"Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one" – Benjamin Franklin
Once upon a time, a manager of a small company was driving home after a stressful day at work when suddenly, out of nowhere, a reckless driver overtook him at a tight corner bumping the side of his car.
The manager, angry, yelled at him "watch it, crazy man!", but when the reckless driver zoomed off without even uttering a word of apology, he thought to himself, "I can't let him get away with that".
So he gripped his steering wheel tightly and pushed down on the pedals; his body mobilized to fight, his heart pounding and beads of sweat on his forehead, as the muscles on his face scowl, he chased after the restless driver. "I can't let him get away with this”, he repeated to himself.
However, in the course of chasing the reckless driver, he started driving recklessly himself and other drivers started honking at him. This fueled his anger further as he honked back, yelled at them, and pressed the pedal even harder.
The car engine roared, as it kept accelerating, and accelerating; while the self-righteous monologue in the manager's head kept reinforcing the anger that he felt, now putting everyone else around him in danger.
That is a typical illustration of how anger builds.
"Anger is related to the “fight, flight, or freeze” response of the sympathetic nervous system; it prepares humans to fight. But fighting doesn't necessarily mean throwing punches. It might motivate communities to combat injustice by changing laws or enforcing new norms."
Anger is an emotion, and like every other emotion comes with an impulse to act.
It is worthy to note that the feeling of anger as an emotion is normal, healthy, and neither good nor bad. And like every other emotion, anger conveys a message, informing you that a situation is upsetting, unjust, or threatening.
But, while it's normal to feel or get angry when you think that you have been treated unfairly and incorrectly, it becomes a problem when you express yourself in a way that is dangerous to yourself and those around you.
Some things that can trigger or lead to anger include:
Just to mention a few.
Surely, not every time someone is angry will lead to the destruction of lives and property, yet every anger expressed in an unhealthy manner causes some issues.
Anger, if not properly expressed or managed can lead to serious problems both in physical health and mental health. It also comes with social consequences. We’d briefly examine these categorically.
Before we look at how best we can manage anger, let first of all crush some myths about how to control anger.
Psychologist Diana Tice found that venting anger is one of the worst ways to cool down: outbursts of rage typically pump up the emotional brain's arousal, leaving the people feeling angrier, not less.
It's true that you may not be able to control what makes you angry or how you feel about it, but you certainly can control how you express that anger. You can communicate what you feel without being abusive (verbal or physical wise).
Now that we’ve moved that out of the way, below are some practical ways you can overcome anger problems
Being aware of your mood and emotions is a great way to slow anger at its birthing stage. The ability to identify the anger that you are feeling is the first step to gaining some control over the emotion.
Due to the self-righteous monologue that goes on and on within us when we are angry, we may fail to respond rationally. However, watching other people's reactions helps us realize when we are overreacting.
Let's assume the manager could think for a moment that, the reckless driver in our story, was late for an emergency meeting, or was rushing his 8 year old kid to the hospital, he would be more supportive than enraged.
So when we try to see things from the perspective of other people, we tend to soothe the rage burning within. Maybe they have other issues, they are in a rush, or maybe they are just going through something and not worth our anger.
Anger rides on anger, the more you dwell on it, the more anger it triggers. Remember that the self-righteous inner monologue fills the mind with the most convincing argument for anger, and so the anger grows even further.
Stop the monologue. kill the inner monologue going on with you. Try to cool down by listening to your favorite music or working out, or do some yoga to relax your muscles.
It is advisable to cool off by waiting out the adrenal surge in a setting where there are not likely to be further triggers of rage. Walk away from the trigger (what made you angry) and look out for distractions. Go for long walks and engage in relaxation exercises and activities.
When anger becomes chronic, please visit a therapist.
A Tibetan teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, was asked how best to handle anger, he replied,
"Don't suppress it. But don't act on it".
The truth is that there is no way around never feeling anger, so we need not to feel bad (ashamed or guilty about it); however, we must learn to control it. If we can learn to identify and control it – rather than deny, or let it spin out of control – then we would be free from its dangers, whilst benefiting from the message it sends us.