John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

Feelings Matter

On throwing bricks, biting one's tongue, and being "too nice"

Emotions can be under-controlled, over-controlled, or balanced.

Take, for example, three different people, who are each angry at their boss.

Bob decides to go out the parking lot after work and throw a brick through his boss’s car windshield. Bob’s anger is under-controlled.

Martha is angry, too. But instead of saying anything to the boss, she goes back to her office, closes the door, cries, says nothing. Martha’s anger is over-controlled.

Dorothy’s response differs from both Bob and Martha. She goes back to her office, thinks about why she is angry, and then channels her anger into a plan that will allow her to assert her grievances to her boss in a constructive way. Dorothy’s anger strikes a balance. She experiences the anger, is guided by it, and expresses it.

Anger gets a bad rap. But anger is a necessary emotion. It is our response to violations, injustices, and the perception that we are being tread upon. Anger is the emotion that prompts self-assertion.

By the way, the so-called “nice-guy syndrome” is a self-assertion problem. There is such a thing as being “too nice.” The nice guy’s anger is habitually warded off, pushed aside, minimized. This may explain why we like these folks so much –– they’re easy to be around, they don’t make waves. But they’re also easy to take advantage of. If you go through life always trying to avoid conflict, anger, or confrontation, eventually you will miss out. You will not get what you want out of relationships, work, or life. Sometimes we have push back, assert our needs, wants, and wishes, and go for what we really want.

Your feelings are important. Tuning into them is a powerful form of intelligence.