How often during your day do you find yourself around angry people? You’re going about your tasks and somehow end up on the wrong end of a physician, nurse, patient, or caregiver lashing out.
Rarely is it the result of something you’ve actually done wrong. And even if it is, logically, we all recognize that pointing out a mistake from a place of anger isn’t the most effective way to help someone learn from it.
Sometimes, when the anger comes from a patient or caregiver, or even a coworker, it can feel like a lack of gratitude. Yes, providing care is your job, but wanting some appreciation when you consistently deliver your best is understandable.
Are People Really That Ungrateful? Or Is Something Else Going On?
We’ve all had those moments where we lash out at someone for little or no reason. In hindsight, we often realize it was not the external situation that angered us but something internal.
My work has given me the opportunity to really delve into the emotion of anger and examine it closely. When exploring anger with clients, I noticed that when I asked the question, “what is beneath your anger?”, the answer that comes back is “fear”. People can become conflicted internally and experience critical thoughts such as:
- I’m not smart enough
- I’m not good enough
- I was so stupid to do that
- I never get it right
Dig down a layer or two and you’ll find such fears as:
- Physical and emotional pain
- Making a mistake
- Not being liked/loved
- Being alone
- Not reaching full potential
- Being laughed at
What would be different if, when you found yourself on the receiving end of someone’s anger you asked yourself, “I wonder what is causing his or her fear?” What if you didn’t take it personally?
Most likely, you would be able to help de-escalate the situation in some way. At the very least, you could avoid responding with anger toward them and avoid your own internal critic.
When we value connection with others, stay centered, and are curious about the fear that may be provoking their anger, we have the opportunity to serve them and ourselves better. We experience less stress and have more resources from which to draw upon in order to support and provide solutions. There is so much peace, joy, connection, and success on the other side of fear. We are kinder to ourselves and to others.
Change begins first with awareness. Check in with yourself the next time you notice that feeling of anger or conflict in yourself or someone else and ask…what is behind that mask of anger?