Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Anger Doesn't Look Like Anger

Not all anger expresses itself as yelling, hitting, cursing, heart pounding, palms sweating  or huffing and puffing. Anger comes in many sizes and  shapes, one of which I refer to as "camouflage anger". It's most common name is passive/aggressive. Well disguised and covert, it can be difficult to detect yet can cause severe damage in the most subtle ways. Those afflicted are often unaware that they are angry and those being targeted are hard-pressed to accurately identify it. They simply know that what is transpiring doesn't feel comfortable.

Passive/aggressive anger can manifest in the form of bragging, the silent treatment, inappropriate jokes, teasing, sarcasm (yes - sarcasm), undermining, deliberately doing things to annoy another, constructive criticism (there is nothing constructive about it at all - it is designed to hurt), gossip and rumors, refusal to forgive, manipulation, coercion, putting pressure on, body language, and others.  Each of these behaviors is designed to hurt, embarrass, humiliate, force to comply, control, degrade or offend. Deeply rooted in fear, passive/aggressives often believe anger is wrong or bad. To be angry reflects on their value as a person. They may feel uncomfortable expressing how they feel and worry about the consequences of their emotions. Rather than be truthful, they disguise their anger as humor, concern, innocence, and such. 

When dealing the a p/a, give them the benefit of the doubt. Many truly are living in denial. Address your concerns with the following questions:
1. Are you aware that when you say/do _______, I feel ________?
2. Do you realize that it affects me  in _______ way?
3. Please do/say ________ instead.

In this way, you let them know what behavior you find inappropriate and give them an alternative one. Make certain they follow through. 

Note: Look closely. You may recognize yourself as a carrier of repressed or denied anger. Work on the self first. The Secret Side of Anger offers great insights and tools. Pick up a copy at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Don't Do Ugly

She's strikingly beautiful: tall, large oval-shaped eyes, full lips, dark flowing hair. Her exotic look could land her on the cover of any fashion magazine. Her personality perfectly suits her ample frame. She's outgoing and bubbly, intense and opinionated and I've enjoyed the two years she's spend in my anger management group.  She is well-known for her strong opinions and feelings. Last week was no exception.

That evening she noticed voter application forms on the table in the front of the room and strongly urged the others to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election. "We can't let that other guy get into office," she exclaimed. "He's a liar!" 

There are two topics I never discuss in public: religion and politics. People are fiercely passionate about both and can easily cross the line from debate to defamation. It's disheartening enough to see our political leaders vilify each other. I do not need to engage in similar communications.  I don't do ugly.

But this discussion was already in progress. I encouraged the women present to learn as much as they could about each candidate and vote wisely in Nov. "Don't simply watch one channel or read one newspaper. Research every source of information. Weigh the reliability of each source. Then choose who you feel would best serve our country." Pretty fair and objective advice, I thought. 

The woman continued: "Don't vote for Romney. He can't be trusted! He's against women and will take away our rights!" I inquired as to specifically what she was referring to and where she got her information from. She refused to respond but simply repeated her accusations with more fervor, adding additional allegations. I disputed several of her claims and sited my trusted sources. Her voice rose as she refused to allow me to complete a sentence. As much as I requested she show me respect and refrain from interrupting, the situation only escalated. When I suggested that her information (matters of public record, not simply my opinion) was incorrect, she blew me off, at times laughing in my face. "That's ridiculous!" she screamed. "You don't know what you're talking about!" 

I reminded her, in vain, of my original point - to educate ourselves on the issues, research all sources, and vote intelligently. I purposefully did not endorse either candidate at this time, respecting each woman's right to decide for herself. However, she continued her diatribe for the next hour. 

There were significant mistakes each of us made that accounted for the debacle of our discussion. First, having initially stated my position it would have been wiser for me to let it go. Instead, I repeated myself several times to someone who clearly was not interested in what I had to say. Second, I failed to set and enforce boundaries. At the first sign of disrespect, I should have changed the course of the discussion. I failed to do so.

On her part, she entered this dialog with a closed mind. Unwilling to listen to an opposing position, she let her ego rule her behavior. Those who interrupt are fearful of being exposed to new ideas which may challenge their current beliefs. Her sarcastic laughter was incredibly disrespectful and meant to intimidate and humiliate me (it did neither). Next, she made statements she was unable to support with examples or documentation, a clear indication she had no real knowledge of the subject. This made her appear ignorant and desperate. 

Clearly, we both made our share of mistakes. A spirited debate can be stimulating and educational. This failed on all accounts. My advice? Before opening your mouth, make sure your mind, ears, and heart are as well. Otherwise, it can get ugly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Effects of Bullying

My special guest on today's show, Hannah Spivey, shared her painful story of being bullied as a child, the impact it had on her, and her journey towards healing.

A bully is defined as anyone who treats another in a cruel or abusive way. For those who have been the target, the pain goes deep, the scars can last a lifetime. Bullying extends far beyond words - it is the hurtful way we treat one another. Sneaky and covert, it sometimes appears in the form of the silent treatment, insults, criticisms, ridicule, rumors or sarcasm. It is an insidious form of degradation that shreds one's self-esteem and impacts every aspect of their lives. In extreme cases, individuals have committed suicide as the only perceived means of escape. 

Bullying is not limited to children in the schoolyard. Left untreated, it remains active in the behaviors of grown adults, those seeking power and control over another. It is imperative that we each examine our own behavior to determine if, in fact, any of it qualifies as intimidating. Healing our issues of low self-esteem (a common denominator in all bullies), learning to be more compassionate, accepting, and respectful of others enables us to avoid inflicting suffering on others.

If we are being targeting by one who is intimidating, threatening, hurtful or disrespectful in any way, we need to either remove ourselves from their presence or set and enforce some strong boundaries. Either way, we must remind ourselves that their bad behavior is a reflection of their personal issues. It in no way diminishes us or our self-worth. Do not take what they say or do personally. Hannah recommended reaching out to someone you know and trust. Let them know what is happening and seek professional help if necessary.  Do not keep your feelings inside. 

She also suggested prayer. I have always found prayer to be a powerful tool to heal present and past wounds. This also involves forgiving the one who treated us shamefully. Forgiveness* does not lessen the seriousness of the offense. Nor does it relieve the offender from having to take ownership for their behavior and possibly face the consequences. It means that I choose to move beyond the incident, understanding that sometimes people do bad things. 

One is not powerless against acts of maltreatment. We can remove ourselves from unsafe conditions, assert ourselves and set boundaries when necessary, and definitely forgive the offender. It is the only way to restore inner peace.

Pick up a copy of Hannah Spivey's book, Ebony, the Beloved on Follow her on Facebook at Hannah Bossladywriter Spivey

*Visit for a powerful message on forgiveness.

If your school or workplace needs a program on bullying, visit to schedule a free consultation. We can help.