On tonight’s episode of “Real World Portland,” a disagreement over doggy doo erupted into a physical fight between Averey and Nia. Now that’s a load of crap!
While arguments over things like who should clean up after the dog are common between roommates, there’s no need for them to turn violent. We spoke to Doctor Victor Schwartz -- The Jed Foundation medical director with over two decades of experience as a psychiatrist working in college mental health -- about how to best handle our own and other people’s frustrations.
ACT: On a recent episode of "The Real World," we watched a disagreement over who should clean up dog poop turn into a physical confrontation. What's the best way to make sure that minor disagreements don't escalate into something more?
DR. SCHWARTZ: Stop for a moment and try to think it through. We have emotions and we have logic. Sometimes, when you use logic first, you can immediately walk away from a situation, or at least see where the other person is coming from. If the disagreement was serious, there needs to be a talk -- even if it’s just to make a truce. You don’t have to love each other. You don’t even have to like each other. You just have to negotiate diplomatically.
ACT: What should bystanders do when witnessing verbal, physical, or digital abuse?
DR. SCHWARTZ: As a bystander, try to understand and explain where both sides are coming from. Say, “You’re right, but you’re also right. Let’s try to examine what happened.” And whether it’s in person or online, call people out on stuff that is needlessly aggressive or insulting.
ACT: What are some positive ways to deal with anger and frustration?
DR. SCHWARTZ: Get some exercise, watch something funny, distract yourself. Find an activity that calms you down or that you enjoy. Try to look at every difficult situation as a challenge rather than as a defeat or putdown. And understand that there are going to be a certain number of things in life that just suck. Figure out how to let go and move on and walk away from what you don’t need to fight about.
ACT: We all feel angry at times, but at what point should someone seek help for it?
DR. SCHWARTZ: You should seek help for anger if it feels like its something you have trouble managing or controlling, if you’re getting into fights more regularly than other people are, or if it’s getting to the point where it’s leading to interpersonal problems.
ACT: How do you recommend addressing a friend or family member whose anger has grown alarming?
DR. SCHWARTZ: People who get into frequent fights or have frequent angry episodes often have difficulty seeing situations from other peoples' perspectives. Try to understand where they are coming from as you talk them down. Speak calmly and avoid language like, “You always do this,” or, “You’re just like your mother,” or anything that categorizes and generalizes them. People often get angry because a present situation reminds them of a painful person or event from the past, so try to remain mindful of that when confronting them.
ACT: Although prevention is key, what are the best first steps to take after a serious angry episode?
DR. SCHWARTZ: Sometimes you actually need to let a little bit of time pass so that you can calm down. Sometimes you just need to let go and walk away. If it’s something you find you can’t work out or let go of, or if you keep getting into the same angry patterns, talk to somebody. Therapy doesn’t need to be a fancy thing or a big deal. It’s just an opportunity to stop and think more clearly. (End of interview)
Anger is a completely normal human emotion, but when it gets out of control, it can lead to problems at school, at work and in personal relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling with anger, check out some tips from Half of Us by taking action below.