There’s no doubt that the world has got angrier and this recession isn’t helping at all. Instead of tips on how to save money we could all do with a few lessons on how to stay calm. It becomes very obvious when you see pensioners, traditionally society’s most sensible, wisest and sensitive group, publicly venting their fury.

We saw it on mass during the medical card protests last winter and then the individual egg throwing incident from last week highlighted the frustration levels once more. In case you missed it a very respectable pensioner named Gary Keogh, who has lost a great deal of money in the recent banking crisis, threw two eggs at AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson. Within hours the egg thrower was a national hero with many people wishing they had had the courage to do it themselves. As it was relayed by journalists, print and broadcast, you could almost hear a collective cheer go up in households across the land. It was definitely a strike for the little guy against arrogance and not Dermot Gleeson so much as the banking sector generally.

Egg throwing Gary Keogh was suddenly a household name and a great guy. You almost wanted to meet him personally and say “Well done, you showed them didn’t you!” We discussed how right he was to take a stand but few have probably cared to stand back and think about it any further. The thing is that while you can totally understand Gary Keogh’s frustration, as unpopular as this might sound, you just can’t condone his actions. Now this doesn’t mean I feel any pity for Dermot Gleeson; suit jackets can be dry cleaned and runny egg removed. However the emotional state of the nation that it represents is a much bigger problem; we are furious and it’s dangerous.

‘Eaten by a client’

Then I had lunch with a friend last Friday who was, as they put it, “just eaten by a client without any justification whatsoever”. Although many people use the ‘a friend of mine’ line, this was genuinely a friend of mine. On hearing the story and as we discussed it further because she was genuinely upset, we decided that there must have been something unrelated behind the incident. Sure enough our suspicions were confirmed later that day when the ‘angry client’ called back full of apologies and explained that they were under financial pressure….something had happened that morning that pushed them over the edge……blah, blah, blah. Business people everywhere have similar stories of angry customers and clients taking their personal frustrations out on the first person they come across. The other nasty little tactic that seems to be cropping up is the, “I’m not happy with the service anger”. I’ve heard several stories of people complaining ‘angrily’ in order to secure further discounts or, in some cases, not pay at all. So the recession is not only causing depression it is also turning us into a very dishonest bunch as well.

Everyone seems to miss the point that while anger is a very normal human emotion, anger expressed incorrectly is folly and can start a rotten chain reaction. Of course you are allowed to get angry, you can’t help that, but you can help what you do with it. When we talk about anger, we often use descriptive terms like hot tempered or fiery. We use such words because anger operates just like fire in that it spreads quickly and mercilessly and leaves a trail of destruction in its wake.

It is like a rampant cancer that seems to affect everyone in its path. We all tend to believe that our own anger is justified and we often think that it ends with our own individual incidents, but that’s not always the case. A common work scenario is where a customer or client gets angry which in turn frustrates a manager, who then takes it out on an innocent employee who now carries it home and ends up rowing with his spouse, upsetting the household and everyone goes to bed hating each other! One angry individual early in a day has the ability to affect tens of people. That’s anger for you, it spreads like fire and the only thing for it is to stop it in its tracks by quenching the flames.

All under pressure

We are all under pressure and everyone is experiencing a period of adjustment, but no matter how bad it gets we cannot excuse or condone wrath. It is futile and acts of rage only gratify for the shortest of times.

Egg throwing Gary Keogh had the good sense to use a non life threatening missile but what about some nut who throws a brick or, worse still, decides on a gun? You may think I’m over exaggerating, but can you honestly say it is impossible to think such a thought?

Of course I know what it feels like to be cross or, at times, apoplectic with pure rage. Like any normal person I too fall prey to anger and frustration, who doesn’t? But more and more I’m choosing to stay calm instead. It’s not because I’m particularly ‘good’, it’s just that I hate the mess that anger leaves behind. By being openly angry or indeed meeting anger with anger it takes a great deal of energy and inevitably leads to someone having to apologise at a later stage, which is always difficult. It might even involve cards, flowers or presents and quite frankly in a recession it’s far too costly to have a good row.

It is up to us all individually to spread civility. Initially it seems quite difficult as it is much easier to fly off the handle, but like any muscle, the more you use it the easier it becomes. This isn’t some pious, religious aspiration, just something small that we can all contribute.

Challenge yourself to go through a day and every time you feel the bile rise just step aside and do whatever it takes to remain calm. There are loads of techniques. Some people use the question, ‘Will this matter in 10 years time?’ to evaluate if the situation merits their energy. Others count to 10 or breathe deeply. Do whatever works for you.

Sadly on a global level our world is filled with violence, hatred, war and aggression of every sort. While it’s hard to make a difference on the global stage, starting with your own little sphere of influence, you can certainly make an impact.