Jewish World Review May 4, 2001 / 11 Iyar , 5761
He Works/She Works
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- ANGER is the fire that burns out individuals and relationships. This fire is fueled by resentments, feelings of powerlessness and put-downs. Ignoring feelings of anger don't make them go away. Instead, these feelings smolder, creating a tinder-box full of past slights ready to ignite the moment someone gives it a little oxygen. Suddenly you are enraged, screaming obscenities and making threats you never wanted to make.
Acknowledging and dealing with anger is the only way to arrive at healthy, growing and rewarding relationships at home and at work.
Judy Ford, author of "Wonderful Ways to Love a Child," .addresses the issue of anger in her new book "Getting OVER Getting MAD.". Ford opens with a wonderful folk story about a Native American elder describing his own inner struggles with anger:
"Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time." When asked which dog wins, he reflects for moment and replies, "The one I feed the most."
Ford maintains that, "aside from escalating violence, the effects of unresolved anger can rule our daily lives. The courts are backed up with people who can't resolve their own disputes."
Whether your child is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store or your boss is driving you crazy, Ford emphasizes dealing with anger productively and encourages couples to work through conflict and frustration in healthy and effective ways. "It's important that you recognize anger within yourself and toward the important people in your life before the anger turns into a permanent state of madness."
You may think you have plenty of reasons to be mad. In fact, you could probably sit down right now and make a list of all the things that have bugged you in the last year. That may be a good idea. Making a list helps bring about awareness of the issues and events that are important to you. Often we find that we have been carrying a grudge about something that, in retrospect, has absolutely no relevance to our long-term happiness. Don't share the entire list with offenders. Look for a pattern.
"Life with our loved ones is very short," said Ford, "and if you want to enjoy each moment, it's best if you can express your anger gently and move on. Often people can work out their anger together and come to a place of understanding, acceptance and even joy."
According to Ford, anger causes tremendous confusion. "That's because there are two sides to anger. On the one side, anger is an indispensable emotion, which when used productively allows us to develop ourselves and our relationship." On the other side, when anger covers up pain and fear, "it clogs our energy, dilutes our job, and keeps us off track, going in circles."
The solution is to begin looking at anger from a different perspective. Give yourself permission to get angry. Ford suggests you begin by saying to yourself, "I can get angry, but I won't stay mad."
And frown freely. "When you're mad, hurt or are afraid, frown freely for as long as you like," said Ford. Frowning can be the beginning of a change in some of your destructive patterns. "It actually makes you feel better than pasting on a phony-baloney grin."
Plastic smiles do damage to your soul. They also send the wrong message to those around you. How will others know how to treat you if you send them false signals?
- Uncover the hurt: Ford maintains that underneath each little sting of anger is a hurt. "When feeling out of sorts, try to see all the details of what happened." Find the underlying cause of your present feelings. Why are you feeling so angry? Is your present anger over what just happened or is it part of a long-term pattern of put-downs?
- Tell it like it is. Gently explain how a request or event affected you while it's still fresh. Saving up slights until you have a bucket full only tends to drown out the impact of self-disclosures. The important people in your life can deal with one slight at a time. Preparing a hit list will only make them aware that you haven't been leveling with them.
"Anger can be a positive force for change," said Ford, "not for changing others, but for changing yourself."
Use anger to learn about your true nature - who you are and what
you want and need. You may find you feel anger when others
aren't taking care of your needs. That's your fault. It's your
responsibility to figure out what pleases you. It's also your
responsibility to communicate how you want to be treated. People
can't read your mind. Tell others what is acceptable and
unacceptable when dealing with you. Do your own thing. Grudges
and bitterness melt away when you stop taking on other people's
responsibilities. Taking good care of you can ease
Jaine Carter, Ph.D. and James D. Carter, Ph.D. are management consultants and authors of the
book, ''He Works She Works -- Successful Strategies for Working Couples." Comment by clicking here.
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