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We’re hearing more all the time about the unemployed  or under-employed* having to deal with anger. Some don’t handle it well, resulting in self-destructive behavior, even homicide/suicides.

*Under-employed, for these discussions, includes those who have been laid off or downsized-out of work and have temporarily taken part time jobs or jobs with significantly less earning power than their former position.

Job-loss emotions are real.  There’s no denying that. Anger is one of them, and it rears its head whenever we suffer significant loss.  It’s one of five steps associated with grief or major loss:

  1. Denial:
    • “This can’t be happening, not to me!”; “I’m going to wake up and discover this is a bad dream.”
  2. Anger:
    • “This is not fair!”; “NO! How can this happen!”; “SOMEone is going to pay!”
  3. Bargaining:
    • “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything, give me another chance?”; “If only I had …  this wouldn’t be happening.”
  4. Depression:
    • “Why bother . . . with anything? It’s out of my control anyway.”; “I’m going to die . . . What’s the point?”; “Just leave me alone.”
  5. Acceptance:
    • I can’t fight this, I may as well prepare for what’s next.”; “It’s going to be OK; we’ll get through this somehow.”

I’ve experienced several  losses thus far in my life.  Some were outside the realm of my control or influence. Others losses were the result of  earlier decisions, but they were losses just the same, and they were real.   I experienced all five of the above with each loss.

However, I’ve come to see the above as elements of loss, rather than sequential steps.  The first four can resurface without warning in the mind of the un(der)employed.  The last one, acceptance, comes more slowly unless we intentionally move toward it.  The more quickly we can come to accept a loss, the healthier we are in the long-run.

In my opinion, anger is the most difficult to deal with.  One look at my account balances confirms the reality of my situation and the denial goes away. “This is real. Keep submitting resumes and applications.”  Bargaining isn’t a iuse of time; my former company isn’t going to re-open a closed position just for me, they’ve moved on to other concerns.  Depression is counter-productive. When it hits me, I try to do what a trusted counselor advised:  Own it.  Feel it. Then dismiss it — within an hour or two if possible.  I have several Scriptures I turn to in those times to remind me who God is and who I am in relation to Him (more on that in the Eternity Question tab above).

Anger, though, can resurface without warning. It surprises us, at least it does me, and pulls me off course.  Anger —or worse yet, bitterness—  can ruin an interview.  It doesn’t even have  to be something you say, anger can non-verbally sabotage an otherwise good conversation through facial expressions and body language.  The right things we say can be un-done by the unspoken.

So what do you do with the anger?   It’s real. Sometimes it’s overpowering.  But it doesn’t have to be permanent.  It doesn’t have to be destructive.

I’ve found the best thing I can do is turn the anger into determination. Like an athlete whose team is down by ten late in the fourth quarter, like a bicycle racer trying to recover his position after a mishap, we can focus our anger over “right now” on an immediate good.   Pedal. Pedal hard. Close the gap.

Start the rally. If you have to, BE the rally.

Start the rally. If you have to, BE the rally.

..

..

Or like Michael Jordan did so well,
take it to the hoop.
Focus.
Take it to the rim and put it through.
If people notice your hang-time, great.
If your tongue hangs out, oh-well.
Just make sure you get two points.
And then two more.
Start the rally.
If you have to,  BE the rally.

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.

.

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Recently I saw an interview with Patrick Swayze, who’s currently dealing with advanced cancer.  He used a phrase that caught my ear.  “Rage your way through it.”    If your rage isn’t directed at God, or against an individual, I can see that working, focusing on the situation and powering through.  But after thinking on it a while I think the better course would be to turn the anger into something different.

Take a breath and turn

“I am so mad about this”
into
“This is NOT going to ruin my life!
I WILL  —we WILL— emerge on the other side of this.”

Turn Anger —->  into Determination.

It calls for a strong sense of resolve. It calls for self-discipline.  Leading oneself. Coaching yourself.  Refusing to host the negative.  Turning a potentially destructive emotion into motivation.

It’s hard work.  Actually it’s exhausting, and only those closest to you will see it, but it’s worth the effort.    If you’re un(der)employed you have a lot of competition and the numbers are growing.  Me too.  We’ve got to be at our best when the phone finally rings, when the interview happens quickly.  We have to be ready.  Sometimes we have but a couple hours to get psyched up for an interview after waiting what seems like forever.  Sometimes someone looks up when you drop off your application and says “Do you have a few minutes?”  and you’re in the initial interview.  Right now. No notice.

Don’t let anger ruin things for you.  Focus.  Take the anger and tell it what you’re going to do with it.  Then turn it into determination — and use it.  Right away.  For good.  Make some progress.  You’ll feel better when you fall into bed tonight, exhausted, but pleased with how you handled today.

Something to think about
—and do.

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