Pat’s View: The Ripple Effect of Anger

By Patrick Robinson

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

When you see someone you know mistreating someone else, what is your reaction? Do you stop to wonder if the victim of verbal (or worse physical) abuse deserved it? Or do you respond more viscerally wishing to look away…or worse, see more?

When you see someone yelling at someone else in traffic, honking their horn, clearly angry or worse chasing someone or waving a gun, what is your reaction?

Now let’s reverse some of that. Have you ever said something angrily to someone else that you now regret? Have you ever been in a completely pointless fight that you should have avoided? Have you yelled at someone in traffic or worse chased someone you thought had hurt?

If you knew right away that tomorrow you might behave like this, what would you do to prevent it?

Most of us, in fact most people, are happiest when they are free from 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 that said, there’s something bigger at work here.

Stress can cause people to behave in ways they wouldn’t even recognize or if shown a video of their behavior they express personal pride. The pandemic that we still seem to be experiencing has obviously caused an incredible amount of stress. But lack of money, rising costs, interpersonal conflict, physical and mental illness, and just plain frustration or disappointment can bring some people to a boiling point. We live in times of unprecedented stress, which means we have 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 stress reactions can have. The simplest example of this is any person in a position of power or responsibility who clearly cares very little for their subordinates. You may have had this experience and no doubt heard of “bad bosses” abusing employees. When this happens, the ripple of anger widens, and in some cases, when it is systemic or chronic, it is passed 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 to reverse this course.

The first step is to be responsible yourself. This 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 judge and jury. An unpleasant situation is much less likely to be resolved by accusations and attacks.

Then you might have heard of just taking a deep breath, or counting to ten, or other ways in which you go ahead and feel the anger, but let the heat through for a few moments. You may well be justified in how you feel. But unless you are literally physically attacked or threatened, an immediate violent response is usually not necessary. Give it a minute.

The ancient wisdom of the Golden Rule still applies here. Want to be treated well? Treat others that way.

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