How Angry Are You?
Ask yourself these eight simple questions. If you answer yes to two or more, then you likely have a problem with anger.
1. Has it ever been suggested that you might have an anger problem?
2. Do you sometimes wonder why you get so angry or angry so often?
3. Do you resent people who have treated you unfairly?
4. Are you often critical of yourself or others?
5. Have you been told, more than once, that you "always have to be right?"
6. Do you feel, more often than not, that you don't get the respect you deserve?
7. Do you have difficulty letting others get close to you (difficulty trusting)?
8. Are your good intentions often misinterpreted or misunderstood?
Source: The Anger Guy, psychotherapist Evan Katz
In almost 30 years of umpiring baseball games, Al Slater has dealt with his share of angry parents, coaches and players. He's proud to claim he's never ejected one -- but admits he's come this close.
"I was umping a tournament and one coach just didn't know how to conduct himself. He was real aggressive -- and that's the kind you have to keep an eye on," says Slater.
The coach had a runner on second when the batter stroked a line drive into right field. Slater says he got into position because he knew the coach would try to score the runner from second. Sure enough, the runner was rounding third as the throw to home was coming in.
The right fielder made a good throw to the plate, Slater says, and the catcher grabbed the ball in his mitt, then dropped to a knee. The runner slid into home in a cloud of dust and ... out!
When Slater turned to go back to his position, he literally bumped into the coach.
"He was standing right there with me! He was angry and demanding I go to my partner to see if he got a different look," recalls Slater.
The confrontational coach tried intimidation to get the call reversed -- yelling, getting in Slater's face, refusing to go back to his position at third base until a second opinion was given.
"I told him to get back on third base, that I was absolutely not going back to my partner, and he was coming close to getting tossed because he questioned my integrity," Slater recalls. "I've found over the years that the best way to handle anger is listen, tell them, 'In my opinion I made the right call,' then detach. Don't let the angry person control you."
Detaching is one of the keys to dealing with anger, whether it's something boiling inside you or it's a scorching wind coming at you from another person, says Jan Silvious, a counselor for 25 years and a life coach the last seven.
THREE TYPES OF ANGER
Aggressive The personality most recognized and commonly associated with anger; people who raise their voices, are accusatory, place blame, lash out verbally or physically, bully. "They stress out a lot, show anger externally," says psychotherapist Evan Katz of Atlanta. "They are the 'squeaky wheel,' which makes them more noticeable."
Example: Anyone who shouts or tries to intimidate verbally or physically, whether arguing with a spouse, co-worker or even another driver on the road.
Passive-aggressive This person is very manipulative, keeps score underneath a placid exterior. The passive-aggressive will say what you want to hear, but do what they want to do. "The passive-aggressive person hangs onto something and seethes about it. They keep in underneath, and when something comes up way down the road, they'll bring up the past hurt. The louder you get, the quieter the passive-aggressive will get because they know they've got you. They realize your anger is caused by not reacting, so they keep doing it," says Katz.
Example: Husband is getting the silent treatment from his wife. He asks what's wrong and she answers the classic, "Nothing," which everyone knows means "SOMETHING." But she will let her anger simmer and keep silent as a control mechanism.
Passive The passive personality has the same feelings as an aggressive, but you never know it. Passives remain quiet and keep everything inside until they snap, then everything comes boiling out about how they feel about the world. The passive person can be very dangerous.
"Passives sit back and do what everybody wants them to do. They take the position they are powerless and can't do anything without another person's help, then they make that other person their hero. They constantly play the victim," says Katz. "Victims are powerless by nature. So if they take the position 'I'm powerless,' then (in their minds) they can't be held responsible for anything that goes wrong because they are not the ones making decisions. "This is the person who shoots everybody up and, when the neighbors are asked about him, they say, 'He always seemed nice, never seemed to have a problem.' They are the ones who had guns, ammo in their homes, but no one ever knew."
Example: School or mall mass murderers.
Source: Evan Katz
"Anger is very much an issue of control," says Silvious, who practices at Center for Functional Genomics and Mind-Body Medicine in Chattanooga. "Basically, you have to detach from it. You can not be up close and personal with anger."
We all experience anger at some point, albeit in varying degrees from simple irritation to raging tantrums. But how we handle anger -- both from ourselves and others -- can affect our jobs, personal relationships and health. And if you think you're pretty laid-back, that anger's not a problem for you -- think again.
Anger costs employers more than $4.2 billion a year, according to SelfGrowth.com. Problems at work can lead to lost productivity, sick days resulting from stress buildup, time taken to search for and hire new employees and then training them.
And anger has been directly linked to health issues: high blood pressure, digestive imbalances, insomnia, depression, skin problems, heart attacks and stroke.
You might even be sharing the road with a driver whose simmering anger is one traffic jam away from boiling over. According to a 2013 survey taken by The Washington Post, the number of adults who admit they feel "uncontrollable anger toward another driver" has doubled since 2005. Twelve percent of the people surveyed -- more than one in 10 drivers -- said they feel such anger. Among young drivers, that number was even higher. One in six -- 18 percent -- said they often feel road rage.
"We all get too angry sometimes, but when it's a pervasive pattern of behavior, that's an anger problem," explains Evan Katz, an Atlanta psychotherapist and author of "Inside the Mind of an Angry Man."
There are three types of anger -- aggressive, passive-aggressive and passive -- and recognizing their differences is the first step to dealing with them, Katz says.
"Most of the guys I see are very successful, some high-profile such as CEOs, people making good money. These are the people you look at and ask, 'You have it made. Why would you possibly get angry?'
"It's because their performance is based on fear -- if they don't reach the top tier, they feel they are nothing. Their validation has to come from the outside -- and that is a common thread with anybody who is angry. But my credo is 'Happiness is an inside job.'"
These clients don't respect themselves, for varying reasons and, as a result, need the respect of others to affirm they are OK. Katz calls it "the imposter phenomenon," a guy who is "smooth as silk on the outside but worries that if people really knew who he was or what was happening in his home life, they wouldn't like him."
DEALING WITH AN ANGRY PERSON
1 Get to the root of the matter. "Anger is -- 100 percent of the time -- a secondary emotion," says counselor Susan Whited. "There is always a primary emotion fueling it. If you discover what the primary emotion is (fear, hurt, frustration, rejection, etc.), then you can proceed to deal with it, and the anger has nothing to fuel it."
2 Detach and step back to proceed forward. "As a life coach, the people I see aren't trying to deal with the junk, they are trying to go forward," says counselor Jan Silvious. "A lot of them are angry because they are in relationships with an angry person, and they are just trying to get past it.
"When you recognize a person is angry, and in that anger is trying to control you, choose to detach, move back. You can be in their presence, but not under their power. I recommend that people repeat to themselves, 'You're not going to get to me,' over and over. That has an amazing power in a person's life."
3 Be the one in control. "Anger is very much an issue of control," explains Silvious. She shares a favorite adage: "Anger works because it works," meaning that when we let people use their anger to control us, we are going to be stuck and not move forward.
"Don't allow an angry person to walk around on your heart. You control your own emotions. If you recognize a person is trying to control you through their anger, you can choose to detach. You can be in their presence, but not under their power."
4 Forgive. "The common denominator of any issue that keeps people angry is not forgiving. Holding onto that anger, not forgiving, keeps anger simmering and ready to blow," Whited states.
She recommends that, if you have made amends, asked for forgiveness from the person who is angry with you and they refuse, then it's time to set boundaries on your interaction. In other words, stay away from each other if possible, but when you can't, remain civil.
"In situations like divorce, if you share children you are going to be around each other. Treat the other person like you would any other citizen; be polite, but don't let them get into your emotions. Be civil, just like you would be to somebody at Walmart."
"If you find somebody acting overly powerful, they are usually feeling powerless, so they over-exert to compensate," he says. "If they are controlling, they really feel they have no control. When someone generally feels 'less than,' that they are never as good as other people, they are going to act 'more than.'"
These overly controlling people contain their anger at work because they know that, if they don't, they risk being fired, he says. But once they get home, they let loose.
"They let it out at home because it's safer. It's true we tend to take out our nastiest stuff on the people closest to us. That's why kids will, a lot of times, be nastiest to their moms, because they trust their moms the most."
Again, like Slater the umpire, the way to deal with them is: Don't engage.
"One of the biggest things I say is: Don't try to be rational with an irrational person," Katz says. "Don't give them the silent treatment, but care for yourself by setting a boundary. If spouses are in an argument, the wife might say, 'I am not going to be yelled at. I am going to another room and if you don't respect that boundary, I will leave the house.'"
Then follow through. If the angry person follows into the second room, leave the house.
"What's really going on is that we want them to calm down so we don't have to walk away: 'I need you to change so I don't have to.' When we try to make somebody who's angry relax in that situation, all it does is give them more of a target," Katz explains.
"Later that conflict has to be talked about, but never put yourself in harm's way."
Katz says the largest group of clients he has seen grow over 20 years in counseling is the number of teens seeking help to cope with anger.
"They have become, by the hand of their parents, very entitled, feeling very grandiose in the sense nothing is going to happen if they do (something they know is wrong.) We could almost call them narcissistic. There are no boundaries set by parents and then they wonder why their kid is a little monster."
Katz describes sessions with distraught parents telling him they bought their son a car and he rolled it, they replaced it and he hit a tree or got speeding tickets, but "he's a good boy."
"My questions is always 'Why did you buy another car?' That's how you teach someone they are not going to suffer life consequences."
Susan Whited, director of counseling for Silverdale Baptist Church as well as facilitator of the 12 specialty groups the church offers to the public, says some entitled children will not be able to accept responsibility even as they become adults and move into the work force.
"We have an entitled generation," Whited agrees. "We are seeing young people starting out in the workforce, and they hate their job, or job hop because of their feeling of entitlement. There is a lot of unhappiness, anger that they aren't immediately earning what their parents earn. They don't have a work ethic because they've never had to work for anything."
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...