If you’ve read my book, The Secret Side o f Anger, or attended one of my lectures on the topic, you know that while there are thousands of events that can trigger anger, there are actually only three root causes: hurt, fear, and frustration. In any given circumstance, you can trace anger back to one or more of these causes. For the purpose of today’s show, I’ve going to cover seven erroneous belief systems and/or behaviors that fuel our outrage, how we can relinquish them, and what we will gain by doing so.
1. Limiting or inaccurate beliefs: It’s not uncommon to make statements such as “It’s impossible” or “I can’t do that.” In doing so, we are putting constraints on life’s possibilities and restricting our chances for success. Beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” erode our self-esteem and lead to a life of depression and failure. Feelings of hopelessness (the very definition of anger) and frustration (a root cause) lead to anger, outrage, and despair.
Gain: A positive outlook allows for unlimited possibilities and fuels desire, hope, and effort. Excitement, determination, and accomplishment replace hopelessness, self-loathing, and anger. Self-confidence rises out of our continued successes.
2. Complaining: By its very nature, the act of finding fault with a situation or person focuses on the negative. Our expectations of how things should be or how another should act have not met our standards. Negative thoughts can only lead to negative feelings such as disgust, disillusionment, and anger. Gratitude is the antidote to criticizing.
Gain: Finding something, anything, to be grateful for enables one to see the goodness and benefits that surround them. In that way, one experiences joyfulness and gratitude rather than disdain.
3. Need to be right: Like kerosene to a flame, the need to be right is a guaranteed accelerant of anger. Rooted in low self-esteem, one needs to prove their level of intelligence, their worthiness, and/or superiority over another in order to feel good about themselves and to maintain a particular image in front of others. When two parties disagree, needing to prove one’s authority over the other will invariably end in a fight. Disagreements do not necessarily equate to issues of right or wrong but may instead indicate a person’s preferences or opinions. Work on strengthening how you feel about yourself and the need to be right will vanish.
Gain: This one simple shift will dramatically improve the quality of your relationships as others begin to feel more comfortable in your presence. Your confidence enables you to be more open-minded and relaxed while enjoying the other person’s company more. The possibility of offending or alienating the other person is dramatically reduced.
4. Control: The need to control is based in fear. It’s normal and healthy to be concerned about how one’s life progresses as we all worry about our own well-being. In any situation, we try to create the outcome that will be best for us (and others if possible).The one who has greater control appears to have greater influence on the outcome. One lacks trust in the natural progression of life or in the capabilities of others. The need to have a predetermined result leads to anxiety and worry, underlying causes of anger.
Gain: Letting go and allowing life to unfold naturally means having faith and trust in one’s ability to adapt to their changing circumstances. Additionally, it illustrates a faith in God that what is meant to enter or exit our lives is always for our higher good. Relinquishing control makes way for a relaxed and peaceful approach to life.
5. Judgment: We are typically harsh in our assessment of others. We form critical opinions that create a hierarchy of value among us. Judgments are formed through the practice of comparisons: we compare others with ourselves or with what we consider to be normal or acceptable. We fail to allow for individual circumstances, personality traits, beliefs, abilities, etc. Judging creates tension in relationships on every level. Negative and unkind thoughts about others lead to resentment, anger, disgust, and so on. Replacing judgment with understanding allows one to be more compassionate and supportive.
Gain: One immediately gains self-respect when they choose to no longer criticize or compare others. Allowing each person to navigate their own life in their own time and way reduces stress and arrogance within the critic as they become more compassionate and kinder beings. One’s reputation for being non-judgmental serves them well in every aspect of their life. Additionally, personal relationships become less confrontational and more enjoyable.
6. Resistance to change: Many people don’t like change because along with change comes the fear of the unknown. It’s not actually the uncertainty that people are afraid of but more specifically how they will be affected by it. When change is forced upon them they seek to maintain the status quo and become angry and resentful at the thought of someone forcing something upon them. Even necessary variations can cause anxiety and fear, underlying causes of anger. Accepting that change is both necessary and beneficial can help alleviate one’s fears. Building self-confidence, the belief in one’s abilities to thrive in any new circumstance, is empowering and freeing.
Gain: The more accepting one is concerning any of life’s conditions the less effort is expended in resistance, anger, bitterness, and fear. One is free to live a relaxed life eager and willing to face every new adventure life has to offer. A spirit of courage and enthusiastic anticipation allows for joyful living.
7. Blame: People are often eager to hold others accountable for any unfavorable events that occur. They blame others for how they feel, the poor choices they’ve made, and the sad condition of their lives. Blame renders one powerless as it transfers authority to another. If someone else is responsible for the condition of my life then that indicates that I have no power or control over myself. That is simply not true. I have intellect, free will, and choice. While I may not be able to fully control what occurs around me, I always have control over how I respond to it, perceive it, use it, and allow it to affect my life. Personal responsibility is where our personal power lies. Blame implies one is powerless (another definition of anger) and that invariable leads to distrust, bitterness, resentment, and self-pity.
Gain: Those who take full ownership for their feelings, choices, and life in general definitely feel stronger and more effective. They understand that they have full authority to change whatever is not working for them. In this way, their determination and perseverance will eventually provide the kind of life they are seeking.
When you give up each of the above mentioned behaviors, you will discover that there is greater ease to living, an improvement in most relationships, a greater sense of gratitude and joy in life, higher levels of self-esteem and confidence, and a new-found respect for one’s self. But the greatest gain in this process is inner peace. This is by far the most precious gift one can acquire in life. For without inner peace, nothing else truly matters.
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