from the


from the Top of the Mind


from the
Top of the Mind

“Dr. Crawford’s presentation was the highlight of the conference and a much needed reminder for all of us (especially nurses) to keep it all balanced. Bill’s psychology background surely protruded through his messages and I know it was well-received by all!”

Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL

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“Anger and Outrage are valuable signals that something needs to change. However, they become less effective when used as the drivers of that change.”
~ Bill Crawford

The Purpose of Anger & Outrage

Let me begin by stating clearly that this isn’t designed to criticize the outrage and protests that are happening around our country in response to the death of a black man who was handcuffed and defenseless in Minneapolis. The death of George Floyd, combined with the death of so many other people of color at the hands of those whose job it is to protect, serve, and defend is indeed outrageous, and, therefore, outrage is a natural, normal, heathy reaction, especially in contrast to apathy and indifference.

Further, as a white person in America, I’m aware that I’m in no position to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do. I haven’t experienced what people of color have experienced, and, therefore, can’t truly understand the depths of feelings.

My goal is to look at the purpose and neuroscience of anger and outrage so that we use them to implement change in a way that is the most effective and powerful. For those of you who follow my, “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that this means looking at what we feel, think, and do in terms of how the brain processes information.

To avoid getting lost in too much terminology, I like to look at the brain in three parts…top, middle, and lower brain. Normally I talk about how the unconscious middle and lower brain can have us reacting in less than effective ways. However, today I want to recognize how the middle and lower brain reactions of anger and outrage can be helpful in creating change.

In other words, as stated, I believe that feeling anger and outrage (triggered by the middle and lower brain) at what happened in Minneapolis are natural, normal, and healthy signals that something needs to change. Unfortunately, when we continue to allow this rage to drive our thoughts, emotions, and behavior, we often make less than purposeful decisions, because we are coming from the unconscious reactive brain, versus the purposeful, responsive brain.

Therefore, if we want to draw upon our wisdom and knowledge, as well as, our best problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills to effect change, I suggest that we access the clear, confident, creative part of the brain which is the neocortex, or what I call, “The Top of the Mind.

To do this, I propose that we use what I call the “Four Criteria” to ensure that we are indeed making choices from the Top of the Mind. In other words, in deciding what to do next, we make choices that:

1. Are purposeful – They have been chosen on purpose, and are congruent with our purpose, or what we are wanting to accomplish.

2. Are effective – We believe that these choices have the potential to produce the results that we want.

3. Define who we are – Since every thought, emotion, and action makes a statement about who we are and who we are becoming, let’s make sure that these choices define us in a way that we want to be defined.

4. Are choices we would teach and/or recommend to someone that we love.

Take protests, for example. Our country was founded on the right to protest. The Boston Tea Party comes to mind. It’s in our constitution. In addition, the changes that occurred as a result of the civil rights movement and the opposition to the war in Vietnam were influenced by the millions of people who turned out to demonstrate. These demonstrations gave those in the position of making the laws good information about how a large number of the American people felt about a particular issue, and laws were changed and enacted as a result. Are these laws perfect? No. Many need to be changed or improved, and this process will take resolve fueled by a sense of purpose versus rage.

The same could be said for the recommendation that, in response to what happened in Minneapolis, we “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and properly mobilize,” as suggested by Killer Mike, a rapper and son of an African American police officer in Atlanta.

Again, I’m aware that, as a white person in America, I know that my understanding of what it means to be a person of color will forever be limited and incomplete. That’s why I would never assume that I know what’s best for another person, or to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do.

My goal is simply to share what I know about being effective in our personal lives, our family, our community, and our nation. This means listening to and honoring the signals of anger and outrage, and then turning to the clear, confident, creative part of who we are to effect change.

Isn’t this what we would recommend to someone we love?

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

Dr. Crawford's Info Packet

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