Misdirected Anger

We’ve all taken our anger out on the wrong party, not to say that there is ever a right party who is deserving of our ire. It’s not uncommon to be upset with one person and misdirect it at someone or something else. Your boss has been crabby all day and continually comments on every aspect of your work. You arrived home only to be confronted by your wife who mentions that you forgot to wipe the mud off your shoes before walking across her newly mopped floor. You blow up at her, then storm off into the den. Sound familiar? Or perhaps you’re on the receiving end of such anger, as was the above-mentioned wife. Doesn’t feel very good, does it?

Most of us have grown accustomed to this type of behavior although few recognize when it occurs and those who do are unwilling to tolerate it. We rightly become defensive when being targeted and sometimes retaliate with a threatening remark or gesture. But aggression never neutralizes hostility. While we may be sympathetic to the fact that the other party is stressed or doesn’t mean to be hurtful, their behavior is entirely objectionable. But why does it happen?

The primary reason we misdirect anger is that few of us live in a state of constant mindfulness. We’re distracted by our day-to-day responsibilities and the mundane activities that take place around us. We pay little attention to external stimuli and how it is impacting us on an inner conscious level. In each experience I form both a thought and feeling whether consciously or unconsciously. Feelings dictate behavior and those emotions that I am not purposely aware of have just as much impact on how I act (perhaps even more) as are those I am attentive to. A situation that occurs today can trigger residual anger from earlier in the day, last week, or twenty years ago. There is no time frame that dictates when a repressed emotion will resurface.

How can an individual intercept displaced anger? If you are the offending party consider the following:
• After an upsetting incident occurs, stop for a moment and examine what transpired.
• Acknowledge your anger. Trace it back to one or more of the root causes (hurt, fear, frustration), address and heal them.
• Take notice of who was present, what occurred, and what was said or implied.
• Check your perception: is it fair and accurate or is it in need of an adjustment?
• How important is this issue? Does it need to be addressed with the appropriate party or can you let it go? Choose one and act upon it.
• Extract the value and lessons, utilizing them to enrich your life.
• Accept and be at peace with whatever the outcome is.

In this way, you can prevent anger from resurfacing inappropriately at a later date. If however, you have already inadvertently taken your indignation out on an innocent party, stop, take a moment to identify the real source of your ire, and quickly make amends with the targeted subject.

If you are on the receiving end of misdirected anger:
• Be mindful of what is occurring.
• Don’t take personal offense to what the other person is saying or doing.
• Set and enforce clear and reasonable boundaries with the offending party.
• If so inclined, ask questions to gain clarity on what the real issue is: “What’s really bothering you? Who was involved? How do you want to handle this (act upon it or accept it as is)? Can I be of assistance in any way?”
• Put the issue to rest permanently.

No one, under any circumstances, has a right to be hurtful towards another. Pay careful attention to how life’s circumstances are affecting you, address issues promptly, internally resolve and heal them, and return to the peaceful existence that is your natural birth right. When given the option to be angry or kind, always choose kindness. It repays huge dividends.

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