Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Talking Conflict, Reading Anger

Concluding our two-day workshop on conflict resolution this afternoon with role-playing exercises. We are in groups of four; two brothers enact a scenario and attempt to resolve their differences according to the techniques that make for healthy outcomes, while the other two brothers give feedback. The skills we are learning are commonsensical, but we are not always mindful of our responses in situations of stress and tension, so rehearsing these skills is a good practice.

Dr. Kathy Galleher has recommended especially that we practice an examination of our anger feelings when they arise in months to come. It is too often the case that we move immediately to neutralize or suppress our anger, when what we ought to do first is explore the origins of our heated feelings. Seeking only to alleviate the pain of being angry does nothing to address the causes of our pain or give us understanding of what factors, psychological and physiological and otherwise, give rise to our distress. Yes, we must take care to control our emotions before we attempt to resolve the present conflict, but then we must go a step further and become aware of the things that trigger distress in us and thus come to anticipate how tomorrow's conflicts will arise.

I admit that getting acquainted with my anger will be a challenge for me in the days and months of formation ahead. I am accustomed to perceiving anger as a simple emotion without grounding in other feelings, and my tendency is to internalize its expression so as to neutralize its harmful effects. Until now I have believed that anger is not useful because it fails to communicate anything other than itself, or because it obscures what people really feel. It is enlightening to consider that anger can and does point to deeper truths about our condition, should we take care to read it properly.

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