By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Do people around you drive you to the breaking point? Have you ever been embarrassed because you were acting out of control, maybe a little crazy?
We all know how we bristle when someone says or does something hurtful. Many scenarios would test the sanest person. We’re not made of steel.
Anyone can get angry and fly into a rage. But, when madness flares up, it’s much better to stay in control, however difficult it is. Why? You’re much more powerful to deal appropriately if you’re calm.
Consider Alicia, a 40-year-old who caught her husband with another woman. Naturally, Alicia screamed at the two of them when they came out of a hotel room together.
But, fast forward. The next day, Alicia’s calmness paid off. She decided to think straight and take control.
“I knew my husband would lie about the hotel room,” says Alicia. “Have you ever seen a man that could look you straight in the eye and say, ‘We were giving the hotel owner an estimate on new windows, so that’s why we were both in the room?'”
Because Alicia forced herself to calm down, she managed to get pictures of her husband and the other woman at three other places that week. At the last place, they were kissing.
Alicia sat down to negotiate her fair share of the couple’s assets. “I knew that I’d get my settlement because of the pictures.
My husband was a deacon in the church, a Little League Coach, and a partner at his accounting firm.”
Staying calm when you’re angry means, quite simply, that you’ll have more leverage when the event is over. If you stay calm when someone hits your car, for example, they know you have your wits about you. You can fight them in court, if need be, and stay calm.
“I used to wonder if it paid me to stay calm under fire,” says a landlord we’ll call Darren. “I killed myself to buy three rental houses, so I’d have something for retirement. Tenants over the years have tried my nerves to the breaking point. But, I can attest to the fact that staying calm paid off. I still own all of my property.”
Darren reveals that some of his friends who owned rental property didn’t fare so well. “Most of them got into such altercations with tenants that they finally sold their properties. One friend of mind beat up a guy and got sued for half a million dollars!”
Most of us have been in extremely stressful situations where we could have lost our cool. We could have slugged someone, threatened someone with physical harm, or acted so crazy the police might have shown up.
To stay calm, it pays to reflect on these truths:
-Getting upset destroys your ability to think straight. If you stay calm, you can choose proper action. For example, you can file a provable claim against someone who destroys property.
-Staying calm makes you feel more powerful. Sure, it would hurt if you caught your spouse or lover cheating, but acting more in control helps preserve your own dignity. Smashing someone’s car or hitting someone in violence will make you feel horrible about yourself later on.
The best anger management skill involves deciding ahead of time how to act, if craziness breaks loose. Stay in control by refusing to get pulled into the mayhem.
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website www.usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)