Years ago, I fell in love with a dog named Hunter while volunteering at a local animal shelter. This stud that had been rescued from a puppy mill had never been outside the dark shack he’d lived in for three years. Suddenly the bright lights, running water and commotion of people around him had him out of his realm and completely unglued. To the inexperienced eye, he may have been misunderstood as angry…aggressive even.
I finished my chores that day, grabbed a book from my car and then sat down on the floor with my back against his kennel door. I could hear him growl and barking behind me but didn’t budge. As soon as he stopped and laid down, I stood and told him what a good boy he was as I left. The next day was the same, but his bark stopped sooner. I continued working my way into his kennel and heart, until one fine day, he approached with curiosity and laid down beside me. Over three months, we progressed to taking walks together and playing outside. Once he knew he was safe, he became the “self” he possibly had never been before and was quickly adopted.
Scared humans don’t always look afraid.
Dogs are funny creatures…mostly because of the characteristics they share with humans.
People (like dogs) often behave terribly when they’re afraid. Although we have the ability to discuss our fears with others, we sometimes put on a bravado instead-to appear unafraid. But resisting and denying our emotions seldom works. Eventually, they show up when we least want them to!
There seems to be a lot of angry people in the world today. We hear it as people talk about masks, the police, riots, government, elections…the list goes on.
It’s easy to get caught up by the emotion and to respond to anger with anger.
But this doesn’t help.
Mostly because it wasn’t really about anger in the first place.
At the core of most of these discussions, lies not anger, but fear.
Fear of what our country has or will become.
Fear of when the pandemic will end, losing jobs, houses, or people we love.
Fear of things getting out of control.
Fear of anger and hatred growing out of control.
Fighting fear with anger will never work…
any more than fighting a fire with gasoline will.
The next time you catch yourself responding in anger (either internally or externally), may I make a few suggestions that may reduce the bark, growl, and threat, returning to people to their better versions of themselves?
1. Take a deep breath.
Most people’s initial reaction when someone tells them to take a breath is to punch the person suggesting it. (The irony is not lost on me.) But this is because it’s not quite as simple as “just breathing.” When we breathe in for 5 seconds filling the stomach (rather than the chest), hold it at the top, and then exhale for 10 seconds while deflating the stomach, the diaphragm, stimulates the vagus nerve, releasing oxytocin into your bloodstream. This is a very good thing because it helps you calm the heck down and regain your ability to rationalize. (“Is this an argument I want to step into?” “Will this help or hurt our relationship or my position?”)
2. Ask yourself, “What’s the underlying fear here?”
The answer may surprise you. While sometimes we’re just afraid of our ego being bruised, other times the fear is larger. Is something at risk of being taken? Destroyed? Lost? Maslow Abraham said that we all have a deep need to have our basic human needs filled, but also a need for safety (both physical & emotional), belonging, and esteem (or a sense of achievement & respect. When we feel a lack in one of these areas, we’re extremely motivated to gain it back!
3. Speak to the need, not the growl
Meeting anger with anger will fan the flame when things get heated, but acknowledging the other person’s emotion and validating them as a fellow human being can bring reasoning back to the interaction and tame the beast. This may be as simple as stating, “I can see you’re very passionate about this. You really value your freedom.” or “It must be stressful seeing the impacts of this to your business.”
“The tongue has the power of life and death.”
Fear certainly can bring out the worst of God’s creation-both human and beast! Thankfully, we also have the ability as humans to relate to one another and look for areas of connection. When we’re able to reground ourselves and step back to assess the situation, we can see that all people have the same basic needs. Remembering this and finding ways to connect, empathize and validate are the keys to improving our behaviors and supporting others with an environment that can help them be their best as well!
Feel a little overwhelmed by the negative?
If you’re feeling a bit frazzled and want help managing your mind, setting boundaries or getting your balance back, I can help you with that! Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation call with me and I’ll show you how coaching can help you step into the life you were created for.