Anger Control Starts at Home

A recent incident that I observed brought home to me one reason why it is so difficult for the world to achieve peace. Almost everybody says they want peace, but yet become combative when they begin to see themselves as a “victim” rather than an aggressor. This is because when you see yourself as a victim, it is relatively easy to take the next step to justify aggression.

Take a recent incident the day after Thanksgiving I observed during a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in a small town. It was about 6PM and we were heading toward the town square to observe the lighting ceremony which signified the start of the holiday season. We were walking across the street in what we thought was a crosswalk. A lady in an SUV was frantically trying to find a parking place before the ceremony. She ignored us in the crosswalk as she rolled through; my friend became so angry he kicked the SUV as it passed. As we continued walking, the lady pulled her SUV over and confronted my friend and the following “conversation” took place:

Lady: “You a__h___. There was no crosswalk there.”

Friend: “F___Y__.”

Lady: “You wouldn’t know how, you a___h___.”

Then, each went his own way in a huff. Mind you, this was during a celebration of peace, goodwill, and neighborly love.

Both people in this exchange saw themselves as the victim of the other because each has a viewpoint of what caused the problem and escalated the angry and irrational exchange between two two otherwise rational, mature adults.

If this can happen so quickly in this situation, it is no mystery why couples conflict, family members learn to hate each other, and nations go to war with each other. In all these situations, nobody sees themselves as in the wrong. As we teach in our anger management classes, most conflicts occur because of a clash of what is perceived as two “rights”- not a right and a wrong!

We encourage people to start taking responsibility for their own anger and how they handle it. My friend would have completely avoided the whole incident if he had not kicked the SUV in the first place but had had empathy for a woman who was desperately trying to find a parking  spot for her family before it got dark. The woman could have avoided it had she apologized to my friend for perhaps going through a crosswalk when she shouldn’t have and apologized for perhaps scaring him.

Both could have just ignored the whole thing and let it pass. There were many options for each on how to handle it, yet both unfortunately chose the aggressive option and thusly escalated each other. With so many children watching the interaction, one wonders what negative lessons they were learning in how to handle conflicts!

Hopefully,  in the year 2010 more people will focus on how to be peacemakers instead of warriors, conflict resolution experts instead of bullys,  and forgiving human beings insted of revenge and retribution seekers.

Peace to all in 2010.

Dr Tony