Overcoming Anger

Posted: April 29, 2011 in Psychology
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Overcoming Anger

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal
with the intent of throwing it at someone else;
you are the one getting burned.”

Anger drives everyone away from you. Nobody wants to be your next victim. It can seem like an appropriate response to anger from others, but all it will do is escalate the aggression. When the vengeance cycle is taken to the extreme, one combatant is dead and the other is in prison.

When you’ve been burned by a person or company, the appropriate response is assertiveness. A reasoned analysis of the problem can lead to a reasonable solution and preserve relationships. If you prefer to use anger, you are trying to dominate reality.

Defining the Problem

Anger is a way to protect yourself from getting hurt by doing unto others before they can do unto you. Because you choose anger as a way of dealing with the world, you find you are living in a hostile world. That’s because the first reaction a person has to anger directed at them is to be angry back.

Most anger doesn’t lead to violent action. It is limited to lashing out at others verbally and generally spreading unhappiness and hostility. When two angry people meet, there may be an actual fight because both will feed each other’s aggression.

Types of Anger

The most extreme form of anger is rage. It might seem like it’s under control if you only go into rages when nobody is arround, but how much control do you really have? Do you want to risk assaulting or killing someone? It’s not worth the guilt or prison time.

Maybe you never act on feelings of rage. Seething is suppressed rage. Since you never act out, you’re not likely to be detected. You are also not likely to get help. Nobody sees you have a problem. Bottling up your anger can create health problems too. It also makes it tough to succeed in life when you are focusing on how you’ve been hurt instead of looking at the positives. The only advantage of holding anger inside is that the world won’t be as hostile since nobody knows you’re angry.

Verbal anger is the most common form that appears in everyday life. Rages lead to jail and suppressed rage is hidden. Angry words create stress in your environment and more anger comes back at you. Where does this anger come from in the first place?

The Cause of Anger

When you are exposed to a lot of anger early in life, it can infect you. Abuse creates abusers. If you were physically abused, you would be more than just angry; you would be violent. Witnessing physical abuse or being a victim of limited physical abuse can lead to anger control issues. “Spare the rod and spoil the child”, but use the rod too much and create an angry adult.

Anger may also develop later in life. If your work causes you to associate with angry people on a regular basis, it can lead to anger management problems. Anger issues that develop later in life are easier to deal with, by changing careers, for example.

Overcoming Anger

Getting over verbal anger requires that you learn to express yourself in new ways so that you are not constantly getting angry responses. Assertiveness training many be available in your area. If not, or if you don’t want to join a group, there are many excellent books that can help. If your anger problem has developed because of your work, you can also get free of it by spending more of your off-work hours around regular people.

If your anger started in childhood, you need outside help. You may not need to see a mental health professional. The kinds of people who lead self help groups for any type of issue are usually trained to help with many kinds of personal issues. Also, don’t overlook friends who seem to be good at defusing angry situations.

To summarize, you want to get rid of unjustified anger at all costs. Replacing it with assertiveness is a good start. Logic is even better. For example, if you drive an older car, every repair may seem to come with surprise expenses. When you think about it, there’s no reason to be surprised. Older cars are full of parts with too much rust and wear. If you take an angry position, you will keep changing mechanics and never develop a good relationship with one who knows what’s been done on your car.

A final note. When you feel strong anger rising up, take a few moments, breath slowly in, and slowly out, in, and out, repeat until you calm down. With enough effort you can learn to overcome anger.

Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  1. Mike says:

    Good post, David. You show with clarity and precision that both, letting the anger running havoc, or bottling it is a destructive. So the answer seems to be to learn to channel it into constructive energy.

    The last few months I found myself often with emotions of anger and resistance. Practically, I can’t say I dealt with them to successfully – more often then not reverting to defensiveness and passive-aggressive stand.

    There is a good advice I try to work with, when dealing with criticism – ignore it’s implications on you (your ego, your professionalism, etc) and focus on the fact of the matter – on the constructive part of it. But I am far from being successful implementing it.

    How do you cope with criticism?

    • Ivan Izo says:

      I can’t think of a short answer to how I deal with criticism, so I’ll give the long one.

      Criticism is usually a result of differing values. Everything from Philosophy and Religion, through the Arts and Sciences, and down to trades and careers have value systems. Depending on which value systems we choose for ourselves we will be geniuses, idiots or somewhere in between. For example, managers focus on projects and deadlines while workers focus on quality. Until a workers learns to put their manager’s quantity goal ahead of their own quality goal, they receive criticism and get mad because they know they’re doing a good job.

      The simplest way of dealing with criticism is seeing the viewpoint the critic is using. It’s not necessary to convert to their point of view, only to see it. Then you understand the cause.

      Another example. I have a lot of religious relatives. They will criticize me based on their religion, but I’m not religious. I tell them they have a good point and change nothing. It won’t make me any happier to get mad about their criticism. They need religion to calm their fear of death and as their way to find meaning. I would rather have the freedom to decide my own meaning.

      I get my anger out by writing it out in my journal. I can rant and rage until I start to feel silly. Then I know I’ve got it out of my system and can move on to more useful writing. When I’m not feeling in a writing mood, I’ll follow the bookmark for my old entries to remove the rants, ideas that failed and to inspire me for new writing.

      The reason I recommended Heidegger is because he tries to show us how to make our own philosophies. Along the way he makes his own philosophy, but that can be ignored. We’ve been making philosophies since the first hunter-gatherer wondered, “What is the reason I exist” and then created the first primitive religion. I don’t find that Heidegger’s “Being and Time” or Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” are easy to read. A failure of clarity can’t lead to a successful philosophy.

      I may have wandered off topic a bit here and it’s time to go to work. I hope I’ve answered your question.

  2. Mike says:

    Your comment replies could be made into blog posts in their own right 🙂 Seeing the other’s system of values, and interpreting criticism as a a failure in communicating the differences in your values – that makes a lot of sense. The problem is that in the heat of the moment rational arguments tend to loose to the emotional ones.

    One thing that I do find helpful, is the mental note I have every time I get agitated: “showing my anger won’t help the situation, and it doesn’t advance the relationship. I’m nervous, bitter, etc – OK, but try to show why, try to explain yourself.”

    Another strategy that I find helpful, is sharing your feelings with your opponent. Saying “it hurts me, I feel you disregard me, etc” – that can be a strong tool for bridging the gapes in conversations and relationships.

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