Radical Way to Deal with Someone Having an Angry Outburst

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I heard a very interesting thing the other day. I was listening to an inspirational speaker, and what she had to say bent my brain and I’ll never forget it. Let me try and encapsulate it here.

Most of us would stop and help someone who was bleeding in the street. If there was a car accident, we’d stop what we’re doing and offer whatever help we could — first aid, call 9-1-1, wrap the person in a blanket, keep traffic away from them, whatever. But when someone is angry, we don’t want anything to do with him or we feel angry right back, and we’ll even say things that add fuel to his fire. We don’t offer help, and we are not sympathetic. But that angry person is bleeding just as much as the injured one — he is emotionally gushing blood everywhere.

Why don’t we think of helping? There are lots of reasons. Firstly, we don’t see it as a first-aid situation. It doesn’t even occur to us to offer help to the angry person. We just want him to go away (usually). We want him to stop upsetting our mood, our day.

If the person is upset with us, we are too busy reacting to his anger to think of anything else. We are throwing foul words his way as fast as we can think of them. We might be unleashing all the pissed-off things we’ve thought but never said. Or we might be turning inward, just wishing the angry tirade would stop. We might be clamming up and bottling our feelings, but whether we are lashing out or collapsing in, we never think of helping.

If the anger is not about us, then we usually just want to get rid of the person. They are ruining our day! We’ll think, “this isn’t about me — go tell someone who cares.”

But what if we treated that upset person as though they were in need of first aid? I see “no tolerance” signs posted in doctor’s offices. The first one I ever saw was in huge, red letters, in all-caps, and it was NOT messing around. Police would be called. You would not see the doctor. Don’t even think about raising your voice.

But, people who just lost it are in serious trouble. They can’t contain their emotions — it’s rushing out, uncontrolled. Could we offer some sort of first aid to them? Could it be there is a serious mental health issue going on? What if most of the time it’s more than just a lack of self control?

I’ve taken a LOT of first aid over the last 7 years or so, since joining the volunteer fire department. The first step is always to make sure your own safety will not be compromised if you help. We are not taught to rush into burning buildings willy-nilly. If it can’t be done safely, we don’t do it, period. So, personal safety first.

I think the same would apply to anger first aid. If the person is so angry he/she is going to start hurting people, then leave it to the professionals (someone in riot gear)! But if he/she is strictly verbal, and there really is no danger, then what?

The second step in first aid is always to call for more help — dial 9-1-1 or have someone else do it. Same goes in anger — get some back-up if you think you’ll need it. But I would say, don’t just grab the closest person — find someone who is calm enough, or conscious of his/her own state, to help. This could be tough, because a lot of people around may not be calm at all — they might also be angry or afraid. So yes, at times, you might have to call 9-1-1.

talking-on-a-ledgeAfter that, the actual first aid takes place. You assess their breathing. You check for gushing blood. In anger first aid, I suppose it would be to try to show the person you relate. Say the obvious thing to diffuse them. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to rear-end you. It was an accident.” At other times, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. My mistake.” I know that can be hard to say, but if you think of it as something to you need to say to talk the person off a ledge (as in suicide intervention), then just say it.

Anything beyond basic anger diffusing is going to take more thought and be more specific to the situation — which makes it difficult to summarize here. If you can keep your cool, you can probably think of something else thoughtful or helpful to say. Perhaps I’ll do another blog post to expand on things to say/do for specific types of anger. If you ever have a chance to take Mental Health First Aid, do it — I learned a lot when I took it. I think the basic anger diffusing and realizing the person needs help, not police, might go a long ways towards improving the situation. It could, in fact, change the way our whole society operates.

It’s so simple. See someone having an emotional outbreak as needing our help, not our judgment or condemnation. It could change the world.

Mental Health First Aid – Canada

Mental Health First Aid – USA



Love Your Children

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I was at the lake the other day, just sitting on a chair, reading and relaxing while some people were out paddling our canoes. It was quite nice and peaceful until one particular family stopped by. From the moment they got out of their truck, the mother was yelling at her kids. They were early school age, perhaps 5 and 8.
“Don’t you DARE go in the water! I won’t help you dry!”
“You get along with your sister or you won’t like what happens next!”
“Stay over there! Don’t come over here!”
“You two stop FIGHTING! That is the LAST time you fight on this trip!”
“I can’t BELIEVE you two!”
… et cetera. Her tone of voice was very harsh and she actually drove one of the kids to tears — loud crying from an 8-year-old — and they had to leave the park.

I felt so bad for those kids. I mean, I had no place to interfere, but part of me wished I had some cool toys that I could lure them over with and then just show them some lovingkindness, because they sure weren’t getting any at home.

I know, I’m not a parent. Some of you might tune me out because of that. But I strongly feel that if that mother had been capable of showing just 10 minutes of concentrated love to her kids, and then some softness throughout the day, those kids would be so much happier. As it is, they are on track to be depressed by 10 years of age and very troublesome teenagers. Those kids had no idea they are loved; in fact, they might not be. Her tone of voice and choice of words indicate they aren’t. Perhaps she regrets having them. It sounds like she hates them. Perhaps they really are little hellions. LOVE would reverse that in no time!!

So please — don’t have kids unless you REALLY want them. Just don’t. Get fixed. Use birth control religiously. Be ultra-careful. And if you think you want kids, consider these points:

– If you think babies are cute, get a kitten! They are really cute and much easier to love and care for in 2 or 3 years when they mellow out as cats instead of becoming demanding toddlers. They’ll snuggle and purr and love you, fulfilling many of the same needs as babies. A kitten from the SPCA would be the best!

– If you want a kid to toss a ball to or take to the fair (to do things with, so you aren’t alone), get a dog! They are great companions! And if you treat them right, they’ll be very loyal and obedient. If you want a little obedient slave, get a DOG, not a kid! Or join Big Brothers or Big Sisters, or borrow a niece or nephew and give your sis or bro the afternoon off! If that’s your primary reason, you don’t need one of you own.

– If a lot of your friends have kids and say you should too, ask yourself 3 things: 1- If they took up skydiving without a chute, would I do that too? 2- Are they REALLY happy? 3- How hard is it to make new friends? They shouldn’t be pressuring you!

– If you want to reproduce to make a mini-me, just remember that they are only mini for a short time, and before long you MUST let them be their own person. They may grow up to be biker-dudes or jobless vagrants, or worse, unscrupulous lawyers! You can’t choose their destiny one bit, and you might as well figure that out before conception.

– If you want children but are terrified of pregnancy and childbirth, why not adopt? There are so many kids needing loving homes.

– If you want children — and lots of them — because your religion says so, I simply say this: Do you ever feel manipulated? Is there a chance your religion wants you to churn out little catholics or mennonites or muslims or… just to keep their numbers up? For statistics, or for preservation of a their beliefs? By far, most people get their religion from their upbringing. Something to consider.

[funny YouTube video about procreation]

So I hope that somehow, that angry mother can learn to relax, love and accept herself and then pass it on to her kids. I don’t entirely blame her — for whatever reason, that is just where she’s at. She’s on her own path, and her children, sooner or later, will come to peace with how she’s treated them. I think Geneen Roth said “over the course of our lives, we get what our parents never gave us.” So, if you have little ones, even if they’re not so little any more, please take 10 minutes to connect with them, do something they enjoy doing, and show them you love them, every day.

Cheering Up

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I was going to write this blog on Monday, but then the events of Tuesday (the bird day) needed blogging first, so this one waited ’til now.

I was in a seriously crappy mood on Monday. I don’t know what got into me. It wasn’t the common Monday-blues — since I work for myself now, I don’t get bummed out on Mondays. Come to think of it, I was a shift-worker before, so Mondays didn’t mean anything to me then either! Anyhow, this was a seriously nose-out-of-joint, stay-clear-if-you-want-to-keep-all-your-body-parts kind of mood. I don’t get these very often, maybe 3 times a year, which means I only have, um, one more occasion this year. Poor Darren!

I don’t just say “poor Darren” to be funny, I really mean it. I was pretty close to the edge that day, and he had to endure it. Not fun. I think I will be making up for it for a while — not because he makes me feel like I have to, just because I want to. I generally treat him really well, but man, it was ugly on Monday.

I eventually told him the main thing that was weighing on my mind, only after saying “I need to say something. I don’t want to hear any come-back, reply, comment, or anything. In fact, it would be best if you just listened to it — let me say it all — and then you were quiet for an hour or so. Not a peep. Think about what you want to say back, if anything, and in an hour or so, we can talk. Can you do that?” Crazy, eh? I had a medium-serious thing to say (I won’t reveal it here, sorry), but on a normal day, I would have just sat down on the couch next to him and said it. And I wasn’t trying to add drama, I just wanted to tell him without getting into a huge discussion. Is that so wrong? I don’t think so, but I sure could have been nicer.

So about half way into Darren’s Hour of Silence, I realized it was self-pity that I was all gummed up with. Like the stickiest of mud, it had me completely mired. I didn’t recognize it at first, perhaps because I get it so rarely, or because it was so strong. It felt more like anger/depression. I am actually glad, now, that I experienced it, because I need to know what it feels like and how strong its pull is, in order to help others better. I think I can have more compassion for someone who struggles with this.

Luckily, a very good friend of mine called and reminded me that we were doing training that night, and I needed to prepare for it. I found the material and read it over, highlighted the most important parts, and started to feel much better. Want to guess what the subject was? Sudden Death. We were training our Victim Support Unit volunteers on how to help people dealing with a sudden death (I’ve been a VSU volunteer for a while, and now I help with training). Later, at the end of the training session, we did a “round table” to talk about how we feel, if any of the areas were difficult for us, or if any parts really struck home. I shared how I had been in such a terrible mood earlier, but now I felt much better. I meant that it was good to be with friends, discussing serious things and helping people. But everybody teased me “sudden death just cheered you right up, did it?” Ha ha! Well, it did. I was able to remember that I have it so good. No one I love has died suddenly a long time. I have nothing to complain about.

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P.P. (Post Post): If you have experienced a sudden loss of someone you love, and you need help, please call your nearest Victim Support Unit or find out if your city has a support group for people like you. You don’t have to go through this pain and grief alone. Let someone help you, and listen to you... You are loved.

P.P.P.: I am starting a “Personal Growth Coaching” (similar to life coaching) service soon, so if you’d like to talk to me, please email me (teresa {at} and I’ll be in touch to set up a free session with you.