Some people think that fear and anger are always bad. Some people think that fear and anger can’t help stop bullies. I disagree.
When used and directed appropriately, fear and anger can help us stop bullies in all areas of life – abusive, violent, demeaning spouses; sneaky, manipulative, toxic parents or adult children; taunting, teasing, harassing, predatory school bullies; dangerous and deadly gangs; bullying bosses or coworkers; or even our worry and anxiety about something general and more amorphous like a poor economy and no savings, no insurance and a huge mortgage payments for a house beyond our means.
- Fear is a normal feeling we have in order to warn ourselves of danger. It's our way of telling ourselves to get ready, mobilize ourselves and take precautions - there might be a saber-toothed tiger lurking down the trail.
- In these situations, the purpose of fear is to alert and energize us to make our best and most thoughtful responses to the danger.
- If we let fear grow so big that we’re panicked into fight, flight or freeze, or into our favorite childhood response, we won’t respond effectively. We'll go overboard. We'll start begging or we'll run and hide. And then we’ll bully ourselves with negative self-talk, guilt, shame, perfectionism, remorse and recriminations because we over-reacted and made a mess of things.
- Our childhood responses were useful when we were growing up. After all, we did survive; we did live to become adults. But those over-the-top responses are no longer effective enough; they’re the down-side of allowing our fear to overwhelm us before we respond.
- The key to success is to act when our warning fear is small so we can engage our brain in planning how to respond.
- Anger is simply our effort to mobilize ourselves, to get us in gear to respond, to give us enough strength and power to act effectively. Most people need some amount of anger when they’re small children in order to get the big people to listen. Anger is simply motivational energy.
- But if we let anger build up too much we’ll blow up and kill someone. Just like the case for fear, our childhood responses were useful when we were growing up. After all, we did survive; we did live to become adults. But those over-the-top responses are no longer effective enough; they’re the down-side of allowing our anger to overwhelm us before we respond.
- The key to success is to act when our energizing anger is small so we can engage our brain in planning how to respond.
- If we start acting when our anger is merely irritation or frustration, we can engage our brains to develop smart, effective action. If we wait too long, we’ll make ourselves much too angry; we’ll turn to rage. We’ll explode and create a bigger mess. Or we’ll repress ourselves totally and live with those terrible consequences, such as depression and low confidence and self-esteem.
Maybe a good analogy is that if doing nothing is like going zero mph and blowing up is going 100 mph, we need to train ourselves to start acting at 10-40 mph, and to learn skills in that range so we can act effectively. When we were children, most people didn’t get enough practice of how to act in that range. As adults, many people still haven’t learned how to act effectively in that range.
Of course, if we respond early and effectively to our hesitation, irritation and frustration in stopping bullies, we can respond more effectively. Fear and anger are simply warnings (like smoke detectors) and fuel for our engines so we can get to where we want to be. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those signals or with that fuel. As long as we act before we’re at their mercy.
Of course, our tactics will be different when we stop bullies in different situations. But once our energy, courage, determination and power are hooked up to our brains, we have a much better chance of success than if we’re overcome by fear or anger.
We can even learn to respond effectively to the worry, fear and anger that are common at 2 AM when our “Monkey Minds” jump around uncontrollably.
What if our fear or anger seems to become overwhelming instantly and we feel out of control? Actually, you’ll find it’s not instantaneous; it just seems that way because we’ve practiced soften. For some techniques to overcome worry, fear and anger, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest from this web site.