Christmas is the season to be jolly. So what do you do if someone upsets you and you don’t want to run the risk of ruining the holiday spirit? It is with apprehension that I get together with my family during the holidays. Emotionally I am a cauldron of joy, happiness, anticipation, and nerves mostly because I have the ominous feeling that at some point one of us is going to get mad if they don’t get their way.
This Christmas is no exception. As soon as my strong willed family members descend into the one week of ‘quality’ time we always spend together, I know the stage is set for an inevitable show down where at some point, someone is going to say something they have been itching to say for the year they have been apart. One of the seven deadly sins is anger also known as wrath. It is part of human nature and it seems to manifest itself in the most inopportune times. Not that there ever is a good opportunity to get mad at someone.
This Christmas, I decided that if I am upset with any one of my family members, I will handle it differently. I would get mad the right way for the holidays. This time around, I would enter into this quality family time with a plan to get mad. The first step was to look into what anger really is. I needed to find the purpose anger serves in our lives and how to utilize it so that those involved in the experience could walk away with a new perspective. Most importantly, I didn’t want the holidays ruined.
I found out about a theory called the recalibration theory of anger. It states that anger is an important part of human nature and is an emotion designed to make the angry person bargain for benefits that they feel they ought to have. Natural selection plays an important role in that stronger and attractive individuals tend to use anger to bargain more effectively. Insufficient tradeoffs are the causes of anger.
Now that I was armed with the knowledge that anger really is a bargaining tool to express any deficiencies in needs whether emotional or physical, I was ready to face my family. The next step was to come up with a plan on how to negotiate or express my desires when I was upset. I decided that if I was upset at any one of my family members I would:
1. First take the time to determine what need was not being met. This would help me stay on topic when articulating what I felt was not going well.
2. Then I would not harbor feelings of anger as they would only cause stress and ruin the holiday that we planned to have together. Finding the first opportunity to express your anger would help in diffusing the situation so we could go on to the business of enjoying the holiday.
3. When stating the reasons I am mad, I would give the other person an opportunity to come up with an amicable solution that would satisfy both of us.
4. Finally, find a way to move on after the situation is taken care off so that I would enjoy the rest of the holiday.
One aspect of the theory states that anger can continue to fester if needs are not met. Armed with this knowledge and my action steps, I set off to pick up my sister who was flying in from Brussels. After driving for two hours, I arrived at the Minneapolis Airport to pick her up. While waiting for her to emerge from the mysterious bowels of the international arrivals, I received a phone call from my husband. My sister in an effort to surprise us had got a ride from a friend and she was already in the house. I had to turn around and drive another two hours back on the icy roads!
I was surprised. I was also angry.
Seething with anger, I prepared for the inevitable confrontation that would ensue as a result of the lack of communication. The anger was flowing and I was ready to recalibrate it to express what needs (communication) had not been met.
No I am not going to tell you what happened when I expressed my anger but all I can tell you it felt great to say what I was thinking and feeling. Once the anger was expressed however, we were able to resolve how future “surprises” could be handled so that all involved could derive pleasure from them.
Anger is an inherent part of our human genome. When suppressed it can quickly simmer into frustration which can lead to crumbling of relationships and can boil over into aggression. Finding a way to articulate why you are upset is important because it gives you a chance to bargain for the needs you feel ought to be met.
- Anger Control: Keeping Anger in Its Place (everydayhealth.com)
- Honor Thy Anger (psychologytoday.com)
- The Bright Side of Anger: It Motivates Others (time.com)
- Anger Management: How to Keep Your Temper in Check (everydayhealth.com)
- The Upside of Anger: It Motivates Us (aolhealth.com)
- How Anger Can Lead to Crimes (socyberty.com)
- Anger (socyberty.com)