Although the movie “Anger Management” recently made fun of the problem, many people suffer from a chronic sense of time urgency and free-floating hostility. They are, consciously or unconsciously, mad at the world. This posture takes a toll on both our health and our wealth. Fortunately, it’s possible to make changes here. This Provision shows how.
Do you understand the distinction between “outrage” and “enrage?” The distinction is subtle but critical to success and fulfillment in life. It explains, among other things, how one can be “productively angry” or, to quote Christian scripture, how one can “be angry but sin not.” It also explains, for example, why an infant can be “enraged” but not “outraged.” And it follows directly on the heels of last week’s Provision to release entitlement.
Entitlement is the simple notion that we have a right or claim to something. In Western civilization this notion is well established and even codified in documents such as the US Bill of Rights. People have the right, for example, to practice their religion, speak freely, bear arms, privacy in their homes, due process of law, a speedy and public trial, trial by jury, and not suffer cruel and unusual punishments.
These rights form the basis of many modern, civilized societies and I am not advocating that we abandon them in our political economy. But I am concerned that entitlement, when it becomes a personal attitude rather than a political doctrine, proves to be counterproductive and ultimately destructive of the very rights it seeks to claim.
The distinction between “outrage” and “enrage” captures and illuminates the paradoxical nature of entitlement. We feel “outrage” when we become aware of a human rights violation. When someone suffers, for example, for practicing their religion, speaking freely, doing something benign in their own home, or being treated unfairly by the government, we may become outraged to the point of action. And there’s nothing wrong with this kind of anger.
When Margaret Meade said that we should “never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” she was testifying to the power of outrage. That’s where the commitment to change the world comes from. We see something that isn’t right, get angry, and get busy at rectifying the situation.
There’s also nothing wrong with the kind of anger that many people experience when they suffer the violation of their physical space or personal boundaries. This is outrage at the micro level of human rights which is frequently essential to the therapeutic process of remembering, reconstructing, and moving on.
“Outrage,” whether it be personal or political, is a very different kind of anger than being “enraged” over not getting what we want, when and how we want it. This is the purview of the infant. It is not developmentally possible for an infant to feel “outrage” because they have no concept of fairness, justice, or human rights. These come along later in the grand scheme of things.
But they have no trouble being enraged, multiple times a day. “No!” is one of the first words many children learn. They know what they want as well as what they don’t want, and they loudly make their desires known until either their desires are satisfied or they lose the power struggle with their parents.
Screaming and crying are par for the course when it comes to being enraged; bold, decisive, therapeutic action is more likely to come from being outraged. That’s why “outrage,” in the hands of a small group of people, has the power to change the world while “enrage” frequently generates little more than whining, complaining, and bitterness. We end up angry and impatient over small inconveniences or a sense of being entitled to special treatment.
These are the traits we need to release if we hope to find our way to health, wealth, and wisdom. Simply put, they aren’t pretty and typically won’t get us where we want to go. It’s far better to be gracious than to be angry, impatient, and demanding.
We see this all the time in how people drive. Some have suggested that driving habits are the best way to diagnose and treat Type A personalities. Fifty years ago, doctors Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman identified the Type A Behavior Pattern as including “a chronic sense of time urgency and an excessive competitive drive or free-floating hostility.” They also documented the association between this Behavior Pattern and heart disease, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. But they failed, at the time, to prescribe behavior modification to their patients.
Proper diet? Yes. Exercise? Yes. Cigarette smoking? No. Medication? Yes. But stress reducing behavior modifications? Never. It was not until the 1970s that these pioneering researchers began to ask their patients with Type A personality traits to practice Type B behaviors in order to lower their incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, and death.
Type A driving is a behavior that can easily be identified and worked on. Are you consistently late or early? Do you rush to get to places just in the nick of time or do you leave the house or office with time to spare, just in case of unanticipated traffic delays? Do you drive defensively or offensively? Do you put your seatbelt on before you start the car or after you’ve driven a couple miles? Do you scream and shout at stupid drivers or do you distance yourself from their irresponsible behavior?
When you look at your driving, it’s not hard to know whether you exhibit Type A or Type B Behavior Patterns. And it’s also a great place to start learning how to morph from one to the other. Think of the driver’s seat as the place where you can embark upon the quintessential “sitting practice.”
This term, taken from Zen Buddhism, often refers to sitting for hours in silent meditation with controlled breathing. But the driver’s seat provides a unique opportunity for a “sitting practice” of a different sort. Here we can release anger and practice gratitude for brief periods and, on long trips, for hours at a time.
Turn off the radio. Silence the cell phone. Forget the newspaper, the laptop, and all other distractions. Focus on driving, and driving alone. Leave 15 minutes early whenever possible. Then drive with the intent of enjoying the drive instead of reaching the destination.
As someone who has plenty of Type A driving behaviors himself, I can testify to the power of this practice. When I leave 15 minutes early with no distractions, my driving and stress level is instantly transformed from when I leave 5 minutes late Trying to get one more thing checked off my to-do list.
Studies document that turning off the radio or CD player, even on long trips, will make you arrive more rested and ready to go than when you have these things playing in the background. As enjoyable as they may be, the drone of the news and the beat of the music tends wind people up while silence tends to relax us and to give us time to ponder the flow of life.
What kind of person are you? Are you more known for angry, aggressive, and enraged driving? Or for gracious, patient, and considerate driving? The answer not only predicts much about your chances of being involved with an automobile accident; it also predicts much about your chances of being healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Gracious, patient, and considerate people are made not born. There is not a genetic determinant for our attitude. There are, rather, practices and influences that make us who we are. And as we get older, these practices and influences can be freely chosen in order to move us in the direction we want to go.
Do you want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise? Then give up your hard driving, time critical, and hostile ways. Learn to be gracious, patient, and considerate. If you want to enjoy the good life, make time for all that makes life good.
Coaching Inquiries: Do you demonstrate more Type A to Type B Behavior Patterns? Do you want to learn how to release anger and become gracious? What could you discover and learn about this in the driver’s seat of your car?
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Loved your mention of Chautauqua. My family and I spend two weeks there each summer. The kids are pushing for three weeks next year. Miss those early AM runs along the lakefront. Keep up the good work!
It was good meet you at Chautauqua and to receive our first newsletter on Sunday. I was staggered to read that I was the idea for your newsletter. I’d better be careful what I say in future!!! Thank you for calling me “wise.” I don’t always feel very wise. (Ed. Note: Spoken like a truly “wise” woman!)
I enjoy your “Provisions” on several levels, not the least of which is running. I’m training for the Seattle Marathon in late November. I’ve gone from total couch potato in May (unless you count downhill skiing) to a long run of 10 miles. This weekend we do 12. I’m participating in Seattle’s incarnation of the USAFit program (www.usafit.com); it’s a great program.
You mention dairy products as a good source of calcium. Research also says milk clogs the system. Can you clarify? (Ed. Note: In addition to those who are lactose intolerant, dairy products can cause other digestive problems. For that reason, I minimize dairy, and stay with low-fat cultured products such as yogurt and kefir. I also take calcium citrate as a supplement.)
Americans (and perhaps others) have long been afflicted with the vice of keeping up with the Joneses. While not taking pleasure in anyone’s misfortune, it is unusual and unfortunate that few ever consider whom they are better off than. My wife and I are not doing as well (financially, anyway) as many of our friends and relatives. In that small arena, we are ‘struggling.’ Compared with most Americans, even though I have been out of work for over a year, we are still doing quite well. And compared to the world population, we live incredibly well. We are healthy, we are warm in the winter and cool in the summer and we never worry about where our next meal is coming from. No, we can’t now live in the house we’d like, but hopefully someday • soon? • we will. It’s all perspective.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services