It’s hard to avoid getting angry. Even those who are relatively easy going find themselves irate from time to time. At the most inopportune moments, anger can rear its ugly head and create all sorts of havoc in our lives. Consider these examples:
You’ve been under extraordinary amounts of stress lately and your daughter is late coming home from a date. As she walks in the door, you blow up at her, screaming that she’s grounded for a month.
You open your latest property tax bill only to find that there’s been a major increase. You call the town and lash out at the receptionist telling her that the government is corrupt and you’re not going to give them any more of your hard earned money.
In a discussion on social media, it becomes apparent that you, a passionate vegan, do not share the same beliefs as a “friend” who loves a good steak on the grill. You get into a heated argument resulting in you calling her a hater and killer, powerful words meant to demean and sting.
Anger is a messenger that alerts us to the fact that what is occurring is wrong, according to our beliefs and standards. Perhaps we are being treated unfairly or we perceive that someone is in danger.
Anger provides for us the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments in order to right an inequity. We can correct that which violates our principles, restore justice to a discriminatory situation, or perhaps redirect the course of an occurrence in order to prevent any harm from befalling us or others. In any event, anger like any other emotion, is not inherently bad or wrong. Every feeling has a purpose and understanding what that is, is critical to knowing how to utilize it in a positive and constructive way. Good anger is beneficial and results in positive changes for all those concerned. It finds solutions, uplifts, protects, corrects, enhances, and enriches lives. Bad anger, on the other hand, makes matters worse for the one with the ire as well as those who are subject to its effects. It can cause physical, emotional and/or psychological pain, intimidate, instill fear, damage relationships, cause the destruction of property, send people to jail, destroy lives, and even kill.
Following few simple steps can ensure that the anger you experience will always be of the good variety.
BA: Bad anger; GA: Good anger
Postpone expressing yourself until you’ve calmed down. We’ve all learned by now that when we are highly emotional we run the risk of saying something offensive or doing something foolish that will only exacerbate matters. Give yourself enough time to calm down, cool off, think about what the real issues are, and the best way to discuss them. (Refer to the SWaT Strategy in The Secret Side of Anger)
Ex: Your neighbor’s children ride their bikes on your lawn even though you’ve asked them several times not to.
BA: You are livid and want to go next door immediately and berate the parents, telling them that their kids are unruly and that if they were good parents they would teach their kids to respect other people’s property. You then want to demand that they pay for the damages done to your lawn and threaten them with a lawsuit if they don’t.
GA: However, by giving yourself time to consider the real issues here, you determine that this is not necessarily an issue of bad parenting. Your real concern is the continued financial burden and time expended correcting the ongoing damage done by the children. The real issues, then, are your time and money. Having clearly identified them, you are now able to discuss those issues only, leaving any volatile comments about your neighbor’s parenting abilities out of the discussion. In this regard, you can hopefully preserve a respectful relationship with them.
State what you’re angry about and why. We think that we have a right, and that it’s best, to verbally express our anger. Some people sincerely try to find an appropriate way of doing so. However, if you look closely, to express anger means to verbally or physically let it out; to actually be angry. Anger typically appears as yelling, cursing, criticism, sarcasm, hitting, throwing things, and/or punching. It can also take a more subtle, passive/aggressive guise such as excluding someone or giving them the silent treatment.
BA: “I can’t believe you broke my favorite lamp! My grandmother gave it to me and it’s irreplaceable. You have no respect for my personal property! I knew I couldn’t trust you! If I broke something of yours you’d be furious!”
GA: “I’m really upset that my antique lamp got broken. It was given to me by my grandmother and can never be replaced.”
In the second example, you explained your anger, you don’t express it nor attack or blame the responsible party. This thwarts the need for the other person to defend themselves against and allows the encounter to remain civil. In this regard, you open the door to finding solutions instead of arguing.
Evaluate for fairness. Ask yourself, “Am I being fair and reasonable in this situation?” Taking a moment and evaluating your circumstances prevents you from making a foolish or possibly deadly error in judgment. It also enables you to evaluate what truly matters. Is this situation really that serious? Is it worthy of your anger? Are you blowing things out of proportion?
BA: “If you don’t eat all of your peas I’m throwing away your bike!” a frustrated mother screams at her six-year old.
GA: Mom re evaluates the situation. “Tommy is a pretty good eater but he really does hate peas. I could give him string beans instead. He’ll eat those will less fuss. As long as he eats some veggies I’m happy.” Problem solved and everyone’s happy.
In taking a moment to reassess our position , we have the opportunity to better know ourselves, to analyze our priorities, to reassess our values. There may be some postures in need of minor adjustments; others that need to be discarded completely. A moment of contemplation can be very enlightening and as a result we evolve to a higher awareness of the self and life in general. On every level, this is a significant benefit.
Separate the issue from the individual, the problem from the person. How many people can consciously separate being angry about an issue rather than with the individual?
BA: “Our family reunion is today. I’ve worked for a year planning this and now it’s raining. I told you not to have it in April, the rainiest month of the year. But, no, you wouldn’t listen to me. You are so selfish and controlling! You ruined the entire day!”
GA: “I can’t believe it – it’s raining and we have sixty people coming over for our annual family reunion. I had a feeling this was going to happen. This is going to be a disaster if we don’t act quickly. We all need to make some phone calls to see if we can rent some tents or a local VFW hall.”
In this instance, even though the couple clearly had different ideas as to when to host such a large gathering, the wife fully understood that even though she disagreed with her husband’s choice of dates, she did concede to his way. Taking responsibility for her decision, anger directed at her spouse would be unjust. In this moment, she was angry over the situation – the fact that her hopes for a sunny day were dashed by precipitation. She did not blame or attack her husband; she attacked the problem not the person.
Contemplate this: the next time you get angry, take your favorite object in your house and smash in on the floor. When you have calmed down, re evaluate your actions. Feel the regret for having damaged something valuable that was not responsible for how you felt. Now, imagine taking your anger out on another and causing them harm. Like the object, they are not liable for your feelings yet they suffered the consequences of your wrath. There is no justification in your actions.
Make matters right. Put forth 100% of your efforts into making matters better. After accurately identifying the issue behind the rage, concentrating on finding a solution, on fixing what is broken or does not work, on correcting an injustice or restoring fairness to a situation. By doing so, you are creating positive change in a negative environment that will benefit all parties.
BA: For a long time, there has been one member at work who does not do their share. You continually pick up the slack for them. “Enough is enough. From now on, I’m going to do the bare minimum, just like my coworker. If they can lax then so can I.”
GA: “I need to address this issue with them and hopefully get it resolved. If that doesn’t work, I’ll bring it to the attention of my supervisor. In any event, I take pride in doing my job well and will continue to do so. However, I will no longer do theirs for them.”
In the second response, you have chosen to use your anger to try and rectify an impropriety. Regardless of the outcome, you do not allow your circumstances to cause you to lower your standards. You resolve to rise above and be pleased with who you are at all times.
No one needs to fear anger nor deny it should it arise. Anger can be beneficial if you understand why it has appeared and what you need to do with it. Keep in mind the following suggestions:
~Postpone expressing yourself until you’ve calmed down.
~State what you’re angry about and why.
~Evaluate for fairness.
~Separate the issue from the individual.
~Make matters right.
Now that you’ve done that, go ahead and get good and angry.
Q: “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
― Ambrose Bierce
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