10/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The United States of Anger

Why Out Shouting Each Other Will Kill Us

"Who me? Angry? Fahgedaboudid! I can handle it."

O.K., but perhaps you wouldn't mind answering a few questions.

1) How many times have you had to swallow a difference of opinion only to feel it knot up in the pit of your stomach?

2) Have you ever had intense pain in your neck and shoulders just before or right after an argument?

3) Do you recall holding in frustration, anger, and resentment all day only to find yourself losing it later on with a family member or close friend? Stress causes 54% of Americans to fight with people close to them.

There isn't much that unites us these days except that a lot of us are really angry. We've got liberal vs. conservative, choice vs. life, young vs. old, rich vs. poor, male s. female, My God vs. your God. Why so angry? Maybe it is because everyone's feeling out of control about everything. Try substituting consciousness for control. Listen to what is coming out of your mouth and then decide who's running this show?

If what is stuffed inside of you finds its way out for a landing in all the wrong faces and places, these are unprocessed emotions that if left unchecked, unfelt and un-resolved can make us irritable and even sick. Avoid those consequences by discovering where your thoughts and emotions come from.

We are a combination of everything we have ever thought and felt in our lives, and sometimes we get into ruts causing us to act and react in ways we neither understand nor admire.

While we often can't change the situation, we can change a lot about our attitudes, habits and opinions by altering the way we act and react. For instance, when you start going down a negative thinking path of judgment, criticism or blame, try substituting compassion, wisdom and understanding. Pause, until the knee jerk reactions of anger and fear subside. Think for a moment and explain your thoughts based on the reframing of logic and example taken from current events rather than past, often regrettable, history. Before we can learn new things we have to make our current assumptions explicit and find ways to challenge them. The solution is un-learning the mental model we use to explain the world.

We agonize over a health care plan that doesn't yet exist, and fill in the blanks with fear and anger. We watch the news each night to learn of more murders in our local neighborhoods. For What?

We glare at cell phone users shouting their way down grocery market isles and through dinner conversations in restaurants where they intrude on our intimate eating space. We talk of supporting our troops in a Middle East conflict from which we can't begin to fathom an exit strategy making us feel helpless . We leave movie theatres so hyped on violence, blood, guts and ear-splitting explosions that we can't escape an underlying anxiety. We see institutions we trusted collapsing, homes we dreamed, of escaping our grasp, leaders we elected acting like bozos. In short, we are blocked by habits, patterns, routines, institutions and dogma that while crumbling around our knees is inescapable...and that makes us angry. My answer is to Bust a Block a Day by breaking away from the emotions that fuel those habits, patterns and routines.

When our out-dated emotional lives are mistreated, ignored and misunderstood, they in turn make us physically ill, or absent-minded, or careless, or get us into arguments leading to senseless acts of violence.

The miracle of human life is that we can change. We actually develop our neural wiring in direct response to our life's experiences. If you decide it's in your interest to be a better boss, manager, employee, mate, child, friend, or citizen of the world, you can achieve that goal by changing your own neural wiring -- the way you think and feel about every role you play in life.

I challenge you to get started by joining my campaign to Bust A Block A Day.

Blocks are thoughts and emotions that you can't control, most likely because they are part of your life experience. So, whether the block is caused by any one of 400, often repressed emotions, check it out. Throw out the old unquestioned and often unsuccessful way of dealing with the block, make a conscious choice about how you think and feel today, and say goodbye to a block you have successfully busted without so much as a whimper, let alone a shout. Every time you go on auto-anger-pilot, say hello to another block you need to bust goodbye, and welcome the effect this preventive action has on your health.

Judith Parker Harris, film producer and author of three books (including CONQUER CRISIS WITH HEALTH-ESTEEM and MOVE FROM BLOCKED TO BLOCKBUSTER, is the BLOCKBUSTER coach to individuals and businesses getting projects on track from conception to completion. Judith uses screenwriting and producing techniques plus personal experience of becoming and remaining symptom-free from Multiple Sclerosis since 1990 to illustrate how to Bust A Block A Day in her keynotes, seminars, and consulting programs.

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