Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to break a habit? Whether it’s biting your fingernails, the way you speak, or your reaction to drivers who cut you off on the highway, old habits die hard. The reason being is that behaviors, when repeated frequently enough, become habitual. We no longer consciously think about what we are doing or saying. We react rather than intentionally respond to a person or situation.
So it is with anger. Anger is not a bad emotion. All emotions are messengers that provide valuable insight into our nature and personal issues. Anger, when channeled properly, can actually motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. Many laws have been passed in response to angry citizens outraged over an injustice. In the case of a loving parent gently trying to guide their drug-addicted teen back to the road of sobriety, they reach their breaking point and erupt in anger, issuing an ultimatum. “I’ve had enough! Either you get into rehab immediately or I’m done with you!” Their response to anger erupts out of feelings of desperation. For others, rage is an automatic reaction to an uncomfortable situation.
The first key to amending a habit and facilitating change is awareness. Without the wherewithal to identify what is not working, one is powerless to transform themselves. When asked, “Why are you angry?” or “Why did you react that way?” most people I’ve met answer, “I don’t know.” If they don’t know why then modifying the situation is impossible or, at best, hit and miss. (I use hit figuratively – hitting is not good. So please don’t do it.)
Below are a series of short questions designed to help you clarify what, when, and why you get angry. By answering these questions each time you get upset, you will discover deeper insights in each situation and the self. Generally speaking, individuals will begin to see a pattern emerge. Once acknowledged, the individual can take their new-found awareness and purposefully choose alternative responses.
Think about a scenario in which you typically respond with anger. Recreate it in your head as best you can. Then take a few moments and answer the following questions. Do so each time a situation or person triggers anger in you. Once you begin to see a pattern emerge, you’ll be better prepared to either avoid the trigger if possible or choose a more appropriate and affirming response.
Thirteen Quick Questions for Clarity:
o What is occurring?
o Who is present?
o What is being said/implied?
o Is my perception of this person/situation fair?
o What have I said/done to contribute to the situation? What is the other party responsible for?
o What time of day is it?
o Where am I? (location)
o What am I really feeling? (root cause – hurt, fear, frustration)
o What do I need? What am I expecting?
o Is this need/expectation realistic?
o How important is this issue really?
o How can I get my needs met? (this is my responsibility)
o What lessons have I learned from this experience?
This process should take no more than about five minutes each time you engage in it. That’s a very small and inexpensive price to pay to gain the awareness you need to reduce the anger in your life and allow peace to flourish. Remember, awareness is key. Without it, you are doomed to a life of mediocrity and suffering. You can transform your life from angry outbursts to peaceful responses. In this case, thirteen can prove to be your lucky number.
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