The Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High are Mastering Their Anger. Are You Mastering Yours?

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.

 

My 100th post, the INDEX, two (no opt-in) downloads, and a very interesting question from a reader.

It is the “end” of the year. How will you approach it?

Today is December 27.

The New Year is 4 days away.

You still have time to decide how will you handle 2018.

I am not talking here about how you will  bring in the New Year.  You may choose to go out and party, stay at home with your significant others, or watch the “ball” drop at midnight and go to bed.

What I am talking about is how you will approach the New Year emotionally.

There are many options:

  • Will you think back on 2017 and nostalgically reflect on all you have accomplished?
  • Will you get depressed because of all the things you didn’t get done that you wanted to accomplish?
  • Will you be anxious because you can’t predict what will happen in 2018?
  • Will you feel sad because of what, or who, you lost?
  • Or will you feel despair because you dread what may happen in 2018?

As The Emotions Doctor, my suggestion for you involves three steps each of which comes from the emotional process I have discussed in many of my earlier posts:

  1. take some time to think about what you are feeling,
  2. validate the feeling
  3. make a decision about how you want to approach 2018 and what you want to feel.

It is important to note that your feelings reflect how you view your “world”.

Your perception of the world is always under your control.

Because of this, you can choose how you want to feel about the future (2018).

Yes, it is true that there is a great deal of uncertainty in the world today and going forward into 2018.

If you choose to focus on this uncertainty and your inability to control global events, you will feel anxiety as distress.  This can lead to depression.

If you choose to acknowledge the uncertainty but focus your attention of what you can influence, then you might experience the flipside of anxiety which is anticipation.

You can set some goals if you wish (and this is a good idea if the goals are believable, backed up by a plan and measurable).

Or, you can make some new year’s resolutions which is probably not a good idea as you most likely will not remember them 3 days into the New Year.

However, you choose to go into 2018, I hope you will continue to come to this site, read my posts and leave a comment. Also, be sure to check out the index as there may be a previous post which addresses a question you might have about emotions.

I wish you all the best in 2018 and let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year.

 

A comprehensive video overview of emotions and emotions theories

I am including this video from YouTube’s Crash Course on Psychology for any of you who might want more indepth information on what emotions are and the psychological theories which attempt to explain them.

Full disclosure:  This is a 10 minute and 50 second video. While the information is quite good, it is somewhat long.  So, if you aren’t really interested in diving this deep into emotions and emotions theory, skip this post and we’ll see you next week.

Easy access to all posts now available.

In order to make it easier for you, my readers, to access all of my previous posts, I have put together and published an index to all my posts.

Here is what you need to do…

  • You can access the index by scrolling up to the top of this page and clicking the index tap in the upper right corner.
  • This will open up to a page with the index.
  • Click on the index and you will see all of my previous posts with the month that post was printed.
  • Go to the right side of the home page where all of the posts are archived by month and click on that month.
  • This will take you to the page with the post you are seeking.
  • You may have to scroll down a bit but the post will be there.
  • Thank you for being a loyal reader.
  • Please let everyone you know who might be interested in the material I write about each week and let them know the index exists.

I will keep the index updated.

All the best,

Ed

Ed Daube, Ph.D.,  The Emotions Doctor

How to use your emotions effectively. A 30 minute podcast.

Here is a link to a 30 minute podcast I recently completed covering topics related to using emotions effectively and strategically.  I discussed how I developed the Emotions as Tools Model and how to strategically use the emotion of anger.

Use your emotions effectively: Guest – Dr Ed Daube

What should a teenager know about emotions before entering adulthood?

There are many important lessons a teenager should learn before entering into adulthood including issues related to being responsible and accountable,  time and money management, how to interact with adults in different situations including job interviews, and so forth.  

My comments below are only directed to knowing about emotions, are not comprehensive, and are only intended to be a general overview.

The lesson: Know what your emotions are and how to use them as tools.

  • Emotions are tools, just like your cell phone, that you can learn to effectively use to your advantage. They may hurt like hell when you experience them but they are just tools.
  • Just like a computer game in which you must find a “secret” doorway to the next level, the “secret” to each emotion is the message it tells you about how you are interpreting the situation in which you find yourself. When you understand the message, you can move to the next level and master the emotion by choosing how you want to respond to the situation.
  • Know that you create all of your feelings by the thoughts you have about the situation you are in.
  • Others do not make you mad, anxious, guilty, shy, etc.
  • You are responsible for what you feel and, equally as important, for the actions you take  based on your emotions.
  • There are no negative emotions.  Some emotions hurt when you experience them but all emotions can be useful in helping you interact better with your environment.

 The message of the two most common emotions that you might have difficulty with and how to use them as tools are as follows:

Anger: The secret message of your anger is that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if I throw enough power at it. Anger prepares you for battle.

Remind yourself that just because you perceive a threat, it doesn’t mean there is a threat.  You have to think about what is going on and “analyze” the nature of the threat.

Take a deep breath and DECIDE if the threat is sufficiently important (to life, values, critical goals)  for you to take EFFECTIVE (Doing something that resolves the issue without hurting yourself or someone else.) action to eliminate the threat.

If action is needed, CHOOSE an appropriate response.

The meaning of “appropriate” is that you should choose an action that will resolve the “threat” you face without doing unnecessary harm to you or the other person.   In other words, starting a conversation, and expressing your concerns, taking assertive action or walking away are different from starting a fight. You can always defend yourself physically if you have no other choice.

Beating up your girlfriend or cussing out your boss, parent or teacher is not acceptable.

Understand that, if you are male, anger may be substituted for other feelings because anger is energizing and empowering.  If you are female, you may be criticized for expressing anger. You may choose a different way to express but do not eliminate or suppress the feeling.

Anxiety: Anxiety is a future based emotion.  The secret message of anxiety is that you believe a threat MAY exist and that it MAY do you harm.

Evaluate the threat and the possible risk.

If your anxiety is telling you that you need to take action (If I don’t study, I will fail the exam.),  use the energy of the anxiety to motivate you to take effective action.

If you decide that you can survive the threat (I may not get the job if I interview but I will be okay.)  or  (Susie may reject me if I ask her out and it will really hurt but I will be okay.), take the action in spite of the feeling, deal with the outcome, and learn a lesson about how you can improve next time.

If you decide that there is no real threat and that you have misunderstood what is going on, remind yourself to “let it go” and move on.

Always remember that you are not alone and seek an adult you feel you can trust to ask for some help.

Learning how to master your emotions is the same as learning anything else like riding a bike, playing a sport, or getting to the highest level in your computer game.  It may be hard at first but it gets easier the more you do it.

I welcome your comments.

Applying the Emotions as Tools Model to Business Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, I discussed the Emotions as Tools Model, the concept of threat, and anxiety. In this part, I discuss anger.

Anger

Anger is a here-and-now emotion the message of which is: I am facing a threat that I believe I can overcome or eliminate if I throw enough force at it. While you can get angry about something that has already happened (the past), or about what you expect to happen (the future), you are always angry in the present concerning a threat you are motivated to do something about now.

My best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool specifically addresses the emotion of anger and is available on Amazon.

You can download the first two chapters of Beyond Anger Management by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post.  There is no opt-in.

As an entrepreneur, you might get angry at:

  • suppliers who do not fulfill the terms of a contract,
  • employees who are irresponsible or fail to deal appropriately with customers,
  • your computer for not working right,
  • yourself for not doing something you “should” have done,
  • and so forth.

Now, you might rightly say that getting angry at a computer makes no sense. And, you would be right. But, I did not say your anger had to be appropriate for the situation. I only indicated that the message of anger is that you perceive a threat you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. Ever heard of someone destroying a computer?

Employees can get angry at you for a perceived injustice, angry at each other, or angry at a customer.

I know of an individual whose job is technical support. While she is technically very good and can answer any question that comes up, she does not do well with customers who “blame” her for advice they don’t like or unwanted results due to their not following the advice that was given, who direct their frustrations with the company or its policies at her, or who become “belligerent” for who knows what reason. Notice the highly subjective nature of the words in quotes. While she has not expressed her anger at the customer, she carries it with her and chronic anger can lead to physical issues for her or her leaving the company.

When an employee’s appropriate anger is either not validated or is marginalized, as is often the case for professional women, that anger can become chronic.

Customers can get angry at you or your employees for any number of reasons.

I recently had some landscaping done and the employee assigned to manage my “project” did a horrible job. I was angry at both this staff member and the company for the poor work that was done. The company was “angry” with the employee and fired him because his “failure” could have negatively impacted an otherwise very good and hard won reputation. Fortunately, the company sent out a different employee who handled my concerns and alleviated my anger.

Understanding what anger is and how to master both one’s own anger and anger directed at you could benefit you, your employees, and your customers.

The Anger Mastery Cycle visually illustrates how the process of anger works and you can download a copy of The Anger Mastery Cycle for free with no opt-in above.

When you perceive a threat (as defined in my last post) that you decide you can eliminate or, overpower, you label the emotion you experience as anger. If you are naïve about your anger, you probably will react to the threat and later regret what you did.

If you know what anger is and the message of anger, you can move into anger management and protect yourself by creating both some physical space between you and the perceived threat (taking a step back from the issue) and some psychological space and by taking a deep breath and lowering your level of arousal.

You can then move into anger mastery which involves assessing the nature of the threat and choosing how you want to respond.

If the threat is genuine, you can use the energy of the anger as motivation to make a plan and deal with the threat.

If you are still angry and the threat is not “genuine”, your anger needs to be reevaluated and there are three possibilities:

  1. The first possibility is that there is no threat and you (or they) have misunderstood what is going on. For example, you thought your provider was intentionally messing with you only to find out that the delivery was delayed by an event beyond the provider’s control.
  2. The second possibility is that the anger is being used as a secondary feeling. Anger, as an emotion, is both familiar and “comfortable” to men specifically. Anger is an energizing emotion and  elicits a feeling of being “powerful”. Because of this, anger may be substituted for another feeling such as vulnerability, embarrassment, or hurt, which is less familiar and leaves a man feeling “weak”. An employee may express anger as a cover-up and substitute for feeling “dumb” due to a poor decision.
  3. The third possibility is that anger is being used The individual isn’t really all that angry but knows that anger leads others to back off from or give in to the demands being made. Instrumental anger is deployed as a tool to bring about a desired outcome. This can happen in an office (or other) setting.

While both secondary and instrumental anger are “dishonest” anger, they still expressed as anger and must be managed and mastered.

With the above knowledge, if you are angry, you can evaluate your perceived threat and your angry reaction to it and choose how you want to respond so that you can effectively deal with the situation in which you find yourself.

With another person’s anger, you can use your knowledge about this emotion to begin to manage (help them resolve) their anger.

Three steps are involved in dealing with anger that is directed at you:

  1. First, you need to validate their right to be angry because the emotion follows from their perception of the event and they are correct in their perception until helped to see otherwise. Once you have accepted their anger, you are no longer a direct threat to them. The reason for this is that they are angry at you (or what you represent) and assume you will act in a threatening manner which they are prepared to counter. When you validate their anger (acknowledge their right to be angry not that they are right in their anger), you change the equation.
  2. Secondly, you can now assess the validity of the threat they perceive.
  3. Thirdly, once you have done this, you can choose how you want to respond to them and resolve whatever issue they have reacted to.

This is what happened with me in the example I gave above.

In parts 1 and 2 of this post, I introduced you the Emotions as Tools Model and how it can advantageously be applied to a business. I also specifically addressed the emotions of anxiety and anger.

Finally, I welcome your comments.