Article: Want to Control Your Anger? Here's How!
About Janet Pfeiffer
By Michael Daigle
April 02, 2007
In some ways, Janet Pfeiffer's business is like that old vaudeville routine -- the one with the punch line of "Well, stop doing that."
Pfeiffer sees basically two positions in life: closed and open, opposites across a great divide that have a lot to do with how a person changes and grows.
One can be open to new circumstances or not, she said, and it makes all the difference.
But there also are other opposites that have great influence over how that journey is taken: a sense of power or powerlessness, usefulness or uselessness, control or lack of control, rage or calm. People swirl in and out of those feelings all the time, Pfeiffer said. How a person finds the balance makes all the difference.
"There is conflict when faced with something new," she said. It is easy to confront an opinion different than one's own with a negative reaction. There is a fear involved, she said.
"If I say that I like their opinion, what does it say about my own? If I say I tolerate the position, maybe it means I'm stuck with it and that leads to frustration. Then I could accept it, but that has an element of sadness -- I don't like the opinion, but I guess I'm OK with it.
"But if I appreciate their position, there is a sense of joy. We need to appreciate the differences."
Pfeiffer, of Jefferson, is president of Pfeiffer Power Seminars. She specializes in workshops, seminars and consulting sessions for corporations, schools, churches and other groups in anger management, conflict resolution, communication and goal achievement.
She'll tell you that those issues are deeply tangled, and then lay out a path that allows them to be untangled. She is neither a psychologist nor a self-help guru, but someone, she said, who came to understand how to create change in her own life and untangle the tangled.
The lessons she learned about anger management are wrapped strongly around her spiritual beliefs that begin with the notion "that no one has the right to hurt another person ever," she said.
One of her clients, she said, is the U.S. Postal Service, and she is very aware of the genesis of the term "going postal."
"Anger management is about being able to recognize what anger is," Pfeiffer said, "how to process it, express it, use it constructively, and let it go. Most people use it in destructive ways."
She said she measures her anger over an incident against this standard: Will I remember in 10 years what I was angry about? If the answer is no, Pfeiffer said, she moves on, shifts perceptions.
If it sounds too easy, understand where Janet Pfeiffer came from: As a young mother she found herself directing her anger and frustration about her failing marriage at her four children. Recognizing that, she suppressed the anger, turned it inward and developed an eating disorder.
"Bulimia is about stuffing the anger inside and purging it," she said. "It is about repressing it and not knowing how to express it."
Anger management, in many ways, she said, is about facing the beast.
"The Dalai Lama says that there are no victims in life, just students," Pfeiffer said.
So she faced the beast, became a student, and somewhat by accident, a businesswoman. That bad marriage became a school of self-discovery, she said. "I wanted to learn all about his anger," she recalled.
Her business started 15 years ago when following a presentation at a Secaucus school about her children's book, "The Seedling's Journey," a book about overcoming obstacles. A principal asked her whether she had a presentation that she could give to the teaching staff.
When opportunity knocks, open the door: Even though she did not have a program, she said, "Of course."
Today she is a certified presenter for the New Jersey Education Association. She has developed an eight-hour seminar that is adaptable for teachers, business personnel, church members, children, and even postal workers.
Anger has three main sources, Pfeiffer said: hurt, fear and frustration. It begins as a thought and develops into feelings, she said.
We try to control anger, she said, when what should really happen is one should let it go.
"Change your thoughts, change the perception, and you change how you deal with anger," she said.
If it still sounds too simple, understand this: One's ability to grow depends on the desire and ability to change, and change can be painful.
Consider Pfeiffer's analysis of road rage.
Surveys say the highway act that generates the most road rage is tailgating at high speed, she said. The driver in front works through a litany of reasons, none of them satisfactory, as to why the other driver is driving so close. It becomes a contest of wills, control and power.
It is all about me, wonderful me, she said. How dare they threaten my superior position? I'm in front.
One driver spends a lot of energy trying to figure out why that other driver is on their tail when the way to unravel that nasty knot, she said, is to not worry about the reasons they are driving so fast, and let them pass. There might be a legitimate reason, she said. The driver in front will never know it anyway, so why try to figure it out?
That same frustration can be seen in residents' reactions to higher taxes, she said.
"We feel powerless, that there is someone unseen out there manipulating the system, raising our taxes," Pfeiffer said.
And the real problem, she said, is that there is someone out there. But we feel we can not reach them, change their behavior or gain some control over the situation.
There is a way, she said. Citizens can band together and take action.
And that's where the old vaudeville joke comes in.
It's the one about a patient telling his doctor, "my arm hurts when I do this."
What does the doctor say?
"Well, stop doing that."
One way to stop the pain, Pfeiffer said, is to stop being angry.
Michael Daigle can be reached at (973) 267-7947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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