Budhha had once correctly stated that holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, but you are the one who gets burned.
So what is anger?
Anger is a basic human feeling that is as natural as other feelings, such as happiness, sadness, joy, etc.
Most of the time it is seen as destructive or threatening to oneself and others as well. This is because history has been a witness, in the fit of anger rulers have attacked other kingdoms only to watch their own fall back to dust.
The reason why there is a build up of anger is due to two factors:
- One is due to your unexpressed feelings, thoughts, beliefs, etc. upon some topic. This keeps getting built up.
- The next are the environmental factors, such as some triggers in the immediate environment.
For example, your partner refuses to communicate with you upon matters that are important to you.
He shrugs it off every time you try to bring it to their notice. Now you would feel bad that they are doing so, but you fail to communicate that verbally.
The result then is that one day when he laughs off the same topic, you are bound to burst out and get angry at him.
So is anger always bad?
Anger is not always seen as a bad emotion especially in regards to expressing your concern with standing up for yourself or the rights of others.
For eg, to say that the anger of African Americans during the time they were treated incorrectly solely upon their race, would be a stupid thing to assume.
This form of anger is channelized in an acceptable way that it shall be used to benefit not only yourself (for standing against unjust treatment) but also others.
As Maya Angelou once correctly pointed out,
‘If you’re not angry then you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry. And you use that anger, yes. You write it You paint it. You dance it. You march it, You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it’
Thus this kind of anger was used as a form of expression, not as a force of destruction.
When does anger become dangerous?
Anger can be dangerous when it hinders you from expressing what you want to, ie, it stops you from expressing your discontent or dislike. When you feel you are holding yourself too much from speaking about something, as seen in the example above.
Think of a balloon, and the air you fill in it are the unexpressed thoughts and feelings. The more you are unable to express it, the more you are filling this balloon with air until it bursts by its capacity to intake that much air.
Anger can also become dangerous if:
- If you find yourself getting into constant arguments or getting irritated with your partner, your family, friends, or office peers.
- You are getting carried away by your impulses, ie, a small argument and you lose your temper.
- Every time you feel frustrated about some situation or yourself, you tend to indulge in acts that could harm you or people near you.
- You are unable to express your real feelings and this is making you feel very angry inside.
The reason why unexpressed anger can be a major cause of worry is that, if anger is left inside and not expressed in a healthy way, then there is a major chance you could be a threat to yourself and others.
Anger also leads to higher levels of hypertension, high blood pressure, and an increase in getting cardiovascular diseases.
This is especially true for people who are unable to express their anger. People whose jobs are too stressful, for example, military personnel, bankers, health professionals, etc do complain how they are unable to express their anger in an appropriate manner.
As a Chinese Proverb has correctly mentioned, if you are patient in one moment of anger then you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.
So let’s look at ways in which you can let go of your anger/deal with your anger in the correct form.
Try to indulge in some physical Activity :
This is the first thing you might have heard people say or do, every time they feel angry or feel a build of anger.
Catharsis has indeed found it to be helpful to relieve you of symptoms of anger if you are looking for a short-term solution. But if you wish to let go of your anger, slowly, and find a way to deal with it effectively, then start exercising.
Do not immediately wear your running shoes and start running or take part in boxing classes. Take on a physical activity which you would enjoy as well.
Research has shown that running or even doing some kind of physical activity that would make you sweat or would exhaust you, will help you relieve symptoms of build-up.
If you are not a serious runner or jogger, then you can try some home exercises, such as a few sit-ups, planks, crunches, etc.
Express, Suppress and be calm:
This is the universally accepted way of dealing with anger. It means that one should be assertive in the way one communicates their feelings. You do not have to be passive or too aggressive about it, rather be assertive.
An example would be, suppose you are out for an office party and everyone in your circle is drinking and you know that you do not drink.
So when your colleague offers you a drink:
A passive reply would be, “Well, I don’t drink, but no worries, I will give it a try.
An aggressive response would be, “I don’t drink, why are you offering this to me!?
An assertive one would be, “No, thank you, I do not drink”
The reason why this technique will help you is that if you are unable to voice your disagreement, you would resort to passive aggressiveness or would start acting in a hostile manner. Thus it is always better to be clear about what you want.
Suppressing means that you hold on to the anger that you would currently be feeling and then release it healthily or reasonably, rather than lashing out immediately.
Lastly, when you can assertively express your anger and can suppress it, and then channelize it in a better direction you will experience a feeling of calm.
This means that you cannot only manage the way you react to external objects but it also means that you can regulate your internal way of looking at things that angers you.
Retreat, Rethink and then React.
We cannot direct the wind while we are sailing, but we can adjust our sails, according to the winds. In the same way, we know that there are some things that people do that would make us angry, but that does not mean we have a right to hurt them or hurt ourselves too in the process.
Thus, we can always make readjustments in the way we react whenever we are getting angry.
So the next time you feel you are getting angry,
Take a few steps back and stop doing whatever you would be doing. The reason why you need to retreat is so that you can calm yourself a bit and not make some impulsive mistake out of anger.
It’s always okay to take some time and get yourself away from the situation so that you can rethink a better way to deal with the same situation.
And then when you have found a better plan or way to deal with the situation you react.
“Whenever there is anger there is some pain underneath”
Identify what you feel angry about because maybe there is something that has hurt you or that keeps troubling you, you can do so by asking yourself a question.
Here are a few ideal questions to help you.
- What made me angry in the first place? (identify the trigger points)
- Who is this person that made me angry? (identify the person, people attached)
- Why am I angry? (identify the cause/ root )
- What do I do about this anger building up in me? (come up with some actual solution to deal with it)
- Where can I channelize my anger? (exercising, running, exhausting yourself)
Plan your Strategy:
Now the answers that you will get for the above-mentioned question, will help you focus on letting go of the anger that you have been holding.
For eg, let’s say you realized that every time you are back from the office, tired, your wife makes it a point to start cribbing about how she starts immediately cribbing about how shitty that boss of hers is. You are already tired and worked up with your own work-life.
So, you will either tell her to shut up or ignore her. This will damage your relationship in the long term and also hurts your wife’s sentiments.
Instead, next time you feel the same way she is cribbing about her work life, ask her to pause, and kindly tell her you would like to quickly freshen yourself up. This way you are then ready for her rant. In this way, you will buy yourself some time to retreat and rethink and then react to your trigger points.
Learn some relaxation techniques:
Whenever you are feeling angry, it is very easy to lose your calm and this makes you also vulnerable to rapid heart palpitations, increased uneasiness, etc.
You can thus use some relaxation techniques which can be as easy as breathing with intent or focus.
During fits of anger, it is very natural to go away with our impulses and do something that we would later regret.
Thus, next time you feel yourself getting a bit agitated or feel the anger building up, try to pause, and take a deep breath.
Then hold that breath for seven seconds. Slowly let it out and feel yourself feeling a bit light.
The reason for holding it and not releasing it immediately is because, when you count those seven seconds by the use of your fingertips or even mentally counting them, you shall divert your mind. This will help you relax and be present in the moment.
So, a stoic philosopher would suggest that the correct way to deal with feelings of anger is to count the alphabets rapidly and focus on each letter. Continue to do this until you feel your mind has been off the topic that angered you.
The idea is that you should take your mind or remove yourself physically away from the situation, or person that triggers you.
Lastly, the American Psychological Association advises that the correct way to deal or let go of anger is to get out of the current environment one would be restricted in or would be adding more to your anger.
Try to engage in some of the above-mentioned relaxation techniques, make use of your free time to breathe with some focus if you cannot meditate or are unable to, watch something funny and try to laugh as hard as you can!
For laughter is indeed the best medicine.