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February 14, 2004

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Dr. Dorothy McCoy Maintaining Your Mental Edge
with Dr. Dorothy McCoy

Anger is a healthy and perfectly normal emotion

Since stress and anger issues are a daily reality for law enforcement officers everywhere, PoliceOne's newest columnist, Dr. Dorothy McCoy, will first address anger related issues in her columns; how to control the situation at hand, and how to express anger in a healthy way ... without having a heart attack.

Anger is a healthy and perfectly normal human emotion. It can motivate us to take action, feel empowered or stand up for ourselves when we are being treated unfairly.

Rage is neither healthy nor normal. Furthermore, others do not react favorably to an enraged person. If you say, "I hurt," most people are inclined to listen to you, if you say, "I am enraged" they are disposed to remember an important appointment elsewhere. In fact, rage serves a purpose in personal and professional relationships ... it creates and maintains distance.

It is irrational for a habitually angry person to complain of being lonely when he has carefully preserved distance in his relationships. Anger intimidates. It is the "Make my day" approach to relationships. Both individuals in an intimate relationship must feel safe. Extreme anger does not promote a safe environment for warm and fuzzy emotions to develop. What if you are angry with supervisors and other officers at work? I would not expect that promotion either, if I were you.

The Angry Body
What happens to us physically when we become extremely angry?
Our heart rates increase, blood pressure soars, and energy hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline increase as anger escalates. Recent studies have indicated that men are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke if they are routinely angry.

According to Dr. Redford Williams, author of Anger Kills, men (normally) who respond with anger to ordinary everyday occurrences are "four to seven times more likely to be dead of coronary disease and other causes by age 50" (CNN, Sean McMann, 1996). If one accepts this, then the survival odds are not good for consistently angry people. Dr. Williams suggests that the entire body is affected by anger, including cardiovascular, immune, digestive systems and other highly desirable and indispensable organs and systems.

The hormone noradrenaline seems to be, at least in part, the villain. It causes one’s blood vessels to decrease in diameter, blood is then diverted to muscles and one’s blood pressure shoots up to undesirable and potentially lethal levels.

Expressing Destructive Anger
There are several offensive ways one can show anger.
The behavior we normally associate with anger is loud and spectacular, such as throwing things, knocking holes in offending walls and using highly colorful language. However, one can also socially withdraw, sulk or get physically ill. In addition, one can demonstrate destructive anger by being passive-aggressive. Which means that one is distinctly ticked off and will get even, but not overtly. Passive–aggressive individuals are the quietly (maddeningly) angry.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviors:

  • Passively resists fulfilling routine social and occupational tasks;
  • Complains of being misunderstood and unappreciated by others;
  • Is sullen and argumentative;
  • Unreasonably criticizes and scorns authority;
  • Expresses envy and resentment toward those apparently more fortunate;
  • Voices exaggerated and persistent complaints of personal misfortune;
  • Alternates between hostile defiance and contrition.

    All of these anger driven behaviors limit ones ability to establish and maintain good relationships, reach ones career goals and meet ones needs.

    Next time in this column:
    Why are some people more easily angered than others? How does one manage anger? OK Doc, if I give up my anger with what should I replace it? I am so glad you asked. Look for the answers in my next column.

    NOTE:
    I have used the male gender in this article, only because most of the research on anger has focused on males. But yes, I know, women get angry too.

  • About the author

    PoliceOne columnist Dr. Dorothy McCoy has been in private practice as a clinical counselor for 10 years. She is a diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and a law enforcement consultant. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (in North and South Carolina).






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