Monday, August 2, 2010

Reining in Anger

Sunday I realized that in one of my volunteer groups, I've become overcome with anger. It has been brewing for quite some time, as the group (which I really care about and have been involved in for years) has had some nasty politics and I got caught up in them. Part of the problem is that I was an officer for the group and yet I was frequently kept in the dark about things. Some older members of the group run things like they always have, ignoring some of the younger members. Also, I'm one of the few females and I feel slighted many times by older, rather chauvinistic males.

Sunday I was tired and hungry, and I think that only increased what has become my default emotion there--bitter anger.

The thing is: I didn't like myself while I was there. I didn't like the way I behaved, the things I was saying, or the feelings I had. I also don't think it helps anything. People aren't changing. If anything, I'm more out of the loop with things in the group than ever.

I need to find a way to be less angry. I don't want to leave the group, as I really care for what we are doing and the place is such a big part of our lives. That means I need to find a way to deal with my anger and come to terms with how to work with this group.

I took the first step by stepping down as an officer a few months ago, but I have only grown more angry and bitter since then. Now I feel like the ones causing my difficulties won. And the people causing the problem have stopped many of my projects that helped organize us. That is certainly frustrating.

So now I need to figure out how can I continue working there and feel better about it? How can I change my default ways of interacting with these people? How can I be less sensitive to things which are said which I find remind me of my anger and hurt?

It's a difficult lesson. I don't think these people will change so I can only work on my reactions to them. That is the only thing I have control over. I clearly have no control over these other people and the group.

Any tips out there for changing my mindset and calming my anger?


  1. Really sorry to hear about this situation. Here are some things you could try.

    First, to change your own mindset:

    1. Accept your feelings of anger and bitterness and feel them, without judgement. Where are they in your body? How exactly do they feel? What exactly triggers them? As I think I've said before, when I can get myself to drop right into a difficult feeling and explore it, it can help me move through that feeling.

    2. Are there any things you don't like about yourself that you are projecting onto these people? There may not be, but I've sometimes found it can be illuminating to check :)

    3. Write down what's really important and positive about the work that this volunteer organisation does. Write down what's really important and positive about the work that you do for this organisation - what you bring that's unique. See if choosing to keep your focus on these things when the personal politics get nasty helps.

    4. Send love and blessings to the difficult people. Ask in your mind that things go well for them. Accept your own anger, but lift its hooks out of them. Can you imagine yourself into their shoes: what else is going on for them in their lives that might be reverberating into your shared workplace? Can you gradually learn to accept them for what they are, and let go of wanting them to change?

    Although this last one can be really hard to accept and to put into practice, I've honestly experienced situations where sending blessings to someone I've been having trouble with - and dropping my hatred and desire to hurt them or make them go away - has shifted the situation for the better.

    Second, things you could try to move the actual situation. It's important to pay attention to your own mindset, but sometimes the situation itself needs to be worked on as well.

    1. Can you discuss the situation with someone who has experience of similar problems, but isn't part of the same organisation?

    2. If you can develop a capacity to be calm and self-confident around the difficult people (easier said ... :)), is it possible for you to confront them directly on specific issues - for example, clear failures of communication that inhibit you doing your job. Stick to specific examples where you can cite evidence. Ask them to work out with you and agree to steps to improve the situation.

    3. Could you learn more about resolving bad dynamics in the workplace? Could a trained mediator come in and work with your organisation on this? This is a stronger prospect if you are not the only one experiencing problems, or if the work of your organisation is being seriously impaired.

    4. If other strategies fail and you remain unhappy, you have to weight up whether it's still worth continuing to work there.

    Hope some of this might help, and that you will see the situation change.

  2. Those all seem like good ideas, Astral Cat. I'll think about this a bit more.


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