Something to Chew On

“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.” – Seneca

When we’ve been wronged, or provoked in any number of ways, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ruminating, or mulling it over in our minds — thinking about what was said or done to us and how we feel about that situation and/or the one(s) who provoked us.  A natural response, right?

Well, natural or not, it’s an unhealthy pattern, that often creates a chain reaction. It’s called displaced aggression.

Displaced aggression occurs when:

1.  A person is provoked, and…

2.  She can’t or won’t retaliate against the instigator (because that person may have more power).

3.  Instead, later on, she rages against a seemingly innocent target; someone who generally has less power. (Sounds like the role a child could play, hmmm?)

Researchers discovered that thinking over an aggravating event, for more than 20-25 minutes, increases the likelihood of displaced aggression toward the next minor irritant we experience – even when it’s something that ordinarily wouldn’t necessarily irritate us.

For example, let’s say a supervisor or peer openly criticizes your work. You think about it as you drive home, fuming over the insensitivity. As you arrive home, you end up parking on the street because one of your kids left their bike in the middle of the driveway. You enter the house yelling and stomping around in search of the offender.

It’s worth noting, the longer we brood the stronger our displaced aggression. Conversely, without the bitter contemplation, anger generally dissipates within ten minutes. Just ten minutes.

Find some way to distract yourself while ten minutes flashes by. Recall favorite memories, affirm your worth, or play some enjoyable music. There are plenty of ways you can stop the chain reaction before it even gets started.