By Irene Conlan —
I was driving along, minding my own business, when the man in the pickup in the next lane started honking, waving his hand and giving me that middle finger salute. He pulled in front of me and continued gesturing for the block before I made my turn. I had absolutely no idea what I had done to send him into such a rage, and I was really grateful that he didn’t follow me when I turned.
The next day I was in a department store waiting for my turn with the cashier. All of a sudden the woman in front of me started yelling about the long wait. At the top of her voice she berated the cashier, the store, the merchandise and the other customers. She got in line just before I did and we had waited all of three minutes. Her fuse had become very short and someone unknowingly lit it.
I watched a mother and her small son in the grocery store one day, thinking how cute and well behaved he was. I saw him point at some cereal and ask his mom if he could have it. She reached down, jerked him around, gave him a swat on the arm and yelled at him for asking. Her voice became shrill, her face red and angry, and she looked embarrassed when she saw me watching. She reached down and gave him a loving pat and put the cereal in the cart. Something of an over reaction? Probably.
Each was out of control. Each seemed to have passed the breaking point. Each lashed out at the person closest to them at the moment. These are not uncommon scenes.
So what’s going on? Many people are over-committed, overwhelmed and overstressed and have few coping skills to help them deal with it. Their self esteem may be at an all time low. They are working harder and longer hours to make ends meet and their spouse is probably doing the same. As money gets tighter and hours get longer, we grow tireder and esteem gets lower, the fuse grows shorter and shorter and an explosion or a series of explosions ensues.
I know this. I used to be there. As I reflect on what changed between then and now I am aware of some things I learned and did that made the change. I’ll list them here and we’ll talk about them in more depth as time goes on.
1. I changed from being religious to being spiritual and I learned to manage my own energy.
2. Meditation. The longer I practice daily meditation the easier it is to cope with the stresses in my life. I wish I could say that I’m never angry. What I can say is that my fuse is much longer and I recover more quickly.
3. Self hypnosis – a sister to meditation. Helps me stay calm, in control, and more sensitive to the needs of others.
4. Divorce. This is not a recommended anger management tool. Many of my stresses came from an unhappy marriage and once that ended, even though new and different stresses emerged, I was much more able to cope with them.
5. Improved self esteem
6. Work that gives me great joy.