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Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy Part Two

“The hardest part of all this is my loss of security and my lack of control over my own finances and future. I feel vulnerable and completely powerless to change any of this. It angers me that other people are determining my fate. Especially since they are doing such a pathetic job of it.”
~Dawn’s comment on Mad As Hell Part 1

In last week’s post I said we have a right to our anger if it’s there. Here’s the rub: How do we keep it from going nuclear, or imploding into depression?

Anger Management is about doing the following three things effectively:

1) The healthiest way to express anger is in an assertive, direct and not aggressive manner. How?

Clearly define what you are angry about and tell, directly, those who need to know. “I am really angry because now I can’t retire like I planned to” is better than silently glaring at your spouse who may be thinking you are angry with her. If you can’t identify why you’re angry, say, “I’m angry right now but I don’t know why. I do know it isn’t you.”

Give yourself permission to walk away if it feels like a conversation is in danger of spinning out of control.

Channel the anger through an action plan. A plan to address what’s making you angry, without hurting others, can be a huge relief. Brainstorm; problemsolve and execute your plan.

After a week or so of being laid off and seething in shock and anger, I began to form a plan to redirect my career. With the help of friends going through the exact same thing, planning provided a vent. The anger didn’t go away, but at least it wasn’t going to kill me.

Anger over financial losses is much tougher. A few weeks ago at a gathering of local financial planners, the concern and frustration these professionals had for their clients (and their own) situation was palpable. During a discussion of how to help their clients understand the importance of currently doing nothing with their money, someone said, “I tell my clients patience is an action plan.”

Anger can mask fear. Once you pull the fear out into the light of day, it shrinks like a vampire. Shame and embarrassment can isolate us. Talking with people who ‘get it’ really does help.

Be respectful of yourself and others. The golden rule applies here. Now is the time to be kind even if it feels strange. Listen to feedback. If your spouse is telling you you need to get a grip don’t get defensive. Ask for specifics so that you can make changes. Raising our voices, frightening our children and spouses is like that old adage of peeing where you eat.

Remember that we are more than our jobs, our 401Ks or the value of our stuff. Sadly, women are reared to base our self-esteem on how others see us. Men often base their self-worth on what they do, their jobs. On such shaky self-esteem foundations today’s economic crisis can easily smack us down, making us very angry.

It’s like playing basketball with only one good player. What we need is a deeper bench. Remind yourself of past accomplishments, trials successfully overcome, large and small, illnesses you’ve endured, skills and knowledge you own, the love of family, and your kids. This and more is who you really are and no one can take that away from you.

2) Convert or re-direct anger. Don’t confuse this with suppression. Find your own creative outlet. Beat the hell out of a punching bag, write a story about your enemies getting their just deserts, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and hammer some nails. All this is better than acting out destructively.

Your anger, like electricity, is energy. Without constraints it can strike and burn in an instant. Harnessed and channeled it can light up a city for a week.

3) Calm down and let it go. Take steps to lower your heart rate and soothe your mind:

Give yourself a media break. Turn off the TV, radio, Internet. Set aside the paper and pick up a paperback.

Yoga breathing (Slowly, deeply, breathe in Peace, breathe out Anger)

Use a mantra, something personal. Mine is Serenity. It brings to mind the entire Serenity Prayer, which is very soothing to me. Use your mantra in combination with the breathing.

Visualize a peaceful place, like floating on your back in warm tropical waters or, if it suits you better, visualize being Muhammad Ali dancing around Joe Frazier.

The Zen Master says be the surfer riding the wave of anger with finesse and control. That is how I can calm down, not by denying myself my mad, but by riding it out, running, writing, talking with others and then letting it go through meditation, prayer and remembering to laugh. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, with all he has to be angry about, is one the happiest men on the planet. Adam, a Buddhist, had wise words to say about this in his comment on Part One.

In Controlling Anger — Before it Controls You, Dr. Charles Spielberger, an expert in the study of anger, says, “When none of these three techniques work, that’s when someone—or something—is going to get hurt.”

That’s when it’s time to reach out to your pastor, rabbi, a mentor, your doctor or psychologist. Many communities have excellent counseling services that are provided by your tax dollars. Take advantage of them. As powerless as the economy makes you feel, you still have the power to give yourself this gift.

Coming up:
➢ Build Healthy Resilience to Financial Fury
➢ When Anger Consumes Your Loved One

You may have your own suggestions for managing financial stress anger. Please share them in the comments section.

Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy Part Two

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D.

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, founder of Explore What’s Next, wife, and mom of two teenagers. Dr. Aletta is a writer whose articles have been featured on the New York Times Well blog, the Wall Street Journal Online, Parents magazine, NPR and the BBC London Radio. To learn more about Dr. Aletta and Explore What's Next, visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter!

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APA Reference
Aletta, E. (2018). Mad As Hell: Anger and the Economy Part Two. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 2 Mar 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.