Aristotle said “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.”
I was having lunch with my best female friend. We were eating lunch talking about our respective personal growth when she said:
“I still get angry.”
Without really thinking about it I blurted out: “People are always afraid or ashamed of their anger. “Anger is a very helpful emotion. What’s not helpful is violence.”
To my surprise and pride, she pulled out her digital device and said. “I want to write that down. That’s important!”
What the hell was I speaking about?
Well, it’s true. God or Nature or whoever or whatever designed humans gave us the emotion of anger for a reason. Anger has the potential to help us function well in the world.
So what is anger’s function and how can I use it to my best advantage?
Anger is there to give us a warning that danger may be present. Notice I said it may be present. It’s a signal to check. That’s the key. We need to check as soon as the anger develops. And that’s where anger can be a problem. Often we are not as in touch with our emotions as is ideal. So by the time we become aware of our anger it has built to a point where it is very tough to control. And that’s when it can do great harm to ourselves and to others.
So, the key to using anger in a positive way is to be aware of our anger as soon as it starts to be present in our bodies. That way we can take action immediately to lower the danger or the pain that is causing the anger.
Anger is our early warning system that something is wrong and that we need to take actions to deal with the problem that has triggered the anger.
Actions to deal with our anger can be:
- Going inside and asking ourselves: “what is irritating about the present circumstance I’m in and then adjusting in some way.
- Moving away from a noise that is bothering me
- Asking our partner for clarification of some action that she or he is taking that is irritating us.
- Framing my judgment(s) about the irritating circumstance in a way that lowers my negative feelings about that circumstance.
That last bullet: Reframing my judgment(s) is tough.
The Dalai Lama has co-written a series of books called The Art of Happiness. In these, he stresses that anger is the enemy of happiness. So, it is important to minimize the negative aspect of anger by dealing with the cause of the anger. He speaks at great length about the benefits of compassion as a way to avoid feeling anger. Compassion for self and others is a key to re-framing our negative judgments in a way that moves us away from anger towards understanding and acceptance.
That’s the subject of a full article of its own.
But, how can I become aware of my anger as soon as it develops? Here is one way to improve your “anger early warning system”:
The next time you are angry notice everything you can about how you felt as you got angry. Even if you blew up, take a minute as soon as possible and think back to what sensations you felt inside your body that could warn you that anger is developing:
- Many people feel pain around the back of their neck or shoulders when they are angry.
- Others get tightness in their throat.
- Still others get fluttering in their stomach.
- Others feel a tightness around their temples.
The key is to be aware of these or other physical sensations and then to check to see if they are, in fact a sign that something is annoying you. Soon, you’ll be able to use these physical sensations inside your own body as an early warning system that you are getting angry.
Dealing with anger requires that we become aware that we am becoming angry, identifying what we are irritated by and then taking actions to alleviate the irritation.
And the key to using anger as the signal it was designed to be is to be aware of our emotions at all times.
1. Be aware that you are angry as soon as you become angry.
2. As soon as you are aware of your anger act in a way that will lower your
irritation by either:
a. Acting gently to change the circumstance that is irritating to you (e.g. through a conversation or some other non-violent action; or
b. Changing your judgment about that circumstance in a way that removes the source of the pain or sense that you’re in danger.
By following the steps above you will be harnessing the benefits of anger while lowering its negative effects.
Bruce Rosove is a Certified Career and Relationships Coach as well as a Certified Emotional Fitness Coach and Coach Instructor. He has studied Non-Violent Communication under Marshall Rosenberg, is certified in Neuro Linguistic Programming, and has level one training in Inner Journey Facilitation. Bruce can be reached at: 613 233 8013 email: Bruce.Rosove@Rogers.com Blog: http://ThisMakesMeHappy.wordpress.com/