You’ve heard me say in previous shows that anger is a normal, healthy, and in many cases a useful emotion. While some may believe that the feeling itself is wrong or bad, it’s not. It is the way we choose to express it and use it determines if it becomes a positive force in our lives to bring about beneficial change or a destructive force which makes matters worse for us or for those around us. Anger is nothing more than a warning sign that something is wrong according to our standards and beliefs: something violates our moral code of ethics, perhaps we witness an injustice occurring, or maybe someone or something poses a threat to us or someone else, and so on. Each of these alerts us that we must take appropriate action in order to restore balance, fairness, and safety to those affected. Once we understand the purpose of the anger showing up in our life we can relinquish it and focus 100% of our energy on the solution to whatever the issue is – to correcting that which needs fixing or is not working properly.
But what if I told you that there was a way you could prevent yourself from becoming angry from the get go? Or that you could radically reduce the amount of times you get angry and the severity of it? What if there was a way to completely eliminate anger from your life altogether? But if anger is truly useful, would it even be advantageous to never feel it again? I will tell you that you can do all three: prevent, reduce, and/or eliminate anger from your life without any harmful repercussions. Here’s how P~R~E Anger works:
PREVENT: Like the flu, it makes more sense to prevent getting sick than waiting until you are infected and then seek treatment. The first step in preventing anger from manifesting is to identify your triggers. Keeping in mind that there is a significant difference between root (internal) causes and triggers (outside events or people), awareness is the first key in recognizing those situations or individuals that elicit displeasure in us. Traffic, rude people, stressful situations, political conversation, criticism and so forth can all create feelings within us that are uncomfortable, distressing, and irritating. Therefore, whenever possible, avoid your stimulants. One would never knowingly walk through poison ivy but would circumvent it if given the opportunity. Doing so is both smart and self-loving. Care enough about yourself to only allow into your life that which enriches your life.
Granted, there are certain situations and/or people that we cannot easily avoid. Your boss, mother-in-law, unexpected traffic due to heavy volume, construction or accidents, medical emergencies – these are unpredictable or inevitable experiences that for a variety of reasons we must endure. Therefore, if you cannot circumvent your triggers, create a plan of action for when they show up. Know beforehand exactly how you will deal with each should you find yourself in that position. For example, if your boss likes to discuss baseball, knowing that you both support rival teams, and he continually points out how much better his team is than yours (trying to elicit a reaction from you), plan ahead to divert the conversation to another topic, explaining to him that you will not engage in this discussion for the following reasons. Or you can simply refuse to respond when he initiates the conversation or reply with a dispassionate comment. (Ex: simply state, “OK” and move on.)
REDUCE: Since all emotions originate from our thoughts, it is actually quite simple to dramatically reduce the amount of anger we experience along with its frequency, intensity, and duration. In any given situation, we form a thought about what is occurring, how it will impact us or those around us, and how we feel about it. What determines if we are ok with what is happening or not is based on the value we assign to it. Every issue is neutral in origin. It only carries the worth that we give it. If I view rising taxes as necessary to improve the quality of my life, then I am reasonably comfortable with it. However, if I believe politicians are misappropriating funds for their own personal gains, then I become irate. A reassessment of my thought process can alleviate any anguish I am experiencing. “There are many expenses that I’m unaware of that are contributing in part to the rise in my tax bill. Some of these are certainly necessary. Perhaps only a small portion is misused.” In this example, my anger might not completely subside but will be significantly reduced.
Also, a change in one’s perception (thought process) can easily reduce the number of times one becomes upset. Rain on the weekend that interferes with our outdoor plans can easily anger even the most accommodating person. However, rather than view the weather as the culprit to a ruined weekend, one can be grateful that the rain is replenishing the water sheds as well as appreciate the opportunity to engage in a fun indoor activity instead. Our internal dialogue, what we say to ourselves, determines how a situation impacts us. Two people can have the identical experience: one is at peace with it while the other is fuming. The only difference is their perception and willingness to reassess it to find its value. Once a positive value is assigned to a person or experience, anger cannot manifest because the experience or person is seen as an affirmative opportunity or blessing. Consider that when a difference of opinion arises, it can be viewed as annoying, that the other party is attacking my integrity, my level of intelligence or authority. Or, I can view conflict as opportunity to learn new ideas or to find new ways of doing thing better. Same experience, different perception, different emotions.
Take inventory of those issues that trigger your ire. Reassess them for their importance or relevance in your life. This will reduce the frequency. Should anger arise, pay careful attention to your internal dialogue. Change your thoughts, change your words, and your feelings will automatically follow suit. The intensity and duration of your upset will significantly decline.
ELIMINATE: If it were possible to completely eliminate anger, would that be beneficial or not? Before answering that question, let’s examine if it is even probable. Knowing that anger is a symptom of a deeper rooted cause, if we could initially identify the actual emotion we are experiencing before it converts to anger, then yes, we can eliminate it completely. However, this involves constant awareness of our surroundings, what is transpiring, and how we are being affected by it. In that regard, we can monitor how each event is impacting us at various levels from onset to completion. For example, if my best friend and I are discussing our diets, of which we are each subscribed to one radically different from the other’s, and she begins to comment unfavorably about my food choices, my attentiveness to my reaction to her comments immediately dictates that I am offended by her comments as they are attacking my level of intelligence. It is insulting to infer that I am not qualified to determine on my own what works best for me. This upset clearly indicates that I am hurt by her assessment of me. If I immediately address my hurt, and heal that by reminding myself that her comments may actually be her way of expressing her love for me, then I am more comfortable with her advice, thwarting any anger that may arise from my hurt feelings.
One can also train themselves to remain emotionally detached from their surroundings. Medical personnel working in a hospital’s ER do so. When a critical patient arrives, they do not allow themselves to become distressed but rather logically assess the situation and apply the proper care. In order to provide critical treatment they must remain emotionally neutral and respond only using their logical, rational brain. This takes great awareness and restraint on their part.
SUMMARY: Is it reasonable to think that any person could be so acutely aware of their inner self that anger would never surface? I believe that we have the potential to do so. But the greater question would be is it advantageous to eliminate anger from our lives entirely? I think not as it is a powerful and important emotion that serves a distinct purpose. Therefore, my recommendation would be to practice preventing and reducing the amount, intensity, and duration of anger in your life. Get to root of it, (hurt, fear, frustration), heal it and the anger never manifests. And in doing so, you will create more space for deeper joy, happiness, and inner peace.
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