Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted.
Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world”
From road rage to kids taking guns to school, evidence of open anger in our society is everywhere. We find ourselves seeing what was until now the stuff of action films becoming reality all around us. Our very laws are changing to include treating children as criminal adults, given the awful consequences of their rage.
We don’t acknowledge that anger itself is worthy of our attention. We know we must deal with violence and physical abuse, but don’t acknowledge the everyday verbal abuse and emotional violence that tears into people’s self worth and their very souls.
Somehow we avoid mentioning how angry we are. Many of us are so accustomed to being proper that we do not even feel anger rising in us, until illness or explosion result.
After taking years of mental abuse most of which was aimed at my appearance. I can’t tell you what it feels like to be scrutinized on a daily basis to panic over gaining 10lbs . The way it was done was always with a disappointing comment. I think the one that scarred me the most was ” You can’t expect me to be as attracted to you as I am to girls younger than you”. It was that comment that killed something inside of me. When it finally ended, and all of the lies he told me for years came out, when I saw his true colors and looked a sociopath in the face for the first time…My rage and anger showed itself for the first time in my life. I smacked him several times in the face as well as spit in his face. I believe I kicked him in the ass as well. All the while hoping he would hit me back so I could really unleash my rage. These are not things I am proud of and it does not make it right, but I also do not regret it either.
In our society, anger has generally been frowned upon. Many religious models teach us to turn the other cheek. Different cultures teach and accept varying degrees of expression of anger. Men and women may have different levels of comfort with this emotion. The result is that many of us suppress anger and others find our expressions of anger out of control.
The truth is there is nothing wrong with anger. Anger is a natural response to perceived injustice, threat or humiliation, and is born of the feeling that we want something for ourselves that we cannot have. In its best incarnation, anger can promote social change. Think of the moral outrages in our history. Where would we be today if not for the rage of the American colonists, the anti-Nazi activists, the Civil Rights Movement?
Yet anger can be uncomfortable to live with, in ourselves or others. It can get us into trouble. We can be identified by others as hard to get along with. Anger can destroy important relationships. It can lead to abusiveness, either emotional or physical.
We see anger every day. We see executives angry with bosses who don’t appreciate them and who wind up in their doctors offices with back pain, headaches, gastrointestinal pain, sleeplessness or chest pain. We see spouses who are long suffering of their partners and who deal with their anger through affairs, health problems, parent-child difficulties, staying at the office or overspending.
We see people who have grown up with such anger in their primary relationships that they have shut down their feelings, and have no emotional response for their spouses or children. We see men and women who have had physical or emotional abuse rob them of their self esteem. We see people who live by the short fuse, costing them respect, relationships and jobs.
We need to learn to manage anger in different ways. How can we deal with anger constructively?
The first step in managing anger is to recognize it. What cues or clues can you use to identify your hidden anger? Sometimes its a good idea to keep a journal, to identify and record feelings in particular situations.
Learning to evaluate your anger within the context of the situation allows you to reason with yourself before responding. Ask yourself: Is the perceived threat or injustice real or am I reacting for some other reason? How important is the problem? Do I have a constructive response right now? If not, I won’t act until I think of one.
Taking a break can be an effective response when you do not have a constructive response. By removing yourself from the situation that is making your blood boil, you give yourself time to cool down. When you cannot physically remove yourself try distracting yourself, deep breathing, meditation or saying “stop” to yourself.
Learn to talk about your anger. Some people spew words or become verbally abusive, rarely talking about the real cause of the anger. Others don’t have words to describe the anger and tension they feel. Being able to talk or write about the anger stops it from continuing to churn in your mind or body. Hearing or seeing the words can give you the distance to respond more constructively.
Learn to listen to a full paragraph before you respond. Many people who anger quickly don’t want to hear, so they jump on the first thing said. You may be absolutely right in your opinion, but you lose nothing by listening to the other view. You may gain some understanding, and your blood pressure will thank you.
Learn to negotiate. In our personal lives, everyone loses in dead end arguments. In business, it is desirable to create a win-win situation. Whether in business or personal life, learning to go beyond black and white thinking, paying attention to what someone else needs, and thinking outside the box are required for good faith negotiation.
Rest, Recharge, Self Soothe. People who are tired, ill or feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work or life can easily fall into angry reactions. When you are at the low end of your battery you lack capacity to deal creatively with difficult situations. If you are not ready to deal with things now, don’t. Simply state when you feel you will be up to it. Find healthy habits to help you!
Learn how to impact intimidation when you can be reasonable but must deal with a verbal abuser a condescending jerk or a rage-aholic. Once you have discovered techniques to insulate yourself from the wrath, you can be very clear about what you will and will not tolerate. Be assertive, not aggressive. State your needs clearly and politely with some acknowledgment of the other’s viewpoint.
If you have a problem controlling your anger on a daily basis, working with a therapist, counselor can help you develop specific strategies for managing anger more constructively. Working in a group can give you the support and honest feed back of individuals wrestling with similar problems. Whatever route you choose, remember learning new anger strategies and making
them part of your life take patience and practice. As for me, weight training is my release.