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Mullen-Johnson: The Cost and Consequences of Anger

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By Crystal Mullen-Johnson 

I am reading Will Smith’s book, “Will”, which is an indication of my interest in his life story and the fact that I like him as an entertainer.  Based on my perception of him as an entertainer, he’s funny, cool, intelligent, and undeniably attractive.  He looks like he’s mentally healthy, right? Mental health doesn’t discriminate, anyone can have mental health problems, even funny, cool, intelligent, and undeniably attractive people.

Chris Rock is an accomplished comedian and a professional entertainer. It is his job to elicit laughter. The point of Chris Rock’s comedy has always been to engage and make you think. His method for achieving this can occur through serious and/or offensive means. So, the question is, why was Will’s anger triggered by Rock’s comment about Will’s lovely wife Jada? The truth is, Will’s emotional response was overly intense based on his reaction to the comedian. His aggression was unjustifiable, and it was irrational. Further, it is harmful to initiate violence merely because we are mocked or disliked.

Anger is a mental health problem, especially if it is not properly managed. Anger is a common emotion we experience when we are hurting. Anger is problematic when it is felt too intensely frequently. It is important to understand factors that may contribute to anger and how anger impacts one’s life. Anger initially has many payoffs; some use anger to control others or to push others away. It is a defense mechanism people may be conscious or unconscious of experiencing.

Anger is costly and consequential when it is hostile and/or aggressive. The negative consequences of anger can result in job loss, additional conflict, financial loss, and health complications. It’s already costing Will. Last week, the Academy banned the actor from attending the Oscars for 10 years. Clearly it appears Will is struggling with managing anger. This is apparent because he lashed out violently and clearly did not think about the consequences of his actions.

During the 2022 Academy Awards, Will Smith displayed three things from which we should all learn: 

  • the power of privilege
  • poor conflict resolution
  • negative role modeling 

Smith and Rock are two high profile Black celebrities, thus are in a different class system. As a result, the consequences of their actions are different from most. A situation of this nature could destroy someone’s life. It could lead to incarceration and limit one’s fullest ability to thrive in life.

Finally, people with fame and stardom experience mental health problems, like anyone else. People that have everything they want, money, power, and fame, struggle, also.

Lessons to learn:

  • Just because you have wealth and power does not mean you do not have a breaking point.
  • Do not reach your breaking point. Allow the mental health community to support you. Contact a mental health provider to help you better understand and manage anger. Commit to developing conflict resolution skills.
  • Learn to regulate your emotions by doing the following:  identify triggers, learn to talk about difficult emotions, recognize your physical response to anger, practice breathing strategies, and remove yourself from the anger trigger, and finally practice positive self-talk.
  • Be aware of how you are modeling anger in the presence of your children. Your anger serves as a template of how they should response to anger. 

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. — James 1:19

Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham, AL with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. She is the owner and founder of Strive Counseling Services a private practice located in downtown Birmingham that offers therapeutic mental health services to children (play therapy), adolescents, and adults. Strive offers evidence-based therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit www.strivebhm.com

She is a published author of the, “21 Day Journey to Strive for a Healthier You” which can be purchased here 

She is also the Founder/President of Nurture, LLC, a non-profit organization in Birmingham, AL. Learn more about nurture by visiting www.nurturebham.com