I’ve had many clients over the years request my help in teaching them how to control their tempers. “I lose my temper and afterwards feel terrible. I don’t want to do this anymore. I need to learn how to control my temper.” My response to them is this, “If you lose your keys you seek to find them. If you lose your job you hope to be rehired or to acquire a new job. However, not everything that you lose needs to be found, your temper being a perfect example. Some things are better left ‘unfound’. So if you lose it, lose it for good.” It’s not difficult to do but there are a few things one must know such as why people really get angry.
In its most basic sense:
1. Anger is an indication of unmet needs. Each of us has basic human requirements necessary for our very survival. Without such essentials as clean water, fresh air, basic housing (or protection from the elements), food, love, safety, etc. one is at risk for all sorts of issues that could potentially harm them. Our basic safety and well-being is a God-given right.
Keep in mind that as an adult, I am responsible for securing each of my basic needs. While I may ask for assistance from time-to-time, understand that those I seek help from have a right to deny me. In that case, it is wise to have a backup plan in place so that I am not without that which I need to survive. Here’s an example: if I am hungry, I can ask my husband to make me a sandwich. But he’s watching his favorite TV show and turns down my request. I can become irate or get up and make myself something to eat. If my child wants a new car and asks me to purchase it for them I have every right to refuse and suggest that they get a job to pay for it.
Once my needs have been secured, I am content and anger-free. It is important to take into account the necessity of patience (not everything we desire will manifest immediately). Determination, resourcefulness, and commitment are all necessary to achieve our greatest accomplishments. Exercising each will ensure success.
Let me also distinguish between our authentic needs and whimsical desires. Needs are essential to our very being; desires are the frivolous extras that we want but are not absolutely necessary. Being able to differentiate between them will save a lot of angst in getting one’s needs satisfied. It will help you to: a) identify your true needs, and b) determine what steps are necessary to acquire them. Focusing on the solution prevents the unfortunate loss of temper.
2. We often put unnecessary or unrealistic expectations on ourselves, others, the world in general or even on God. It is critical to examine what and how much we demand of the people in our lives and assess if we are being fair and reasonable. Each circumstance and person involved must be examined individually so that we do not inadvertently require the same from each person. Age, level of intelligence, abilities, motivation, and other factors must all be taken into account. To expect that every employee at my company perform to the exact same standards is unfair. Some have more ability and interest than others; others have more time or resources available to them. One size does not fit all in any circumstance. Expecting more than what is reasonable in each situation creates unnecessary stress and frustration. And when our demands are not met, our tempers rise to the occasion in an attempt to manipulate the change we are seeking.
Be aware, too, of when others are putting demands on us. Be certain that you are ok with them and willing and able to fulfill them. If not, speak up and make the necessary adjustments. Failure to do so leads to feeling controlled, disrespected, pressured, devalued, and so on, leading to an angry eruption of emotions.
3. Perception plays an even greater role in determining anger than reality does. A driver who cuts me off on the highway can be perceived as rude and arrogant. Or, one can imagine that they were preoccupied with a serious family matter and simply weren’t paying attention. Our perception, how we choose to view others, a situation, or life in general – our basic thought process – actually determines whether we will become irate or be understanding. I recall when I was a teenager having a friend who’s father bought a car for each of the children except my friend. He erupted one night saying to his father “You never loved me – that’s why I never got a car!” Although the father denied it, this young man’s beliefs (perceptions) led him to an angry outburst.
Those who view life from a deprivation consciousness, one of deficiency or lack, are more likely to lose their tempers than those who live from a perspective of gratitude. The have’s and the have not’s: one chooses to see life as one of limited resources, opportunities, money, happiness, success, etc. and believes they must fight tooth and nail to get their rightful share. Tempers fuel their actions. While those who look for reasons to be grateful, who live in a constant state or appreciation, see the abundant blessings around them and celebrate each gift that enters their life and find value in that which is not longer available to them. One compares their life to others and is consumed with jealousy and fear. The other trusts that life is balanced and what is meant to enter, or exit, their lives will. They are at peace with what is.
4. Be thoughtful. Too often we fail to consider how the other party might feel should we rage on them. It is never ok to hurt another with one’s words nor be rude or disrespectful. It is perfectly acceptable to verbally express one’s anger towards the other person but one must always do so with the utmost care and thoughtfulness. Keep in mind that your behavior is a reflection of you. Tempers are not typically admired and neither is the one who releases them. Remember the old adage: Your reputation precedes you. Create a reputation that is consistently favorable and it will serve you well in all areas of your life.
In conclusion: being able to identify your needs and seeking ways to fulfill them, through readjusting your expectations and the demands you place on yourself, others, the world, and God to what is more reasonable, and in changing your perception from one of negativity and deprivation to one of gratitude and blessings, enables you to lose your tempers once and for all. You will be infinitely happier and so will those whom you have contact with. So, stop searching for your temper once you’ve lost it. It is better off unfound.
Proverbs 29:22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
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