Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Misdirected Anger

We've all taken our anger out on the wrong party, not to say that there is ever a right party who is deserving of our ire. It's not uncommon to be upset with one person and misdirect it at someone or something else. Your boss has been crabby all day and continually comments on every aspect of your work. You arrived home only to be confronted by your wife who mentions that you forgot to wipe the mud off your shoes before walking across her newly mopped floor. You blow up at her, then storm off into the den. Sound familiar? Or perhaps you're on the receiving end of such anger, as was the above-mentioned wife. Doesn't feel very good, does it? 

Most of us have grown accustomed to this type of behavior although few recognize when it occurs and those who do are unwilling to tolerate it. We rightly become defensive when being targeted and sometimes retaliate with a threatening remark or gesture. But aggression never neutralizes hostility. While we may be sympathetic to the fact that the other party is stressed or doesn't mean to be hurtful, their behavior is entirely objectionable. But why does it happen? 

The primary reason we misdirect anger is that few of us live in a state of constant mindfulness. We're distracted by our day-to-day responsibilities and the mundane  activities that take place around us. We pay little attention to external stimuli and how it is impacting us on an inner conscious level. In each experience I form both a thought and feeling whether consciously or unconsciously. Feelings dictate behavior and those emotions that I am not purposely aware of have just as much impact on how I act (perhaps even more) as are those I am attentive to. A situation that occurs today can trigger residual anger from earlier in the day, last week, or twenty years ago. There is no time frame that dictates when a repressed emotion will resurface.

How can an individual intercept displaced anger? If you are the offending party consider the following:
  • After an upsetting incident occurs, stop for a moment and examine what transpired.
  • Acknowledge your anger. Trace it back to one or more of the root causes (hurt, fear, frustration), address and heal them.
  • Take notice of who was present, what occurred, and what was said or implied.
  • Check your perception: is it fair and accurate or is it in need of an adjustment?
  • How important is this issue? Does it need to be addressed with the appropriate party or can you let it go? Choose one and act upon it.
  • Extract the value and lessons, utilizing them to enrich your life.
  • Accept and be at peace with whatever the outcome is.
In this way, you can prevent anger from resurfacing inappropriately at a later date. If however, you have already inadvertently taken your indignation out on an innocent party, stop, take a moment to identify the real source of your ire, and quickly make amends with the targeted subject.

If you are on the receiving end of misdirected anger:
  • Be mindful of what is occurring. 
  • Don't take personal offense to what the other person is saying or doing. 
  • Set and enforce clear and reasonable boundaries with the offending party. 
  • If so inclined, ask questions to gain clarity on what the real issue is: "What's really bothering you?  Who was involved? How do you want to handle this (act  upon it or accept it as is)? Can I be of assistance in any way?" 
  • Put the issue to rest permanently.
No one, under any circumstances, has a right to be hurtful towards another. Pay careful attention to how life's circumstances are affecting you, address issues promptly, internally resolve and heal them, and return to the peaceful existence that is your natural birth right. When given the option to be angry or kind, always choose kindness. It repays huge dividends. 

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Silencing Your Inner Critic

I learned to be critical of myself at a very early age.  I never did anything right; everyone else was better than me; and even worse, I was never good enough, period. It didn't help that during my impressionable formative years, society taught that the more you denigrated a child the harder they would try to improve. Long after my childhood was behind me the inner critic continued its sinister assignment of keeping me trapped in a pattern of callous judgment and self-loathing. 

I'm a grandmother of thirteen. When I look at my grandchildren I see how they try and fall short; they act out and use poor judgment; they hurt themselves and one another, sometimes accidentally and other times purposefully.  Their behavior, whether compliant with my standards or not, does not define them, nor  is it a gauge upon which I measure my love and acceptance of them. Eventually they will grow and learn but that will occur in their own individual times and manner and not necessarily in accordance with my dictates. A loving grandparent (or parent) embraces them with patience, understanding, guidance, support, and love.

Why do I extend grace to others but omit the person I am closest to? Society, parents, teachers, and church leaders have instilled in us certain parameters by which we measure our value. By a predetermined age we are expected to have mastered certain physical capabilities, acquired the necessary social skills needed to sustain personal relationships, chosen a career path, discovered our place and purpose in the world, and worked through any residual agendas carried with us from childhood.

"I should know better!" "I'm too old to be making these mistakes." "Look how much others have accomplished compared to me. I'm such a loser." Although considered the highest form of life on the planet, we are the only genus that measures our development against that of our own species. We compare ourselves to others and that, my friend, is one of our greatest infractions against humanity. (Keep in mind that unmet expectations are a source of discontent and anger.)

The ancient wisdom of Native Americans declares, "Do not judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes." An impossible feat by nature (no pun intended), this precludes judgment from ever transpiring. Yet once a criticism or comparison is implanted in our brains it can haunt us for a lifetime. It is our internal dialogue, that wretched voice in our head, that indoctrinates us with these insidious falsehoods, repeating them incessantly until they become our truths. Our inner critic devalues us, damages our self-esteem, makes us feel sad, depressed, hopeless, and apathetic and fill us with despair. 

Is there a way one can silence the antagonist within? Absolutely!

1. When your inner critic appears, politely yet firmly instruct them to leave, reminding them that your mind is only receiving affirmative guests from this day forward.
2. At the onset of a negative recording, interrupt and replace it with positive testimonies, repeating words of encouragement and love. Recall favorable comments others have made about you in the past.
3. Understand that you were given human form in order to learn necessary lessons for your spiritual development. You were not intended to be perfect. Mistakes are normal  vital steps towards Divine discovery. But keep in mind: they do not define you. Appreciate them for what they contribute to your life.
4. Remind yourself daily that you are a sacred child of the Almighty and All-loving God who created you in His image.  Separate your intrinsic value from your human imperfections. Nothing can diminish your true worth as it has been pre ordained by the One who created you. 

And lastly, always remember that our God is a God of tenderness and mercy. He alone defines our worth. He does not seek perfection but asks only for sincere effort. Be kind with yourself for Father God is kind with you. Be patient and understanding and compassionate for these are the graces He bestows on you. As a loving parent fully and tenderly embraces their child without conditions or restrictions, so too must we be willing to extend that same benevolence to this child of God, the one who bears our unique soul print. 

Mark 12:31 "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Problem Interactions in the Workplace

Most of us work for a living. On or off the job we are bound to encounter a wide range of, shall I say, challenging personalities? Bullies, intimidators, hypocrites, backstabbers, underminers, instigators, complainers, gossips, withholders, and know-it-alls just to name a few. Their presence can be distressing and distractive. Many of us are ill-prepared to deal with their ever unpredictable behaviors yet are quick to hold them accountable for making it even more impossible to perform our already demanding jobs.

As in all relationships, the interaction between both parties contributes to the dysfunction on the job. Therefore, it is imperative to first examine the self for any improprieties. Take a moment and reflect upon the following:

~ Am I guilty of any of the preceding behaviors? Unless I am able to identify my own destructive behaviors I have no right to complain about others nor do I have the ability to improve the dynamics. I am responsible for my own actions and must first be willing to change myself.
~ How is my attitude? Have I always been polite and respectful? Was I in a bad mood the day we had an issue? Did I say or do anything that may have provoked the other party now or prior to the incident? 
~ What is my history with this person: amicable or hostile? What is their personal history? Is this an isolated incident? Is this behavior out of character for them or typical?
~ Am I blowing things out of proportion? Have I taken personal offense to an issue that is not about me? Am I the only one in the office who has an issue with this person or does he/she behave the same way with all of  us?
~ Is this impacting my performance on the job? It is causing me significant distress? Do I need to address the issue with the individual? Can I let it slide? Do I need to enlist the aid of another person such as my supervisor to help resolve this?

Only after I have thoroughly and honestly examined my role in this incident can I take action with (not against) the other party. (Attitude is key: you are coworkers, not adversaries.) There are several keys to dealing with individuals who exhibit the above characteristics:

1. Carefully and objectively assess the situation and determine its level of seriousness. A minor incident may be well to overlook while one of a more critical nature needs to be addressed.
2. Determine if this is something you are comfortable and qualified to handle on your own. Involving a third party might jeopardize the other's anonymity and sense of safety.
3. Choose the proper time and location to discuss the issue.
4. Utilize a firm yet fair approach, speaking with confidence and clarity.
5. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions rather than make assumptions or accusations. However, be certain to hold them accountable for their actions.
6. Listen open mindedly to their response or explanation. Consider their point of view.
7. Set guidelines and boundaries if necessary.
8. State your position and what changes need to take place. Ask for the same from them.
9. Reach a mutually agreed upon settlement and put the issue behind you.
10. For those issues or individuals who will not change, accept what is and do the best you can under the circumstances. Not every incident will be resolved the way you had hoped for.

Remember that whatever course of action you choose to take or not take, do so with dignity and integrity. Your behavior reflects your character and the example you set may be just enough to surreptitiously resolve the issue.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Anger: How Much is Too Much?

Jesus got angry. He was troubled by the many injustices he encountered while on Earth. At times, he expressed his dismay to those around Him. Anger, as with all emotions, has a place and purpose.  But how does one know if there is too much anger in their lives? Here are ten warning signs to gauge if your anger levels exceed what is considered safe and healthy:

1. Frequency: how often do  you get angry? Rarely, every day, several times a day, or are you always upset? One who flies off the handle at the drop of a hat needs to get to the root of their issues.
2. Intensity: do you find yourself primarily mildly annoyed, angry or do you express full blown rage? Mild anger is easily remedied without causing significant damage. Intense anger or rage can prove extremely detrimental to one's safety and well-being.
3. Duration: does your anger dissipate momentarily, do you  struggle to let it go, or are you someone who holds on to it indefinitely, possibly even seeking revenge? The longer the anger remains the greater the damage.
4. Aggression: does your anger lead to aggressive outbursts of a physical or verbal nature? This can have devastating consequences on the individual as well as those around them. One out of control moment can lead to a lifetime of suffering.
5. Relationships: are your intimate, personal, social, and/or professional relationships being negatively impacted by your anger? Are you fighting with family and/or friends or having problems getting along with coworkers? Don't blame them! This red flag is a serious indicator of deep rooted issues and needs immediate attention.
6. Outsiders: how are those around you being affected by your anger? Are people afraid of you or do they avoid you for fear of triggering an outburst? We often learn the most about ourselves by carefully observing how our actions impact others.
7. Health: is your physical well-being being affected by your anger? Even repressed anger can lead to health issues ranging from mild stomach upset, to elevated blood pressure, to cancer and beyond. Listen to your body - it is a messenger for your emotional self.
8. Law: has your anger gotten you in trouble with the law? Have you been arrested for a physical altercation or for damaging personal property? Major red flag - one bad choice can change your life forever.
9. Joy: how is your anger impacting your overall enjoyment of life? Are you agitated, miserable, unhappy or simply unable to fully embrace life? Remember - you were created to be joyful and happy. You deserve so much better but only you are responsible for your life.
10. Others: what do your friends, family, and coworkers say about you? Do they believe you have a problem with anger? People act as mirrors: they reflect back to us what we do not recognize in ourselves. Pay close attention to what others have to say. They can prove to be your greatest allies.

No one is suggesting that you never be angry. Even the Son of God got ticked off. But keep in mind: anger is a choice. No one makes you angry. How frequently you experience it, how long you hold on to it, the manner in which you express it, process it, and/or heal it is entirely in your hands. Choose wisely because anger can be your ally or your worst nightmare. Pleasant dreams. 

Please take a moment and fill out the worksheet below. It will offer great insights into your anger and enable you to recognize any areas that need your attention. Remember: the ultimate goal in life is to always operate from a place of inner peace and calm.

The AFID Worksheet: Create four columns and label each: Anger, Frequency, Intensity, Duration
On a sheet of paper, make four vertical columns. In the first (labeled Anger), write down ten things that  you get angry about, listing the most important one first and the least bothersome at number 10.
In the next column (Frequency), using the letters A-D, list the rate that you experience anger for each of the issues mentioned:  A = rarely, B = several times a month, C = weekly, D = once a day, E = several times daily.
Proceed to the next column (Intensity). Do the same: A = mildly annoyed, B = anger, C = intense anger, D = full blown rage.
Finally, in column number four, (Duration) list how long the anger lasts in each situation: A = a brief moment, B = several moments, C - all day, D = longer than twenty-four hours.
Begin with the first three items listed under Anger. Those with rankings of C, D, or E's need immediate attention in the corresponding areas. Those rated A or B are less troublesome and may be addressed at a later date if necessary.

Here's an example: 

Anger                              Frequency            Intensity            Duration
People criticizing me             E                        C                        B
When my kids fight               E                         C                        D
Telemarketers                       D                         A                        A
Interfering in-laws                 C                         B                        B

As you can see, those that rate a "C" and higher are cause for immediate action. They are either happening more frequently (depleting our tolerance levels), are more intense (increasing the possibility we may mishandle our anger) or last a longer than what is deemed safe or healthy (impeding our sense of overall well-being and possibly negatively impacting our physical health as well). Utilizing techniques found in my book, The Secret Side of Anger, you can successfully identify the root cause of each and apply the corresponding techniques to help alleviate them.
Wishing you get insight, success, and inner peace.  ~ Janet

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