Years ago I attended a business seminar by the entertaining Art Mortell. He had a lot of fun stories, but at one point he went through a bunch of triggers that can make or break your day. The usual suspects were there: downers included alcohol and drugs like marijuana. Uppers were exercise, positive socializing with friends, caffeine, sugar, and nicotine. But he really caught my attention with the last trigger: “Anger is an upper”.
I’ve really come to understand his statement this year. During the dog days of Summer, I was bombarded with commercials for all kinds of reality shows: “Dance Moms,” “Basketball Wives“, and of course one Real Housewives series after another. Although all these shows look different on the outside, unfortunately they’re all the same. It’s essentially an hour of watching people overreacting to petty things on a scale somewhere between an earsplitting screech or going straight to “you crazy, girl!”. (If I only had a dollar for every time I saw someone throw a drink in someone else’s face…)
I’ve been in a lot of musical groups, and the idea about creative tension is usually a myth. There’s a difference between proposing an idea, even in a passionate way, or simply acting like a bully. Contrary to popular belief, screaming rarely produces the best results. Usually people become so tense or defensive that expressing creativity, a vulnerable and often intimate process, is absolutely lost.
This week, you may be faced with someone having a meltdown. Before you take on their problems as your own, remember Art Mortell’s advice. Let’s be clear: they may be upset because you dropped the ball on a project. If that’s the case – admit it, try to fix it promptly to the best of your ability, apologize, and move on. Anger can also bring positive results. You can see where you are authentically bothered about something and channel it into constructive changes.
On the other hand, you may begin to realize that an angry response is simply how someone manages their interactions. I have a friend who likes to shake her head about people “pushing and shoving their way through the world.” Maybe getting angry is their upper. It’s what they do to feel important or powerful, and they’re happy to do so at someone else’s expense. You may need to interact with them, but you don’t need to carry around their outlook on the world for the rest of the day. Consider the advice of author Ralph Charell: “It is through cooperation, rather than conflict, that your greatest successes will be derived.”