“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”— Mark Twain
At some point in the nineties I was introduced to the ideas of Dr. Edward de Bono whose work focuses on the important skill of learning how to think. To this day I’ve frequently shared his PIN method with people, which is a thinking tool to keep us from automatically having knee-jerk reactions to everything. Essentially, he states that everything has a Positive, Interesting and Negative aspect. It’s a tool that helps short circuit automatic fight or flight responses, among other things. It helps us learn to react more rationally than viscerally.
De Bono’s methods aren’t just the stuff of ivory tower academics. They have garnered real world attention by the results they have achieved when put into practice. Here’s an example.
The De Beers diamond mines had a serious problem. Fights would break out down in the mines. A lot of them. As you can imagine, when there’s a fight in the workplace there’s a work stoppage. It’s disruptive for everyone. They had an estimated 200 fights a month in those mines, which means 200 work stoppages.
Dr. de Bono was hired to deal with this situation, and he did it by teaching the men algebra. (Just kidding.) He did it by teaching the PIN method and other techniques to break the cycles of automatic responses which were normally occurring. Think first, don’t react. The result? Work stoppages due to fighting were reduced to six a month, a remarkable achievement.
This story came to mind when I read a blog post by my brother Dr. Ron Newman, a NJ psychologist, titled “Seeking Balance When Coping With Anger.” The piece begins like this:
How do you feel when others do not meet your expectations, or when you do not get what you want? Do you “bite your wife’s head off?” Do you lose your voice yelling at your kids? Do you secretly obsess and seethe at something your neighbor did, wondering how you can get even?
Depending on many complex factors, we can react in many different ways. Sometimes we are simply irritated, frustrated, or impatient. Other times we rage, at least on the inside.
He goes on to describe the physiological effects of anger and how one’s adrenal glands kick in, signaling our bodies to go into “fight or flight” mode that I mentioned at the beginning.
Fortunately there are actions we can take to defuse this series of events set in motion by our seemingly uncontrollable emotions. The first step is Delay Your Responses. That’s where the famous “count to ten” advice comes in. It really is useful. Before you react, take a deep breath. Count to ten.
This is precisely what Dr. de Bono was doing, in a more cognitive manner. The PIN Method goes like this:
Everything has a a Positive, Interesting and Negative aspect. If someone deliberately slights us, the positive might be, “Now I at least know where they stand.” The Interesting thing might be, “Is this because of something I said or did?” The Negative thing might be, “We have to work closely on this project for another six months and this kind of tension between us is not good.”
That thought process may not solve the issue, but it will keep you from blowing up and smacking him or her, or saying something you will regret later.
Here’s an example of how I used the PIN method to assess the Dylan film He’s Not There.
If you have an anger problem and these tools fail to help, make it a point to find some other way that will be effective. Some people turn their anger inward and beat themselves up, other lash out and cause pain to others. Bottled up anger can give you high blood pressure, and leave your friends and family walking on eggshells. There are better choices we can make.
A portion of this was originally published at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.