Anger 101 for Servers, Baristas, Bussers
Some General Thoughts-
First and Foremost – Remember that Anger is a normal human emotion. You are not a BAD person, or a loser if you get angry. Everyone gets angry and has angry feelings from time to time. Anger is a normal response and thus, not in itself a problem. In fact, in some situations anger gives us the power to challenge injustice or to make necessary changes in our lives. Anger at a disease helps us fight it. However, at other times anger becomes aggression, AND anger/aggression out of control becomes RAGE. Anger with aggression is usually in response to what is perceived (consciously or unconsciously) to be either a life-threatening situation, or a need to dominate and control a situation.
Anger for some people is not a problem. They get angry, sort it out relatively quickly and then return to equilibrium and to what is their normal state of viewing the world. Usually, these folks have developed simple techniques to quickly calm themselves down by self-talk or other strategies. These are skills which can be learned and practiced in our everyday lives and are addressed in Anger Management Classes. How? Well, think of the cheerleaders at a football game. They are there to get you riled up, energized, with threats and chants to “kill the other team, stomp them, beat them and trash them.” They don’t shout things to the crowd and fans like, “Wow, folks the other team is nice, so be kind cuz they’re your friends.” They arouse, incite and get you and your team up ready to fight. But don’t you cheerlead yourself into rage by riling yourself up to rage, take the opposite tactic, go the opposite direction by telling yourself calming, de-escalating things like – “I’m better than this hassle, I don’t need to get into a frenzy over little things.” Calm yourself down with reverse cheerleading.
For some people though, dealing with angry feelings and their possible consequences is MORE of a problem than the situation that caused them. They try to suppress their feelings, or only allow them out in covert ways such as passive aggressive behavior and misplaced anger. Then there are some folks who are constantly on the lookout for conflict situations, consciously or unconsciously, hoping they result in angry or aggressive exchanges so they can vent and release their own anger. WITH AN EXCUSE. This way they have a target, and rationality for their behavior, at least in their own minds. These adversarial types of people do not process out their anger and emotions, they just Act it out. Because of this, they may be highly stressed inside, which in time may cause health problems and depression. They often make comments after getting angry that they feel better, less stressed but, in reality, they are still angry frustrated people in inside.
Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being met, or… simply that something is just not right in our lives. It can just be that we feel hurt and not appreciated, in reality or just perceived, and such feelings lead to problems. Anger is a Secondary Emotion – which means that there is always something else that comes before the Anger. Something that promotes, prompts or instigates our Anger. Often in relationships, folks tend to blame someone else for making them angry. At work, we often blame the ‘idiots, the stupid customers’ etc, but in reality, it is OUR reaction to them (yes, they may be idiots or not, but they still are our customers) and that REACTION is the problem. For instance, when agreeing to work with the public, taking a job in a service industry, one of the given factors is to realize that there will be folks of varying degrees of intelligence, attitude and social consciousness to deal with. All will not be perfect, and on the days when you personally feel bad, are having a bad day, or the air conditioning in the restaurant or store isn’t working, those are the times the REALLY difficult customers seem to show up!!!
When we work on Anger, the first thrust is to work on the emotionally painful events that keep us riled up and angry, and to learn to talk about, and to express our frustration and anger about having that pain. By focusing on the cause of our anger, and understanding how it has taken us over, eventually we will defuse and ‘defang’ that anger. There is a comparison, and direct connection, between our physical health and our emotional health. Think of this, when the body experiences a cut or wound, if it is left unattended, it will get infected. Eventually, it will fester and may even turn into gangrene, a life threatening condition. If instead we clean the wound thoroughly, protect it and allow it to heal completely, normally all that would be left is a painless scar to remind us of the situation. No pain, just a blip on the skin.
If we keep emotional wounds in us, and ‘stuff them’ rather than process them, they will fester just like a physical wound and make us and our lives ‘sick’. Emotional stuff, anger primarily, eventually starts to affect other parts of our lives, just as infection would spread to other parts of our body. Unfortunately, abusive, aggressive, angry people are part of our everyday lives and a certain amount of emotional pain gets experienced routinely, so if a person does not learn to deal appropriately with their own anger and the feelings, those feelings will build and build and eventually incapacitate you. If, however, the emotional stuff is addressed, and processed, all that is left is a memory. This memory, like an old scar, does not hurt. It can be kept in a safe place in your mind, to be addressed as needed, but does not have to run your life and control it. Or ruin it and buy you jail time for an aggressive act. And remember, often those feelings come out when we have had a ‘drink or twenty’ and our inner control is lacking, so we over react to things, and can go too far.