We are living in unprecedented times and chartering uncertain waters as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are facing extreme amounts of pressure and stress – people are disgruntled, dissatisfied and ultimately angry to be caught in the midst of a pandemic.
There is a measure of anger which can be considered to be normal because sometimes it is the most appropriate response to a situation. However, unmanaged anger can lead to aggressive behaviour which is alarmingly on the increase every time we turn on the TV or open a newspaper.
Elizabeth Chang reported to The Washington Post that Americans are living in a big “anger incubator” due to civil unrest, the pandemic and the economic fallout. The issues that they are dealing with in the United States are, however, not confined to just their country. You see, we (South Africans) are experiencing a Covid-19 pandemic, but we are also experiencing a pandemic of rage. You can’t stand at a robot for 0,1 seconds after it turns green, because you will undoubtedly have hooters honking and even people swearing at you.
When I scan what’s in the news regarding Cape Town (this week alone), violent clashes between people are dominating headlines and the reason is anger. Anger is one of the most misunderstood and mismanaged emotions, and it usually stems from underlying emotions; like hurt, frustration and fear.
I used to be someone who would be quick to spring op my perdjie; and when someone wanted to tell me something that I didn’t like, I would be sure to vêtel them swiftly. But teaching (as a profession) can really humble you: children have no filters and often speak before they think. We are so quick to tell them to watch their words, but do we as adults? What behaviour are we modelling for the youth?
I recently went to the shop to buy a gift for a little girl’s birthday, but when I got to the till, it was double the price displayed on the shelf. To top it off, the cashier didn’t seem to care and asked me if I had checked the barcode. She then went on to chew her bubblegum, blowing a big bubble nogal, and just carried on nonchalantly. I was very angry, but instead of giving her a piece of my mind, I decided not to say what I really wanted to and rather walked away to get another Barbie. When I returned to the till, still irritated but less angry, I realised that delay can diffuse anger.
It’s that thing about response versus reaction. The former allows for a measured and definitely more constructive interaction. Whereas a knee-jerk reaction would have caused a bit of a skandaal, and I would have left the store without a gift or satisfaction (and probably without my dignity).
The thing about anger is that we need to manage it correctly. Some people blow up, while others clam up. Some stew in anger, while others spew in anger. But what’s the right way to deal with anger?
Sheryl Brady, a motivational speaker and lecturer shared some principles on how to manage anger:
- Calculate the costs of uncontrolled anger because there is [usually] a hefty price to pay.
- Reflect before you respond. Don’t react because it could make the situation worse.
- Release your anger appropriately by trying to express how you are feeling. Don’t stuff, store, suppress or repress anger. Try instead to express the underlying reasons as to why you are angry.
- Re-pattern your mindset because the way you express anger is a learned behaviour that was modelled to you by someone. Here’s the good news; if you’ve learnt it, you can unlearn it!
We are not perfect and we definitely don’t have to have it all together, all of the time. But I’ve recently been thinking about what a lecturer said to us at teachers-in-training before we ventured into the teaching profession. She said, “Whenever you lose your temper, you lose.”
Maybe it’s time we start to call ourselves out on certain behaviours – take the time to retrain and recondition what we considered to be ‘normal’ reactions.
“To deal with anger, you actually need to stop and deal with it.” – anonymous
*These are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.