by Ross A. Aalgaard, MSW, LGSW
Recently, I joined the Westminster Counseling Center staff. I’m very excited to be part of this reputable center and community. I am an ordained American Baptist clergyperson, but recently obtained my Master of Social Work degree. I am thrilled to have received this new calling as a pastoral counselor and psychotherapist, combining psychotherapy and spirituality. Although I have 16 years experience in pastoral ministry, I have served in health care customer service for the past 10 years.
Customer service has been dramatically different from ministry. The biggest change I've seen during my time in customer service has been the attitudes and approach of the people who call. Although, there have always been angry callers, it is clear that there are far more angry people calling currently than when I began doing customer service work in 1999. As the health care reform debate continues in our country, the media continues to show volatile participants at town hall meetings. Some have identified the heated displays as planted and possibly disingenuous. However, in my unscientific opinion, many more angry people are making their feelings known.
I believe the anger that people are experiencing goes far beyond the health care debate. It may come from things like relationships, unemployment, finances, physical concerns, losses, and many more possibilities. The Bible says, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (Ephesians 4:26, NRSV). This verse reminds me that anger is a common, normal feeling. It is not an emotion that we need to eliminate. However, anger that takes control of us and keeps us from living a healthy, holistic life does need to be avoided. I am reminded daily of the importance of keeping my anger in check. Here are some tricks I use and you may want to try:
•Breathe—take a moment to slow down, inhale and exhale. Count to 10. Rather than acting, take a slower approach.
•Think—try not to function from your emotional-self only, but take a moment to think about what you really are feeling by functioning from your mental-self.
•Discover—figure out what you are actually mad at. Determine from where your anger is coming.
•Talk—put words to your anger. Describe it. Communicate your anger so others understand it. Possibly see a pastoral counselor or therapist.
•Accept—acknowledge your feelings. Recognize what you can do to make things better, and accept the things you cannot change.
Remember, anger does not define who you are. When we keep our anger under control, our relationships are enhanced. Next time anger arises, try one or more of the above suggestions. Maybe they will help you as they have me.