‘Anger guru’ Mike Fisher saw Will Smith’s Oscars outburst, and has plenty of sound advice for the popular Hollywood figure. “Will needs to get himself to an anger management class ASAP!” Suggests Mike, wisely. Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith are major celebrities. But you don’t have to be a megastar to express anger unhealthily, or find yourself in a complex relationship. Mike, author of Beating Anger and an international anger management thought leader, points out that timing is important to understanding why we sometimes lose it.
“Chris Rock has no real understanding of what happened to Will Smith in the 90 minutes or so leading up to the incident. But there’s obviously something going on for Will. Chris’ joke, and his wife being humiliated in public like that, would’ve been the final straw,” Mike says.
The incident provides a classic example of the unthinking rage that defines unhealthy anger. Feeling angry is healthy and natural. What’s not okay is letting the red mist take over your senses, and acting destructively.
“At the British Association of Anger Management (BAAM), one of our core ‘anger first aid’ techniques is: ‘Stop. Think. Take look at the bigger picture. And think of the consequences.’ Will obviously did not do this. And now he has to deal with the consequences. He laughs at first, but when he made sense of what was said, he took it personally. He felt humiliated. And yes, he wanted to protect his wife.”
But when we’re in a rage we never properly consider the consequences. “By the time he has regressed into anger, he is unaware of any consequences,” points out Mike, “It’s only post the situation that he does become aware. When he finds his life has changed.”
‘Don’t take it personally’ is another of BAAM’s essential techniques. “Jada was the target of the dark humour and strictly it is her responsibility to deal with anything she is uncomfortable with. She’s not meant to stride onstage and punch him in the face either. But what she could’ve done – for her own benefit – is approach Chris after the show.” Learning communication skills like those taught on BAAM’s acclaimed anger management courses can help us regain a sense of agency when we feel disrupted. Jada could’ve explained to Chris, “Listen, this is the issue. I wasn’t happy with what you said. I understand that there was some humour associated with that. But I feel very self-conscious about it. As you already know we have some issues in the family. So I’d appreciate a public apology.”
Historic, unresolved anger will be at the source of Will’s issues. “When he gets into a rage he is essentially regressing to the time of the original hurt,” says Mike, “his challenge is not to deconstruct what happened at the Oscars, but how and why he regressed that far.”
Mike’s also a family and relationship consultant trained in The Gottman Method, and works with families and couples on their anger and other relationship issues regularly. The Smith’s modern marriage has been cited as a possible factor in the Oscars fracas. “I’d like to know what challenges he’s faced with,” says Mike of working with Will or clients facing family problems, “What is he dealing with around his wife and his kids? Then we’d build a therapeutic game plan, which gives him the chance to begin addressing any issues in his relationship or relationships. He must make sense of his history, his relationship with his family, and figure out how to integrate that into his choices.”
Find BAAM at angermanage.co.uk. The British Association of Anger Management, 14 Railway Approach, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 1BP