Nearly 40 years ago, my Dad (now a retired physician), was called by the attending physician in the city’s local emergency room to help with a patient. A woman in her mid-late 40’s had been struck in the back of her head by a rock. She and her estranged husband had seen each other on the road, pulled off to exchange heated words, and as she was getting back into her vehicle, he picked up a rock and threw it at her. I don’t know if he was aiming for her or her car, but he hit her right in the back of the head and my Dad and the attending physician could not get the bleeding to stop. The woman bled out, and my Dad accompanied the attending physician to tell the women’s older children that their mother was dead. My Dad said he had never heard so much howling and screaming and misery as he did in that particular moment. He would never forget it; neither I’m sure did the woman’s husband or children. All of it stemmed from anger.
This story is of course an extreme case of what happens when people are driven to a blind rage. They are not acting rationally when they get to this point. The best antidote: do not let yourself get to that point.
There have been times with my children when I would yell at them for something that seemed important at the time, but looking back, I rarely felt justified for my behavior. It made all of us miserable, and as a result, it made me more conscious of my delivery when there was something in our home that needed to be addressed. If I felt that I was going to lose control, I decided to say, “We will talk about this later when I’ve calmed down.” One of my teenagers is a debater though. She likes to have the last word, and usually she is the one that most easily presses my buttons. She likes to engage me in an argument, and I used to believe that arguing back was my only option until my husband and I saw a counselor who said, “Each of you go to your corners and wait until you’ve calmed down. Then you can talk about it.” Until then, I had never even thought that not arguing had been an option.
My husband and I have a rule that we have developed over the years: When you are angry or upset, wait at least 24 hours until you act on whatever it was that made you angry. Often I have found that going to sleep and letting myself calm down minimized the problem. However, sometimes it has just made the problem seem more real, and we’ve known it’s something that must be addressed. However, after 24 hours, it’s easier to do that with a calm and collected head. Then is the time that you can talk without hurting someone else with your words or with your actions. If you can accomplish this, you’ll be making your home a better place.