Support groups are supposed to be helpful, so how can I go into group feeling neutral and leave totally irritated? And what do I do about it?

I didn’t really have a problem to discuss in my group tonight. I’ve been hypomanic and that’s upset my snugglufagus (the unpredictability more than anything I actually did). But I realized that the upside of hypomania is also the way to reassure someone worried about the downside. Framing things in a positive way, and including them in fun. I figured I could share that. Until I got to group and became too annoyed to talk.

I can’t be specific of course because that would violate confidentiality, but a couple of things happened that always annoy me.

One was a certain person dominating the group. Every time someone laid out their issue, s/he was the first to speak up with a loud opinion–usually not a useful or helpful one, just a lot of judgment. “You should” this and “you’re too” that. Other people could barely get a word in edgewise. Really this is a problem for the facilitator to handle, but s/he didn’t.

The other thing that bugged me was unsolicited drug advice. It’s happened to me before; I’d bring up a problem and nearly all the feedback would be “have you tried drug X” and “there’s this other drug” or “increase your dose” etc. Like, STFU people, none of you are doctors and I don’t feel like explaining my whole medication history, and that wasn’t what I was asking about anyway. Tonight it wasn’t I who got that kind of feedback but it happened to a couple of other people and it was hard to break through the amateur doctoring dog-pile to ask the person what s/he was actually looking for help with–which wasn’t medication.

So should I have said something louder or interrupted them sooner? Told them how annoyed I was? Or do what I actually did, write angry words about it in my journal later on?

Venting may not be the best solution to anger management. A study demonstrated that ruminating on anger may displace it. In an experiment, participants were provoked and told to write about their anger. Then they poured hot chili sauce into a cup of water that someone else would have to drink (displaced aggression). People who wrote/vented their feelings poured more hot sauce in the cup than a control group who waited and were distracted instead of ruminating. Even eight hours later.

It’s better to distract, take a breather and all that stuff.

I’m breathing better now, the anger faded. How do I deal with this irritation next time I’m in group, though? I’m not a facilitator so I can’t tell anyone to stop playing amateur doctor or to let someone else have a chance to speak. According to other research, my feeling ostracized and unable to control environmental irritants is likely to make me angrier so it’s even harder to speak up in a reasonable tone. But I should be assertive, right?

I don’t know, it’s confusing. Distract myself, that’s what experts say, so I guess next week I’ll become fascinated by the ceiling tiles.

A little note: while Googling stuff about psychology experiments with hot sauce allocation, I also found a lot of links advising parents to control behavior with hot sauce. Putting hot sauce on a toddler’s thumb to curb thumb-sucking, for example. I wonder if some parents may be dousing thumbs with too much sauce if they’re feeling frustrated and angry?

Links:

Chewing on It Can Chew You Up: Effects of Rumination on Triggered
Displaced Aggression
, Bushman et al., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2005

A hot new way to measure aggression: Hot sauce allocation, Lieberman et al., Aggressive Behavior 1999

When ostracism leads to aggression: The moderating effects of control deprivation, Warburton et al., Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2006

 


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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Aug 2007
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Iris, C. (2007). Irritating Support. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2007/08/31/irritating-support/

 

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