impact that this event had on the students who lived through it and the response of those students to the event.
In the interest of transparency, I need to say that I own a gun, I believe in the 2nd amendment, I think the NRA has way too much influence, and I believe (along with a majority of Americans) that a compromise on gun control can be reached which both adds to the safety of Americans and protects the legitimate rights of Americans to own firearms if only Congress had the fortitude to get the job done.
This post, however, is not about gun control.
It is about mastering anger.
In my second Amazon best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, I discuss what anger is, what emotional mastery is, and where the focus of anger management groups often fall short. I also include individual chapters designed to help the reader understand and master their anger. You can download the first two chapters of my book with no opt-in from my blog TheEmotionsDoctor.com
Anger is one of 6 primary emotions (mad, sad, glad, fear, disgust and surprise).
Four of these primary emotions are threat detectors just like the smoke detector in your house. The primary threat detectors alert us to an impending threat (This is the message of the emotion.) and help us stay alive by preparing our bodies to take action regarding that threat.
Emotions can be understood as tools and each tool has a specific function for which it was designed…
- Your smoke detector alerts you to an impending fire.
- Your TV remote enables you to wirelessly control, program, and interact with your TV, your Blueray player, and so forth.
- Your cell phone…
Well, you get the idea.
Anger is a primary threat detector. The message of anger is that we perceive a threat we believe we can eliminate. Anger energizes us to go to war.
By contrast, fear, as a primary threat detector, alerts us to a threat which will “terminate” us and prepares us to escape (flee) or freeze in place.
Very few tools are so self-evident that they do not require a learning curve to master them and get the most out of them.
While this may be obvious with the cell phone, your computer, and the remote, think about the last time your smoke detector went off in the middle of the night alerting you to a weak battery or you burnt some toast and you nearly broke the detector because you weren’t sure how to turn the damn thing off.
Emotions are the same way. They are just just tools which we need to learn to master in order to strategically use them to improve your life.
So, back to the MSD teens.
These teens felt helplessness and vulnerability during and following the event.
The feelings of helplessness and vulnerability are easy to understand just by thinking about what the MSD students experienced.
The MSD teens then transformed the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness into anger.
Up to this point, the MSD shooting is no different from the Vegas shooting, Columbine or any other of the numerous shootings which we have seen on the news, felt vulnerable concerning, and angry about.
For the most part, however, the anger in these other shootings just sort of faded away and was not mastered.
And, nothing changed.
The difference with the MSD shooting and the reason it is still holding our attention is that the “victims” stopped feeling victimized and mastered their anger.
Anger mastery involves assessing the validity of both the anger and the perceived threat and then using the energy anger provides to take effective action to nullify a valid threat.
The MSD teens clearly realized that the threat from guns was valid and decided to go to war to deal with the threat. They then made a plan to facilitate their battle and executed their plan. This plan was critical if they wanted their message to be heard.
This is anger mastery.
They have come forward and appeared on both public and pay (Netflix) TV. They articulately discussed both the impact the event had on them, the feelings the event elicited (not caused) in them and their proposed solutions. They have mobilized public support, publicly taken their concerns and the solutions they are recommending to lawmakers, and organized public events.
They have raised public awareness and it appears that they won’t stop until corrective action has taken place.
You can see the anger in their voices as they speak and their anger continues to motivate them. We have already seen an impact in Florida where some changes have been made in the law.
This is the heart of anger mastery. How you feel about the MSD teens and gun control is not the issue here.
If you have ever experienced anger and either done something you later regretted or done nothing, you have not mastered your anger.
You now have the choice the next time you experience anger.
Accept the message of anger as valid. Your anger is always valid though the perception of threat may or may not be valid.
Then use your anger as an opportunity to assess the situation in which you find yourself.
If your anger accurately reflects a threat that requires an intervention, then take some time to determine the best and most effective action to take, make a plan, and use the energy your anger provides to implement the plan you have devised.
If you decide that you have misunderstood your situation or “created” the threat by some action you have taken, then you can choose a different course of action and the anger will dissipate.
This is mastering your anger.
I welcome your comments and if you think this blog could benefit someone else, please send them the link.