Jim gets an unpleasant call one day from his son Arnold: Dad I am at the ER at the Hospital, There has been an accident, but I am fine. Jim doesn’t bother to ask the details after listening to his sons voice, but rushes to the ER to find his son admitted with a severe burn on his face.
Arnolds chin, nose and a side of his face was burnt in a fire accident. Although he was in pain and severe agony, his shock from the incident wasn’t worn out. It appeared that he was still living through the moments of the unfortunate incident over and over again. The shock and emotional trauma seemed to be more agonizing for him than the physical ones.
After the initial shock and hurt, Jim managed to collect himself and sit beside his son and assure him that he will be fine soon. Once the doctor on duty came by and assured Jim that although Arnold suffered these burns he should recover soon and should be fine, Jim managed to step out for a bit to take a break from the ever busy and frantic sounds of nurses, equipments, monitors and patients.
Outside the ER he found Arnolds childhood friends sitting at the waiting area. Nick and Andrew were Arnold’s best friends since his nursery. Living in the same neighbourhood they practically grew up together. Hence, anticipating a breakdown of events that lead to this accident, Jim sat down beside them and asked them to walk him through the tragedy.
It all began when the three decided to have a BBQ that evening over a charcoal grill. After their initial efforts to ignite the coal using some paper and dry sticks failed, their interest shifted to setting the grill on fire with other things they could find in the garage. Once the fire started, Arnold took the lead in turning this project into a sort of a bonfire. He kept through things into the fire that could combust into a bigger fire balls. The more he instigated the fire, the bigger it became. And finally, out came the infamous lighter gas can. While Nick strolled away from this site and Andrew stepped inside to grab the meats, Arnold decided to throw the butane can into the fire in an effort to spite its fury and watch what happens.
The can exploded on his face. The fire ball was big enough to burn his face and throw him a few feet away. Andrew and Nick heard the sound and rushed to rescue Arnold and got him to the hospital.
Jim was shocked at the stupidity of his usually well behaved and academically smart son. He asked Andrew and Nick how come they didn’t stop or advice him against this. Nick said he got scared, warned Arnold and eventually stepped away from the fire. Andrew said he didn’t expect this from Arnold, but was there immediately out to douse the fire with water and later an extinguisher after he pulled Arnold away to safety. He managed to get Arnold into the car and to the hospital while the fire site was covered with smoke on the yard smelling really bad.
Although Jim was very disturbed by his sons’ behaviour and poor judgement, he couldn’t help think that this becomes a much needed and valuable lesson for his son for the rest of his life.
Let us assume the FIRE in this story represents ANGER. And Arnold was playing with this fire contrary the several advices and blatant facts. The lessons from this incident are as follows:
- Although Anger is necessary at time, it has to be within a controllable limit
- Do not play with Anger if you are not willing to withstand the consequences
- Don’t blame the fire for burning you, blame yourself for instigating the fire
- If you instigate it and keep throwing things to spite it, the Anger may blow up on YOUR face
- Smart people walk away from Anger
- Good people douse the anger with whatever they can
- The bruises from Anger will bear emotional scars for long
- If you instigate anger, it is very likely you will be the ultimate victim
- Once doused, the event will stink for a long time
In our world, Anger is seen as a bad behaviour displayed by the week and cowardly. The person who gets Angry is looked down upon. There are dire consequences to face if one looses his or her cool due to anger. There are anger management lessons to control and manage anger. But there is very little said about the instigators. The Arnolds of the world and their plight as a victim often takes very little interest. Their stupidity and poor judgement of playing with Anger is often do not get criticised. In fact it is quite the contrary. They are the poor victims and the sympathy lies with them. While the stupidity, hate and displeasure is against the fire to the person who dared to express his or her displeasure with the natural human reaction called Anger.
Anger is certainly a negative behaviour with often severe bad consequences. In anger an individual easily tends to lose logic, and basic common sense. Rage and the need for vengeance takes over sensibilities, intelligence and tact. And it is a proven fact that people get angry for the most trivial and silliest reasons majority of the time. A study conducted by the British Association of Anger Management a few years ago brought out some interesting statistics:
- 45% of adults lose their temper at work
- 33% are not in speaking terms with their neighbours due to anger
- More than 80% of drivers have been involved in road rage incidents
- 50% of people have reacted badly when faced with computer problems at work.
- And (nor surprisingly) 1486 incidents of serious air rage reported by the Airlines.
Of course, the instigators are not interesting enough. The airline staff can continue to instigate and play with fire, annoying neighbours are do the same, and the tech support can always slow down your computer with the much necessary “Upgrade”. If you react, you will need to control your anger and go to some anger management class while the Arnolds of the world can rake in the sympathies as victims.
So what is this Anger? Well, one popular website, WebMD describes it as: “..a very powerful emotion that can stem from feelings of frustration, hurt, annoyance, or disappointment. It is a normal human emotion that can range from slight irritation to strong rage.”
The website goes further to describe the consequences of suppressed anger as follows:
“Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. Anger that is not appropriately expressed can disrupt relationships, affect thinking and behavior patterns, and create a variety of physical problems. Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. In addition, anger can be linked to problems such as crime, emotional and physical abuse, and other violent behavior.”
Therefore, it is necessary to express our anger, but the key is the manner we choose to express it. As I have mentioned in my other earlier posts, our life is defined by our reactions to it. Hence it is imperative for us to carefully choose our reactions and what we choose to get angry over.
Over the years, unless instigated by constant probing, irritation, disrespect, emotional and personal punches to my ego, I have learned to control my reactions mostly. But I continue to burst out in rage when I lose control because of bottling up my frustration, hurt and annoyance. After all, it is a normal human emotion that I am trying to suppress. But what amuses me and seems to work often is what Nick and Andrew did in the story above. Walk away from the situation that angers you, or douse it with whatever I can. In most cases these are the things that helped me douse the anger:
- Learning to be assertive
- Agreeing to disagree
- Disconnect from the discussion if it doesn’t concern me personally
- Stop and try to understand the other persons perspective or reasons
And one of the most important thought process that has helped me manage my anger better is understanding and accepting the fact that we live in an imperfect world. Like ourselves, others tend to do mistakes too. Letting people do their share of mistakes and learning through their pitfalls is one of the grater services you can do to people. Although it is at times at the expense of your time and emotions, the patience you can muster with some understanding will often go a long way. I am sure many of us can recollect a time when someone chose to overlook our short comings in life. Giving space to people to do mistakes and learn from it often helps them learn faster and more effectively than wasting your time and emotions of trying to advice, coach or instruct them on what is the right thing to do.
My experiences now are lot more subtle and often funny as opposed to anger and dismay. I let the speeding car that comes up and sticks to my bumper pass, only to find them stopped by a cop further down the road. When someone cuts me off on the road, I smile and let them be, and often find someone one else expend his rage and emotion at that inconsiderate driver. I choose to sit down and use the speaker phone mode when talking to customer service. I ask them very politely to explain to me why they think that their response is a reasonable one. Often they end up correcting themselves when you put them through the exercise. I try to walk away from people who are being unreasonable, and return to the discussion after giving them some time to mull over their argument and see reasons themselves. All one needs to do is state the facts and walk away. A reasonable person will often come around. And a smile often solves many things.
There are many things in life that is not worth the trouble of draining your emotions. Many things in life tend to fix themselves. You need not be the one to take on the responsibility to fix everything that you find wrong. Do whatever you reasonably can to make things better. Unreasonable angry people will eventually learn and find ways to cool down. If they do not they will face the consequences like Arnold.
Life is too short to live as an angry teacher. But it is more gratifying to live it as an eager student.