Anger is a powerful emotion, and one that no one is immune to. The physiological effect it has on us can be a strong spur to action, and so the temptation to respond there and then can be an intensely felt one. However, responding there and then can be highly problematic, as the intense emotion of the situation can distort our perceptions. It can also lead to an escalation in which our anger-driven response can ‘up the stakes’ emotionally and thereby lead to a worsening of the situation rather than defuse it. In addition, it can mean that we are responding without a full understanding of the situation, and that could lead to making the situation worse. The traditional idea of ‘count to 10’ has some merit, but it is not enough on its own, as the effects of anger can last for some considerable time – for example, they can become resentment. Anger is a valid response to many situations but we have to make sure that it is not allowed to create further problems or ill-feeling.
When people come to us for help or reach the last straw when it becomes clear that they cannot continue without help, it can be very helpful to ask: Why here? Why now? In other words, it pays to be clear about what has made the difference between carrying on as before and seeking change. It is often the case that the problem(s) people need help with have been around for some time, but they have not sought help before. So, why now? What has been the key factor that has made the difference. The answer to that question may tell us a great deal about the situation, how it is perceived by the person(s) concerned and therefore what it means to them. It can also be helpful to ask: Why here? That is, why have they come to you? If there were other options available (and there usually are), why have they come here to seek your help? In some circumstances that too can cast important light on the subject. Failing to ask ourselves these questions can mean that we are missing out on important information.