A friend recently told me a story about an avid football fan he once knew who would leap to his feet shouting and swearing at the telly whenever he disagreed with the referee. Nothing particularly unusual about that, perhaps, but this person had such high blood pressure that these outbursts were a serious threat to his health and it was his doctor who advised him to count to ten whenever the referee made a provocative call.
He duly followed instructions, counting to ten as fast as he could and then following on with his usual rant.
The story was told to me in a light-hearted, joking way in the course of a conversation about losing one’s temper. On the surface the point appears to be that the traditional advice does not work. People who find that their temper causes them problems in life need to find another way of dealing with it.
But I wonder. In remembering to do the counting first, this man was surely exercising self control. OK, he still wanted to have his say but his shouting and swearing was what he chose to do. The point about losing one’s temper is saying or doing things, whilst out of control, that one does not want to do.
It seems to me that the doctor may have found a cure for the man’s soul rather than his body. But would a rational outburst be as detrimental to his health as a spontaneous one?