The Seven Vital and Creative Functions of Healthy Aggression
The Stress Doc turns a power struggle exercise into a treatise on the value of healthy aggression for: a) survival adaptation, b) affirmation of identity and integrity, c) effective interpersonal engagement, and d) passionate and purposeful flights of exploration and imagination. Drawing on personal experience and the professional expertise of psychologist and author, Key Redfield Jamison, a case is made for the role of healthy aggression in the paradoxical and productive pairing of pain and passion, fever and reason.
The Seven Vital and Creative Functions of Healthy Aggression: Transforming Pain and Purpose Into Passion and Power
A staple of my Practicing Safe Stress speaking and workshop programs is a power struggle exercise. Two people are paired as antagonists. My specific instruction: "Imagine someone who, at least on occasion, is a pain in your butt." (Of course, there's always an immediate protest: "How can I limit it to just one!") Then in a short yet provocative role-play, Person A declares: "You can't make me." And B reflexively counters: "Oh yes I can!" Participants can be overtly angry or passive-aggressive. The only limitation: "You can't get out of your chair." After a few volleys people are encouraged to say what they really would like to say to the stand-in antagonist. (For a more in depth discussion of this exercise, email me for "Disarming Critical and Power-Driven Aggressors: Case Example, Concepts and Verbal Strategies for Tactful and Forceful Intervention.")
You'll have to take my word for it…the room erupts with energy, noise and hearty laughter. And some of the non-verbal gestures and body language are priceless. And while many get into the exercise - people don't want to be pushed around - a number of participants think the exercise silly. While the "artificial" nature of the interaction contributes to the perceived silliness, I believe another dynamic contributes to the amount of laughter. The exercise asks people to engage in raw, fairly spontaneous and pointed aggression. And frankly, many folks - men as well as women - are not comfortable brashly or boldly expressing such unfiltered emotion. Nor is it easy or natural to counter such a provocative or power-based position.
Primitive vs. Positive Aggression
Which brings me to the point of this article: raw aggression is not inherently "bad" or "mean' or "out of control." Conversely, productivity, effective leadership and successful negotiation are not absolutely contingent upon aggressively macho displays. However, being able to: a) purposefully and spontaneously summon or connect to one's raw aggression, b) handle such charged emotion and energy when challenged and, finally, c) constructively channel its conceptual and expressive shape, size and style is truly a powerful tool for both cultivating personal integrity and for influencing effective interpersonal engagement. Actually, such harnessed aggression is a vital component of "passion," whether the word refers to sensuality or sexuality, intense desire or commitment, or to it's Latin root of "suffering," as in the Passion Play, that is, the Passion of Christ or more generically the sufferings of a martyr. (Imagine all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman! Obviously there is a link between passion and some forms of aggression.)
And for me, such a vital energizing and engaging source and force that does not crossover the line from rigid obsession and/or addiction is the opposite of burnout. Alas, burnout frequently occurs when a person's identity, vitality and spirit have been consumed, if not seemingly extinguished, by one's passionate fires.
But productive passion is just one mind-body arena fired by aggressive energy. Consider these "Seven Vital Functions of Healthy Aggression":
1. Focuses Energy. Healthy aggression is part of the human species' "fight or flight" survival and coping apparatus. Spontaneous and intense physiological arousal kicks in. The adrenaline and hormonal rush is part of a pre-conscious, reptilian brain early warning system that rapidly starts assessing, seemingly reflexively, the degree to which our physical and/or psychological identity or integrity (or the security and safety of meaningful others) is threatened or challenged. However, vital (as opposed to primitive) aggression does not automatically translate into instinctive or impulsive reaction. It's a potential biochemical energy state with a heightened and somewhat deliberate focus. It momentarily reins in instinct by taking in information through the more evolved central processing center of the brain. The situational context is broadly evaluated in terms of danger (nature of the threat, amount of experience with the threat, etc.) and opportunity (strength or vulnerability of antagonist, availability of resources, etc.). This evaluative process aids further differentiation and clarification.
2. Sharpens Thinking. Healthy aggression has gone through a cognitive filtering process that clarifies the nature of the actual or perceived threat, loss or challenge. More specifically, this interactive appraisal process of environmental cues and context as well as mind-body reactions, including physiological arousal, yield interpretations that can run the gamut from mild irritation to outright fury. I have posited four broad evaluative categories or "The Four Angry 'I's"
1) Injustice. A rule of conduct, a cherished belief or instrumental goal is being threatened or abused; you see yourself (also others with whom you are psychologically dependent or connected) as a victim of an injustice, unfairness or disloyalty.
2) Injury. You feel disrespected, discarded or ignored; there's a sense of insult and humiliation along with injury - often psychological, at times also physical.
3) Invasion. You perceive your freedom, autonomy, boundary and personal space as constricted, disrupted or violated; your identity and bodily and/or psychological integrity are being threatened or attacked.
4) Intention. There is an energy and determination to do something about the above injustices, injuries and invasions; you are ready - reflexively and/or purposefully - to challenge the status quo. When you can integrate spontaneous reaction and purposeful response through constructive affective-cognitive processing and you can effectively communicate this vital state, you are demonstrating a third component of healthy aggression. Let me illustrate this function with a story.
3. Transforms Pain Into Purpose. During a workshop, a female accounting supervisor at a social service agency had been singled out for some criticism by a male casework supervisor. (Sufficient discussion and closure had not been achieved during the session.) At the follow-up meeting I attempted to reengage the parties to see if there were any hurt feelings or unresolved issues. The male supervisor acknowledged his prior, overly blaming stance. The female supervisor seemed to brush off curtly my attempt at further processing. She mostly wanted to express her day-to-day frustration at the perceived lack of cooperation from other supervisors.
After awhile, we took a break. The accounting supervisor was at the water fountain. I approached aware that some folks don't like to bring up sensitive issues in a group setting. I tactfully asked if she had any thoughts or feelings from the aforementioned encounter (and subsequent brief discussion) that she might want to share. She gave me a glaring look and then practically spit out: "Boy, you sure know how to talk things to death!"
Without warning, I had taken a blaming "You" message punch in the psychic gut, if not below the belt. After recoiling and catching my breath, I managed to say: "In addition to wanting to check in with you, I'm aware of your concerns about cooperation with peers. And how important communication can be…"
Before I could finish she tried cutting me off with a provocative, passive aggressive parting shot: "Whatever."
The Critical Moment
Hey, you can hit me once, and I may still try for some rational engagement; but you hit me twice and I'm ready to fight. No longer shocked by her hostile style, I could feel my aggressive juices starting to flow, if not to boil. I mean, in this situation what would you really like to say? For me, the "b"-word comes to mind: "You witch!" (I was always better at rhyming than spelling.) Somehow my higher power descended and I forcefully declared: "That hurts. I feel like I've been stabbed in the back."
This woman, who was pretty introvertish (an accountant remember), and not very assertive (or empathic), didn't connect her dart-throwing tendencies when feeling threatened with her difficulties with peers. Ironically, she saw herself as more passive and put upon, if not a "victim." She was in denial about her seemingly quiet yet intimidating presence.
While I confronted her with the real possibility that her cutting messages left people on edge, before completing the confrontation, I managed somehow to give her a stroke: "I don't think you realize how powerful you can be as a communicator." This was a wise move. By both confronting her "back stabbing" while providing some salve with this "positive" ego stroke, I allowed her to save some face. I finally got her attention. She was ready to hear my strong hunch that there was a real connection between her communication style and her colleagues' lack of cooperation. And in fact, she was a much more involved and constructive participant for the remainder of the session.
Closing message and moral: In a forceful or dramatic fashion ("I feel like I've been stabbed in the back") you can admit the pain of an attack ("That hurts") without projecting so-called weakness, whether in the antagonist's mind or in your own. You have not compromised your self; you have not diminished an ability to confront and potentially resolve conflict. In fact, as you've just seen, "I" message acknowledgement that resists lashing out or ranting and raving lays the groundwork for a more specific and strategic response. A conscious blend of pain, passion and purposeful aggression often affirms one's integrity, just may disarm an aggressor's style and tactics, and tends to focus goal-directed energy
And finally, having a legitimate target or objective - trying to right a wrong, overcoming a barrier or asserting your place at the table, getting back in the saddle after being knocked down, or pursuing a meaningful objective - usually strengthens personal drive and discipline.
4. Heightens Drive and Discipline. When you have a goal that you believe is obtainable and there are time constraints sharpening your focus, you tend to work harder as the deadline and goal-state nears. Positive aggression enhances this process in two ways:
a) Injecting High Octane Fuel. Vital aggression is like going to a higher-grade energy source that really fires your mind-body motor. And with greater energy and intensity, purpose and determination you really drive to your objective.
b) Limit Setting. By sharpening your focus and sense of purpose as well as your priority list, healthy aggression enhances the ability to say, "No." You establish clearer boundaries regarding essential or extraneous tasks, social diversions and time commitments. (And believe me this is a stress reliever. Remember, "A firm 'No' a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities too!")
Vital aggression is a key component of productive discipline. It provides self-clarification regarding: 1) what you won't or can't do (at least at the time of the request or demand) and 2) what you will or can do. And this heightened state of arousal and thinking helps you clearly and decisively communicate to others your constraints, choices and preferences. Vital aggression helps you stand your ground in the face of overt or covert objection or seduction, and to stay on task. This enriched fuel state not only powers you to the time-conscious end zone, but it also helps you stay focused and to persevere during that arduous, frustratingly slow and meandering (with unexpected twists, turns and trials) means to an end.
Consider these two drive and discipline mantras of healthy aggression:
- Establishing a beachhead does not mean you have conquered the island.
- Many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won.
5. Ignites Mind-Body Chemistry. I wish to return to the brief description of the "fight or flight" mechanism highlighted in Section 1, "Focuses Energy" in order to illustrate the "chicken and egg" phenomenon among perception, aggressive action and mind-body chemistry. That is, how conception stimulates arousal and action and, in addition, how heightened biochemistry influences cognition and activity. These emotional arousal-mind-behavior and behavior-emotional arousal-mind loops were captured by the renowned late 19th century American Psychologist, William James. Here's his succinct two-fold illustration:
a) Out on a hike you unexpectedly come upon a big bear. You quickly perceive the danger potential, experience fear and start running away. b) Stumbling upon a big bear you reflexively run away, triggering your awareness of fear and danger.
Though the first scenario seems more obvious, oftentimes one makes split or subconscious decisions based primarily on reflex or intuition rather than on a meditated process. For example, some times when healthy aggression is triggered you may sense a context of injustice or danger. However, you can't clearly or precisely put into words the threat, let alone evaluate the aversive situation. (The mixed message, "killing with kindness," comes to mind. While the other party is smiling and patting you on the back, you may not feel the knife, just a vague sense of being exposed or feeling put down.)
Urgent or emergency responses may require trusting your gut, at least initially. Then you can rationalize if not reason out your reaction or response. In fact, I differentiate the two based on latency and focus:
a) Reaction is immediate; a survival process based more on physiological and bodily arousal than being well thought out. Reaction is more primitive than cognitive. Reaction is focused on the environment or, for example, a threatening object (person, bear, etc.) perceived through fairly hard-wired or quick-triggered, habituated or rigid filters (e.g., subconscious memories that has one judging any male authority based on unresolved anger towards an abandoning or harshly critical father figure). You perceive danger (or humiliation, injury, etc.) and "fight' or "flee."
b) Response is more deliberate, allowing more time for information processing. While there may be some scanning of the environment, there is also an initial and significant checking in emotionally with your own psycho-physiological state: What are you feeling? What is contributing to your feeling and thoughts - a specific threat, a larger psychological context, that is, a recent negative encounter or past painful memories that still heighten emotional sensitivity and vulnerability? A response allows for an array of assessments and for more discriminating behavioral choices.
And this distinction can be demonstrated just by comparing four words. Imagine you are having a prolonged argument with a colleague. Frustrated with his or her obtuseness (or they just don't see the evident correctness of your position) you blurt out: "You're wrong." In contrast, using the same scenario, (though not indulging in mental labels of "hardheaded" or a "jerk"), you assert, "I disagree" or "I see it differently" (to call on two additional words.) The first outburst, a blaming "You"-message" reaction, is dismissive, black vs. white, and globally judgmental, especially with the added words "always" or "never." The latter responses are respectful, take personal ("I"-message) responsibility and acknowledge the existence of another perspective while affirming your own position.
6. Fires Passion. Just about all of us want some. However, be careful for what you wish. Just as there is a fine line between vision and hallucination, many have been known to fall over that seductive passionate edge into a dark hole of addiction or obsession. So how does healthy aggression fit into this double-edged passionate puzzle? Let's flesh out "passion." For Kay Redfield Jamison, John Hopkins University psychologist and noted author, passion is often a component or byproduct of "exuberance," a heightened biochemical and expansive psychological state. In her recent book, Exuberance: The Passion for Life (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), Jamison observes that, "Passion rides roughshod over hesitating judgment; it dissolves inhibitions. It provokes play and exploration of another's work…Passions bring to our attention the overlooked; they compel commitment of time and heart. They persuade by sheer dominance of the emotional and mental field…However, without a counterweight or discipline it can be dazzling scattershot: excitement without substance, all fizz and no gin. When (high spirit and unrelenting optimism) lacks a fuller emotional or intellectual context, it can become intrinsically shallow…lacking the gravitas of the tragic or heroic…not struggling with profound issues of humanity, not contending with the shadows cast by death. Exuberance is not an inward-looking state; it looks upward and forward, rarely to the past. Disquieting emotions are overpowered by excitement of the idea; the past cedes territory to the present and future."
Bipolar Passion: Provocative Pairing of Pain, Power and (Higher) Purpose
In contrast, a passion reined in with a balanced touch of light and shadow or with a sure grasp of hard-earned wisdom is less likely to fall over Jamison's metaphoric fine line - from the champagne of exuberance to the cocaine of mania. First, as we've already observed, a pain that connects past and present often fuels a passion having roots in "suffering." This sadder yet wiser, wider and deeper consciousness pursues passionate enlightenment over grandiose yet lightweight excitement.
Not surprisingly, Jamison, too, extols riotous restraint through the reconciliation of opposition: "It is the amalgam of fever and reason that genius lies. Passion kept on a loose bit serves its master far better than if it is left unbridled. Brakes are necessary; the exuberant mind must preserve the capacity to take a dispassionate measure of itself and the object of its zeal." And sometimes dispassion only emerges from a bout of or battle with depression: "Melancholy forces a slower pace, makes denial a less plausible enterprise, and constructs a ceiling of reality over skyborne ideas. It thrusts death into the mental theatre and sees to it that the salient past will be preserved."
In addition to dispassion and/or depression, channeled aggression often provides useful discipline to the spontaneous; it may help impose some order on chaos. Focused aggression may help you tune out ambient static and allow you to discover or design a small problem-solving window for entering or exiting some amorphous mass or mess. And as the ancient Roman poet, Horace, observed: "To begin is the be half done. Dare to know - start!" Perhaps one can speak of focused flights of freedom, fantasy and the fantastic. (Though sometimes the reverse applies, that is, passion transforms a too rigid or predictable order into the uproarious. For example, I recall the observation that a philosopher brings order to chaos while a comedian brings chaos to order.)
Also, as previously noted, a painful and purposeful passion infused with vital aggression often campaigns against injury, insult and invasion. And sometimes such high-powered energy comes with a light touch and an enlightened sound. Jamison captures this uncommonly rich gumbo of exuberance mixed with constructive discontent by quoting Laurence Bergreen, Louis Armstrong's biographer: "He had a distinctly American brand of optimism and striving (but) there was a power and even an edge of anger to the laughter. It was a cosmic shout of defiance, a refusal to accept the status quo, and a determination to remake the world of his childhood and by extension, the world at large as he believed it to be."
Finally, on the subject of a cacophony of contradictory moods, Jamison is an expert. In fact, Jamison has written extensively on the potentially creative impact of grappling with one biochemical-cognitive-affective paradoxical pairing - mania and melancholia. Her book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, documents the life and work styles of various prominent writers and painters who, in Jamison's mind, grappled with bipolar tendencies. Being compelled to grapple with these contrasting and labile traits and states sequentially over a period of time can be challenging, if not dangerous. However, this double-edged experience can stimulate an individual to engage with ideas and concepts in a novel and fluid manner. The definition of "wit," by the great American author and humorist, Mark Twain, (who periodically grappled with depression) comes to mind: "Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation."
And such an individual is not just expansive and surprising; his or her work often has poignancy and depth. This complex process yields an artistic creation, again according to Jamison, possessing uncommon intensity, insight and integration: Which brings us to our final segment: vital aggression's connection to courage, creativity and risk-taking.
7. Strengthens Courage and Creative Risk-Taking. Again Jamison illustrates the link between vital aggression, exuberance and courage. She quotes a young Civil War officer who responded to his sister's questions regarding how it felt "when in the hottest of battle." The officer wrote, "once he (i.e., a soldier) begins firing he becomes animated and emboldened, he forgets danger." (So too for me as a speaker. There can be 500 in the audience, but once I start firing words, and sense I'm not shooting blank stares, I'm unconsciously absorbed, flowing and flying ahead, exhilarated, only alighting to launch the audience in a stimulating, high energy and fun-filled interactive exercise.)
But let's return to the soldier's words: "The life blood hurries like a race horse through his veins, and every nerve is fully exalted…His brain is alive; thought is quick and active, and he is ten times more full of life than before." As I once forged in a post-depression, melancholia to mania, energy rebound state:
Climbing icy spires, dancing at the ledge The Phoenix only rises on the jagged edge. In a world of highs and lows Hey the cosmos ebbs and flows.
(From "Double-Edged Depression," Shrink Rap ™ Productions, 1994; email for the complete lyrics.)
Of course, there can be irreversible consequences when into ledge dancing or into a denial of death. Nonetheless, risk and aggression are inherent aspects of courage and creativity. As Pablo Picasso, one of the great artists of the 20th century, observed: Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction. One must destroy familiar ways of perceiving and behaving to see, contemplate, and design anew. Still if courageous aggression interacts with not just exuberant but more manic-like tendencies, the result may be ominous: a heightened sense of power along with exaggerated importance and possibility. And even if mania is not part of the equation, with Picasso's "act of destruction" one risks a sense of loss, whether a loss of vision, identity, direction and/or of control. Mania and melancholia are often inextricably linked. Ultimately, for creative expression, as Jamison professes, an unbroken fever is best moderated by some calculation and reason.
There's another link between aggression and depression or moodiness. Depressed individuals often bottle up angry feelings. And the energy required to stifle raw or bristling anger may well contribute to mind-body "brain strain" and drain - apathy, helplessness, pessimism and hopelessness. Yet, acting out one's anger may not be or reveal the answer. In fact, when it comes to depression or despair, all is not dark. Consider the words of Herman Melville, an author whose work, Jamison believes, is "touched with fire":
In these flashing revelations of grief's wonderful fire we see all things as they are; and though, when the electric element is gone, the shadows once more descend, and the false outline of objects again return; yet not with their former power to deceive.
As Jamison echoes: "Fluctuating moods evoke a sensitivity to the ambiguities, shadings and inconsistencies of human nature and life itself...to a first hand knowledge of man's multiplicity of selves."
And a pioneer of nature, human and otherwise, would add some frustration to this fluctuating, multiplying and potentially creative mix. To fuel an exploratory restlessness, consider a compound injection of vital aggression and dissatisfaction with excess comfort and complacency. As one of the discoverers of the DNA Double Helix, James Watson, observed: "Too much contentment necessarily leads to indolence…it is discontent with the present that leads clever minds to extend the frontiers of human imagination."
Healthy aggression not only fuels an independent and exploratory spirit, but an idiosyncratic one as well. And as Jamison notes, a highly structured and secure learning environment may be especially counterproductive for children: "Long lazy days of just 'messing about' are now filled with lessons, and games so structured as to teach little of what could be more interestingly and originally learned in wide-open roughhousing and aimless exploration."
During the early '90s I witnessed this progressive-regressive distinction while participating in a DC Artists Support Group. Several of the BFA and MFA participants, schooled in commercially successful techniques, now, as mid-life/mid-career adults, believed they had misplaced their creative soul. In contrast to a process of mentoring, a nearly three decades long, self-defined and self-designed word-artist "Path of Meandering" ("I don't know where I'm going…I just think I know how to get there!") still has my "blood charged with streams of fire" (to quote composer Hugo Wolf).
Not surprisingly, James Watson pushes even further the mental boundary: "Survival might often depend on not if we think two and two is four, but on being slightly wild. Because life is just much more complicated than when we try to organize it. And so a brain which is slightly disconnected from reality might be a good thing. I think when we do science we see that a little madness does help; and you propose bizarre things which everyone says can't be true. Conceivably what you need is sometimes to start up with a different set of facts."
Alas, people who are terribly uncomfortable with being different and/or with handling aggression - their own or others' - who fear criticism and who NEED to be liked or to indiscriminately please, will not likely leave shore, let alone rock the boat or venture out in stormy waters. Remember, Errors of judgment and design rarely consign one to a state of incompetence. They more likely reveal immaturity or inexperience, perhaps even boldness. Our so-called failures can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that over time widen and deepen the risk-taking passage. If only we can immerse ourselves in these roiling and uncertain yet ultimately regenerative waters.
Opening with the dynamics of a power struggle exercise, this article has identified seven vital functions of healthy aggression:
1) Focuses Energy
2) Sharpens Thinking
3) Transforms Pain Into Purpose
4) Heightens Drive and Discipline
5) Ignites Mind-Body Chemistry
6) Fires Passion
7) Strengthens Courage and Creative Risk-Taking
These functions are progressively organized so that one discovers how aggressive energy and thought as well as motivating pain, drive and biochemistry are transformed into a paradoxical pairing of moods, enlightened passion, courage and creativity.
As noted by oft-quoted psychologist, Kay Redfield Jamison, tapping into one's capacity for channeling adrenaline and expressing aggression, "assures the attention and quickness essential to survival; a sense of vitality provides the denial necessary to continue fighting." And this process has profound implications for both the individual and the collective. Consider these final three quotes, the first a passage from former Rough Rider and President, Teddy Roosevelt, on the centrality of courage, aggression and vital exuberance in personal action:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have…known neither victory nor defeat.
However, man or woman does not only fight alone; in the arena there are usually teammates on the field and followers in the stands, providing a natural segue captured by the 17th Century French classical author and man of letters, Francois La Rouchefoucald. Writing on the inspirational impact of passionate leadership, this pithy observer of human nature avows:
Passions are the only orators which always persuade. They are like an act of nature, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man who has some passion persuades better than the most eloquent who has none.
And finally, for K.R. Jamison the social-psychological implications are clear:
In times of adversity, inspired leadership offers energy and hope where little or none exist, gives a belief in the future to those who have lost it, and provides a unifying spirit to a splintered populace.
This essay and these closing passages have affirmed my intense interest for the subject at hand: the vital connection among aggression and passion, risk-taking and inspiration. Of course, I hope my professional and personal reflections have been both passionately eloquent and persuasive. (You've heard the old saw: "Vanity thy name is Gorkin!") In any event, here are words and ideas to help us all…Practice Safe Stress!
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, is a psychotherapist and "Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and "amazing" acclaim - from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world with Celebrity Cruise Lines. An OD/Team Building Consultant, Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior. Also, the Doc is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat." See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR). Finally, Mark is an advisor to The Bright Side ™ -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award winning mental health resource. Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com. For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-496-0865.