Amanda: Hey guys. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm Amanda.
Laura: I'm Laura.
Kendra: And I'm Kendra.
Amanda: And I am so excited because you get to meet my friend, Dr. Arpita DePalma today. She is joining us to talk about all things anger. I met Arpita in coach training, and even after it was finished, she's the kind of person that keeps the group together. She is the glue. She is an amazing leader. She takes input from everybody, but keeps a group going. And if you know a person like that, then you already know a person like Arpita. I'm so excited today to have her on so that you can meet her. Welcome Arpita.
Arpita: Hi. Thank you. Thanks guys. It's nice to see you this morning, and talk to you this morning.
Laura: Yeah. We're so excited to have you on, and I am super excited about our topic today and cannot wait to hear more about it. But first, let's hear about you and kind of what brought you to where you are.
Arpita: So I am a pediatrician. I, you know, completed the typical track: med school, met my husband in med school, finished residency, moved to Virginia where we live now. And I practiced part-time as a pediatrician for about 10 years. And then my husband started his own medical practice, so I kind of helped out there a little bit. And over the course of that time, I got more and more enmeshed in that and got kind of in a place where I wasn't super happy. So I realized that I needed to do something else, and that kind of began the journey of me realizing that I was super angry. And I didn't like the way I was showing up like that, and I needed to figure out how it was gonna make a change.
And that's what helped me find coaching, really. My best friend from residency and my anger got me to the point where I was like, I need to make a change and maybe this is gonna help me do that.
Laura: So when you decided to explore coaching, was anger always clearly gonna be your focus?
Arpita: So really what happened was- I was, this was back in 2020. It was my daughter's junior year of high school, and I realized that I was worried that I was not gonna have a relationship with her, just because of the way I was showing up. I really was worried about the quality of the relationship after she left the home, because she wouldn't be under my thumb anymore. And if I didn't build this relationship where we could have open communication, which I felt like I was preventing with how I was showing up, I was worried I was gonna lose her from that standpoint.
And so that really was my incentive that I wanted to make a change so that I could not only enjoy the next year and a half with her being at home- I mean not always being so reactionary with them- but also so that we could make sure that we had this strong bond and loving relationship after she left. So that was really what was my incentive. And I was embarrassed. I'm a pediatrician, and I'm coming home, and I'm screaming to my kids, right? So I was like super embarrassed- the fact that this is not the behavior that I should be modeling, and I couldn't control it, so,
Laura: Wow. Yeah, that's, I can imagine, would've been a powerful motivator. But kudos to you for recognizing that and deciding to make a change.
Amanda: From following you on social media, we already know that the story turns out very well. Pictures are beautiful, and your daughter’s happy and well adjusted and everything else.
Amanda: But also that it's so normal and like we, we hide behind shame with a lot of this too. So I'm excited we're talking about this.
Laura: Oh yeah, absolutely. So we've heard you say that anger sometimes is a secondary emotion. Can you tell us about that?
Arpita: Yeah. I think the best way to explain this is over time, what I realized for myself, is that I was showing up angry, and I become quicker to anger as things would happen. And I couldn't really recognize why I wasn't able to stop it because after the fact I always felt like crap. Right? I always regretted it, blah, blah, blah. But for whatever reason, it just became super easy to be angry. And so when I started doing the work, I realized that that had become essentially my automatic go to, my automatic response because I was avoiding another feeling that wasn't feeling so hot, so great.
So when my daughter didn't get this award in fifth grade for best student of the year or whatever. I would, instead of feeling disappointed, show up angry. Right? If I was embarrassed because I made a mistake at the office, and I'm trying to be the boss and tell everybody the way to do things, instead of feeling that embarrassment and moving through it, I would show up angry. And so, typically it's a go-to response that we pick because it feels better, it feels more powerful, and it's become automatic. Like we'd rather feel that than feel anything else that doesn't feel so good. Because, and then we become familiar with it, right? We know how the anger's gonna feel, and so it becomes comfortable and easy to do rather than trudging through those other yucky emotions.
And so that's kind of where I've, you know, I think it's pretty common knowledge when you start doing the work, you start seeing it. People recognize it's because you have some other underlying negative emotion that you're trying to not deal with. So.
Laura: Yeah, and I can imagine there's probably some roots in our primitive brain there as kinda adaptive.
Arpita: Right, Right. It's the fear. Even just the fear of feeling another emotion that we may not be experienced with. That is enough of the incentive to, or the reason to go to anger rather than anything else.
Kendra: Arpita, I love how you say that awareness came when you were talking about anger as a secondary emotion. That you started to become like, oh, I was actually embarrassed, but the safer thing for me to do cuz it's so familiar, is just to be angry. And I know that you've helped me, and I was so aware of just that anger was the safe thing, and anger was the go to because it was almost protective. And like you said, kind of tough, and was able to kind of keep the force field shield up and not really have to sit with the real feeling or become aware of the real feeling. Just use that default. So, and I think another part of that is sometimes anger is labeled as negative, like a negative emotion, but actually it can serve a purpose. Tell us something about that.
Arpita: Yeah. I would say on the grand spectrum anger overall would be on the negative category. However, when we can build that awareness around what's causing us to be angry. Why am I angry right now? What is the source of it? That actually is the positive side of that. Because you're building your awareness for what your activators are. And then you can put yourself on this path where I like…I have this protocol that we can go through that helps you process that anger but then also become more aware of what's triggered you so that the next time you have that situation come up, you're able to handle it in a much more productive fashion. And so, part of it is recognizing that you're angry. Also then building the second level of awareness that there's something else that I'm trying to avoid here. Let me do some thought work on that. And then moving forward to the next time it happens, we can build.
And it's not gonna be perfect. I mean, even though I've done this work, like I was saying, you will have setbacks. Because when we're stretched thin with all these other things going on and something happens that we've already worked through, you're more likely to explode. It's, it's typical. In those scenarios, you also have that gift of now being able to be more vulnerable and say, “Hey, I showed up kind of crappy yesterday, and I apologize. That's not my best self, but I, I apologize for that. I'm gonna move forward.” That is also growth. So there's so many areas of growth when you are angry, if you're willing to do the work, that it's actually a positive thing.
Amanda: It probably just depends on what the result is because, you know, if you're screaming at your kids and all that sort of stuff, the result is something probably that you don't want. But I can even imagine somebody who maybe is in an unjust situation, or there's some sort of, you know, something that's not right going on. Being able to access anger, because it is energizing, it is a catalyst. So that's kind of interesting to me to think, sometimes. Most of the time, yes, I don't think that we use it in a helpful way. But like I can imagine sometimes that it would be helpful to be angry to like go do something.
Arpita: I think that is also important. Cause I had gotten to the point, I remember thinking, I had gotten to this point where I was like, am I preferring to be angry? Like, do I get a high out of being angry? What is wrong with me? Right? So I remember going through this because we do. We get, that becomes a dopa hit for you where you're in this cycle of, “I'm gonna get angry, I'm gonna show up. Powerful people are gonna listen to me because I'm showing up this way.” It makes you feel like this power, and it's not necessarily true, right? In actuality, when we're showing up that way, we tend to lose credibility. And people kind of think that we're emotionally labile. We don't really necessarily have our act together. But I remember questioning, am I doing this? Why do I keep doing this? Do I do this because it feels so powerful? That's not a good thing. I need to recognize and be more vulnerable because that actually is where my power may lie.
Laura: It makes me think about like epigenetics and how much of these things that are kind of wired into us are from generations past. That, you know, just injustices that our forebearers felt, and now we use them as coping mechanisms. It's just, I don't know. It's just so interesting. And I definitely think that many of the world changers had to use anger. Like you just have to get to that point where you're just like, “I, I cannot take this any longer.” And that's what creates change. However, you probably don't have to do that in your medical office.
Arpita: Right. Well, you shouldn't have to do that, right? That's right. And I think it all, with that specific scenario, it's a little bit different because you have employees, and you have expectations of your employees. And so, you know, we talk about having these rule books or expectations for people to meet for us to be happy. And that's, we, I refer to that as a manual, but that you do with your personal relationships. When you have these sort of relationships with your kids or your employees, there is actually a manual where you have set expectations that they need to follow because that's their job. Or that's their responsibility as your child in terms of what you've clearcut put out there for them. But the key there is removing the emotion. That's the difference where, when we're in our personal relationships, we don't always want to remove the emotion. But specifically with anger, we want to remove the emotion when it's coming from a place where we're trying to teach our kids or trying to get our employees to follow their job duties or the expectations they have.
Amanda: Well, and the truth is, all of us on this call right now, are far more safe than any of our ancestors were. So we probably don't need to use anger like our ancestors did. I mean, they really were at much higher risk of all of the bad things. Plagues, you know, tigers. So it just isn't as useful to us as judged by our results, you know? So it is good to be able to at least be aware of it.
Arpita: Exactly. Yeah.
Kendra: So Arpita, what are some of the first steps you would recommend if someone wants to replace anger as their default reaction?
Arpita: So I would not recommend trying to replace it right away. Because if we don't process through it, then we're not going to really make a change. It's just gonna build up, right? So I think the first step is always building awareness around it. So I talk about in my, like- I've created a worksheet for basic steps, but the first thing I would do is just build your awareness around what typically activates you. You know, what are the moments in life that tend to set you off no matter what. Even if you're having a great day, you know what I mean? So that's kind of the first step.
The second step is just recognizing also where it shows up in your body. You know, cuz sometimes we don't know, like from our mind, we just feel like our flutter in our heart or like the, we start sweating when we're mad, you know? So how is it showing up for you? And your body is super important because that in and of itself might say, “Hey, I can tell that I'm getting activated by something. What's going on? What am I thinking? What, What's happening here?”
And then I just recommend that you pull yourself out of that situation. Make an excuse. “Hey, I gotta go to the bathroom real quick. I'll be right back.” You know, make some sort of excuse to get yourself out of that situation so that you can regroup for yourself for a minute. You know, taking some breaths and really reflecting a little bit. But that is, I think, super key.
And then I talk a little bit more about processing in depth there, and then deciding if we want to go back and revisit right then. You know because it's not urgent, necessarily. That's the other thing we tend to do, is we create this urgency that we have to respond right away to something, and we don't have to, right? There's no harm in saying, “I need a minute to think about this, or gimme a couple of days, and I'm gonna get back to you.” But we create that urgency that I have to respond right away. So having just awareness around all of that and pausing is, I think, one of the most important things you can do.
Laura: Yeah, I think that pausing is, that is so huge, especially when you're about to hit send on your email.
Kendra: Get someone else to read it.
Arpita: Or just wait. Even waiting like…and my husband and I have actually talked about that. He was. I like will draft up this email, and he can hear me typing and say, “Wait to send that one. Just send it to me. Let me read it and then we'll send it tomorrow.” And that, that has actually really probably headed off a lot of issues that would've been created. So taking a pause, big time.
Kendra: Yep. I love that, Arpita, because that pause is almost an empowering thing. Like you just said, when we feel. When we could become aware of not only that we're angry, but our trigger. And then we kind of sit with it, allow that emotion a little bit process, and take that pause, that allows us to decide what we wanna do next. And that is actually so empowering. And I, I find in myself, in my own journey with dealing with and naming and processing anger. That just even that pause and saying, “Okay, you know, breath work, or just a minute or a day or whatever, think about it.” You know, is so empowering because the decision that you now can make, “Okay, what are we gonna do next? What's the next steps?” And you're so right. Anger creates a sense of urgency. That nobody's putting on you except you when you decide to be angry. So that is such a good little nugget to take home today.
Brene Brown writes in Atlas of the Heart. “Anger is a catalyst. Holding onto it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit. Externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It's an emotion that we need to transform into something life giving. Courage. Love. Change. Compassion. Justice.” What do you think about this?
Arpita: I love that. She's so eloquent with her words. And I think to put it in basic baby terms, the way I would put it. It's exactly how I teach it. It's, you know, when we have that feeling of anger, we can show up in so many different ways. And we can react to it with the outbursts, is what she's kind of referring to. We can become kind of involuted, turned inward, and just withdraw from interacting. Or we can just avoid it altogether and just ignore it in a sense. But all three of those responses lead to it, to essentially bubbling back up. And coming back even stronger down the road. And so she kind of eloquently, like I said, stated that with each of those scenarios, if you respond to it or you don't, this is what you create.
So the key again is going back and allowing it to be there. Right. I think I read somewhere it takes 90 seconds to five minutes to process an emotion. And so if we can just allow ourselves to sit in it for that moment, even though it feels uncomfortable, and process it, it allows us to move forward. And that's just not, that's not just with anger, that's any emotion. So when we can allow ourselves to be present for that, it allows us to be much more productive. Like she said, you have the courageousness afterwards. You have the courage to go through it. You have the courage to move forward then with maybe a plan that you might not have done before had you been reactionary or had you withdrawn.
The other point I wanted to say that came up when you were speaking earlier was, you know, when we start doing this response rather than reaction, that also creates essentially a dopamine hit where you want to do it again. You see the fruits of doing it and showing up in a way that you become so proud of. That, “Wow, I didn't blow up this time. I handle it in a way that's so much more adequate and appropriate and helpful. I wanna do that again.” And that's what happens with the incentive of doing it even one time, is that you get to start to build on that.
Amanda: I love that you are, you know, bringing awareness to this topic of anger. So many of us are- either it's our default, or we're so absolutely petrified to feel anger that we resist or distract. Whereas some people do react with anger when it's really something else. So just being aware of what it is that we actually are feeling, and are we avoiding it? Are we leaning into anger because it feels more powerful? It's just, just this whole awareness is incredible. So I am excited because you told me that you have a new coaching program for anger. And I wanna know all about it, and I'm sure our listeners do too.
Arpita: Awesome. Yes. So I'm excited about this. I've created a- it's a 12 week program for coaching where I talk a lot about the didactics on anger and different topics within anger. But I've also incorporated into that a little bit of trauma mitigation. So I've taken coursework on that and how our past traumas in our life can show up in a way such as anger. And so how to become more aware and recognize that as well and work through that. So right now I have it as a one-on-one coaching program with me, and I'm also working on developing a course, an online course for that. So that should be coming out hopefully in the next couple of months, where it's kind of like a self study course, and you can sign up for additional one-on-one coaching if you, if that's something of interest to you.
Amanda: I love that so much. Okay, so people are gonna need to know how to contact you then. So give us all the details.
Arpita: All right, well, I am on the social media platforms- on Facebook and Instagram. It's Thought Work MD. And on LinkedIn, if you wanna find me, it's Arpita DePalma, and my website is www.thoughtworkmd.com. That's probably the best way to get in touch with me, schedule a discovery session for no cost to you, other than a little bit of your time to make that change.
Amanda: And you guys, she has great stuff. And we will have links on the show notes to all of these places so that you can find Arpita. Arpita, thank you so much for coming and joining us. Do you have any closing thoughts before we go?
Arpita: I would say just to give yourself grace. The biggest thing for me was the shame around it. The embarrassment of being angry and showing up that way. It was like a secret little life that I had that nobody else saw. And the first time, I remember putting out there when I posted about what was my history and what I was doing. It's a leap of faith, but just recognizing that you are making that change not only for yourself but for everybody around you. And to allow yourself to go through that process to be vulnerable, and give yourself grace. Cuz there are so many people dealing with this, and we all think we are the only ones. But that's definitely not the case.
Kendra: Thank you, Arpita, so much. We just want to honor you for being vulnerable and using your own testimony just to create, not only a course, but be available for one-on-one coaching and reaching out to our colleagues and making this something that's so accessible and also just so relevant. So thank you, thank you for just educating yourself and going the next mile to change lives one at a time. Thank you very much, Arpita, and we've so enjoyed having you on the podcast today.
Until next time, you are whole. You are a gift to medicine, and the work you do matters.