Desk rage blazes

DeWayne Bartels
Anger is a growing commodity everywhere.

The argument began with angry words, and ended with a swinging fist.

It was Oct. 12. Steve and Marion (not their real names) were in their North Peoria home arguing about something a police report did not reveal. Steve told an officer, while cradling his bleeding hand, his wife came up to him and shoved her chest into his trying to push him backward. That assertion was denied by Marion.

Steve — angry and looking for a release — turned and smashed his hand into a framed photo from their wedding, slicing his hand open.

On the anger scale Steve had rocketed to 10. But, he did not touch his spouse.

The police filed a report, but no one was charged.

Steve and Marion’s story is not a typical one in Peoria involving the police because it was an incident borne out of anger that did not go too far.

Angry society

Every day somewhere in Peoria anger explodes with much more serious consequences.

Another incident on Oct. 11, elsewhere in the city, illustrates how far anger can go.

That evening a 25-year-old man lying on a gurney in the emergency room of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center told police that as he was walking across a street he heard a car rev its engine.

He turned to see the vehicle coming straight at him. He tried to get out of the way, but reacted too slowly.

The victim told police he was hit by the car’s front quarter panel, propelled onto the hood, into the windshield and then thrown off the car by the impact.

The victim said as he struggled to his feet, he saw the driver, a man he knows as a former boyfriend of his girlfriend, get out of the car and come at him.

He said the driver balled up his fist. The victim tried to defend himself, but said he was dazed by the car’s impact.

The victim said the driver hit him in the face several times, carving a gash into his face, and fled the scene when people came to the victim's aid.

Transported to the hospital the victim had to be X-rayed.

The police are on the lookout for the driver.

Incidents like these have spawned an anger management class and support group at Proctor Hospital. The need is acute, said Kellie Branch-Dircks, a licensed clinical social worker at Proctor.

“People in trouble with the law are being court-ordered to take anger management classes,” she said. “Employers are also requiring people to come in.”

Anger is a normal human emotion, Branch-Dircks said. But, too often, it is taken to extremes. Today’s fast-paced world is leading to more anger, Branch-Dircks said.

A study released by Integra Realty Resources Inc. in November 2000 backs up her opinion.

The study showed a growing number of Americans suffering from a phenomenon they dubbed, “Desk Rage.”

The study found fights and yelling at work were more common as the then booming economy put stress on workers to produce more with less people. The study found 23 percent of workers had been driven to tears by workplace stress, with 10 percent saying they had witnessed workplace violence.

Sean Hutchinson, president of Integra Realty Resources in New York, said two-thirds of American workers said workplace stress was a problem at least occasionally.

The survey found, at that time, the stress was due to a shortage of qualified employees. Workloads were increasing on employees, causing more stress. With the economy now going the other direction and workloads increasing even more, stress is on the rise again.

According to the survey, workplace stress in 2000 caused 34 percent of Americans to be unable to sleep, had driven 11 percent of Americans to consume excessive alcohol, caused 16 percent to smoke in excess and drove 26 percent to eat chocolate.

A solution

While the stress on workers is increasing in a bearish economy, the level of anger does not have to rise proportionally at work or home, Branch-Dircks said.

“One’s reaction to anger is not something you are born with. It’s learned behavior,” she said.

“You can learn to control it. There are skills that can be used, and they have to be used constantly. The consequences of not learning to control anger can be loss of a job, legal troubles and the loss of relationships.”

Branch-Dircks said no one has to be a prisoner to out of control anger.

“Anger is a normal thing. There is good anger. It can motivate you. We look at anger on a scale of one to 10. Anything that falls in one through nine is normal. You can scream and yell and be normal,” Branch-Dircks said.

“Ten is breaking things, abuse, hitting and threatening.”

Treating anger, she said, involves figuring out a person’s triggers for anger, how they deal with stress and equipping them with emotional, stress and cognitive tools that help them to cope.

"If you understand where your anger comes from it is easier to control,” Branch-Dircks said.

“We teach them assertiveness,” she said, “so they can meet their needs without being aggressive.”