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Robert Jaffe

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Is the exteriorisation of angry feelings a good thing or a bad thing?

Years ago there was a fashion that advocated getting angry when you felt angry. It was thought at the time that it was better for the angry person to show and demonstrate their anger than to repress it. Now psychologists have changed their minds and reversed their position. It's now believed by almost all professionals that getting angry when you feel angry makes things much, much worse, both for the person feeling angry and for those around him or her. This issue is related not only to violence, but also to current political polarization. What do you think? What do you feel is the proper way to deal with angry feelings?

Topics: violence

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    May 20 2011: Hi Robert!

    Often, a whole set of feelings and emotions like rejection, fear and confusion default to anger. Anger is a state where your brain is on tilt (like a pinball machine). We can be highly focused but not necessarily effective and it is not even guarenteed that we are focused on the right object for our anger. It works best as a survival mechanism but it does not serve us very well on a day to day basis. Learning to recognize the signs before a person gets to the point of uncontrolled anger could really help many people live more productive and successful lives.

    I am attaching a link to a very impressive TED talk because I read in a post below that you are a mediator. William Ury, the speaker is one as well and what absolutely captivated me in the talk- beyond the wonderful content was the shining good humour in his eyes. This is a man who I do not think resorts to anger very often and perhaps that is because he has seen the ultimate outcome of it. I hope you will take a look and perhaps comment if appropriate.

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      May 20 2011: Thank you very much, Debra, for bringing Bill Ury's talk to my attention. He's a great hero of mine, as he is to all mediators. I was a spear carrier in the army in which Bill Ury was and is a general. His books are excellent, and I recommend them all without reservation. Please don't get me started on the general subject of mediation though, because I'll talk (or write) your head off. As I mentioned in another post here, I've spent most of my adult life as a full-time, professional mediator, like Bill, and it's a fascinating way to make a living.

      What you say about negative feelings and anger is absolutely correct, from my point of view. Rejection, fear and confusion do all too often default to anger. I very much like your image of anger as a state where your brain is on tilt like a pinball machine. It's so terribly true. And, yes, realizing what you're doing before you explode in anger, and then taking action to stop it, would be well worth while for all of us. As to your last comment, I'd be amazed if you found any professional mediator who "resorts to anger very often." From a mediator's point of view, anger, particularly anger in mediators themselves, is about as self-destructive as pulling the pin on a grenade and stuffing it in your pocket. Take care!
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        May 20 2011: That was a really interesting and satisfying reply. I thank you.
        However, now you have really sparked my interest in what you can teach us on a basic level about mediation. Can I suggest - even implore you to teach us or share with us something ot that which you know so well? Even if you would consider starting future threads with questions we could consider and work through together.
        I hope to see more of you and of your wisdom.
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          May 20 2011: Mmmmm. I don't know that I have much wisdom to impart. I live in as much of a daily fog as everyone else. But of course I'd be happy to write about my experiences of and conclusions about mediation. Let me try to work them into some general questions I can pose in the future. I'd prefer, if we can, to keep to the central idea of the problem of anger in this particular line of comments. It's a very, very central matter in all mediation of whatever kind, family mediation, litigation mediation and international mediation, among others.

          Solving the problem of anger (and, yes, I do believe it's solvable, and I'm not a romantic idealist) is important on every single conceivable level: couples, families, workmates, labor/management, in schools, colleges, universities and internationally. It will take time, but it's feasible. We've already seen that kind of huge social and personal development. I've actually witnessed similar changes happen in my own lifetime. And so would anybody have done who's more than fifty years old today. They may not have noticed it. They may not have focussed on it. But such things do really happen in the real world among real people. Take care!
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        May 21 2011: Hey Robert! I'm glad you will consider it and I agree that anger is certainly an important enough topic to have this entire thread devoted solely to the topic.
        You take care too!

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