A lot of us may have heard that anger is not a good thing and one shouldn’t get angry. That’s ideal really. However, since we do get angry once in a while, it might be worthwhile to focus on how to deal with this emotion if and when it occurs. Not getting angry is good. However, knowing how to deal with anger when we experience it may be important too.
Firstly – do you talk to yourself when you are angry?
What’s important about that you may ask? Talking to others or doing something in a moment of anger may not be helpful as we may land up saying or doing things that we may regret later. And once you get yourself into an emotion, ignoring it might not be a feasible option as well. Engaging with anger may have counter-productive effects. Howver, addressing anger might be helpful. To address it, you alone can help yourself.
Asking yourself questions like the below gives a sense of perspective by keeping you at a healthy distance from the situation:
– What am I angry about?
– How would I want to address it or deal with it?
Secondly, do you want to address the person, the behavior or the situation? If it is the situation, can you change it? If yes, what can you do? If no, how can you work around it? One of the two is almost always possible.
For example, let’s take a situation – if there’s heavy traffic, you may not be able to make it disappear but you can certainly do something else to keep yourself in a positive state like playing music or talking to someone you’ve been wanting to.
If it is the behavior, what is it about the behavior that you are particularly upset with? One is the actual behavior as demonstrated. The other is the meaning that you have attached to a behavior. For example: if I tell my friend, “you don’t care about me anymore” – I am not specific about any behavior here. I am only referring to my perceptions. What might help is if I say, “Hey, you did not respond to any of my calls last week”. This way of stating a specific behavior, usually escapes resistance as we are stating facts and not attaching meanings or interpretations to behaviors. It also leaves room for the other person to explain or apologize as they may feel appropriate.
If it is the person you want to address, talking about their behavior usually addresses them. Think about it – what is it that you are angry with a person for? It is either a particular behavior or the lack of it. There is pretty much nothing else that one could possibly be angry about. However, sometimes when we club the behavior or action with the person and try addressing them together, the way we express changes. If we say “you aren’t a caring person” or “you are an irresponsible person” – it straightaway refers to the identity of the person. In our attempt to criticize the deed, we actually criticize the doer. The focus shifts from behavior to the person and it may not be a respectful way of expressing ourselves. It is labeling someone based on our perception. It may invite defensiveness and may also get the other person to move into a negative space.
Above all of this, the most important question to ask is – Is there something about yourself that you’d want to look into – Something in you that may be causing the anger? And how would you want to address that? Looking outward can give you a short-term solution. If we look within, we could find a long time solution.
Taking a few seconds to talk to ourselves and ask what is important in this situation, the person or anger – will help us deal with anger in a more productive way. It also saves us the unnecessary guilt trips that usually follow our actions in moments of anger. Anger is a momentary feeling and we need not let a momentary feeling negatively impact our life and our relationships. So, if a few minutes of self-talk can guide us to effectively deal with this emotion, why not? Besides, there are no dependencies in this. You are always with yourself and you can influence your actions the way you choose. Even anger, if expressed effectively, can be productive. For that to happen, we must be clear on who is controlling what. Is the anger controlling you or are you controlling the anger? And the answer lies within.