This morning I read the news and found myself getting angry. I was angry about COVID, violence, and other injustices. Frankly, I felt that the world was bit terrifying, dangerous, and out of control.
It is – and it has always been that way.
Every generation has faced its own terrifying, dangerous, and out of control version of the world. What makes today seem worse is that this is our time. This is our experience. We see our situation as unique, special, and like no other ever experienced – it’s partly autobiographical.
What makes our situation intriguing (beyond it being ours), is that we live in a highly interconnected world. A grandparent can have a FaceTime conversation with her grandchildren halfway around the world. That’s cool. It helps them stay connected. It’s part of what makes our world exciting.
It also can contribute to making our world seemingly more terrifying than ever. If something horrible happens anywhere in the world, it is immediately displayed on your smart phone and plastered across the television screen. Suddenly, your next trip is doomed, you shouldn’t go to public places, and you’d better be ticked off at ‘those’ people.
Researcher and author Brené Brown explains that the media focuses their energy on two discussion points. First, what should you be afraid of at any given moment. Second, who should you be mad at right now.
Anger isn’t inherently a bad thing. It just needs to be directed at the right thing. Aristotle said, “The man [sic] who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised.”
There are three basic options in dealing with anger (or anger expression):
- Holding your anger in – typically not good for you because it leads to stress, anxiety, disengagement and depression.
- Letting it out – typically not good for those around you because they often receive the brunt of it.
- Controlling it – typically the best option as it allows you to calmly and rationally explore the situation and make smart decisions. JetBlue Airways’ former Chairman, Joel Peterson, recently told me that one of his mantras is, “I am not my emotions.” The same should be true for all of us.
Getting angry is a natural and, at times, healthy reaction. If you are a thinking human being, there are many things in the world that you can be angry about. The question is: how do you channel it?
We recently lost a family friend to COVID. Like many of you, our holiday season is not going to be what we want it to be as circles will be kept small and we won’t be able to see many loved ones. Anger about COVID is understandable. This morning, I chose the ‘controlling it’ option and wrote down my thoughts in hopes that it would be helpful to you.
What are you choosing to do?
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.