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This post is for those people who get angry often and want to do something about it. I have had a problem with getting angry since as long as I can remember. The number and frequency of these incidents has gone down a lot but hasn’t disappeared totally. Below is what I make of this problem and the steps I have taken to reduce it.
The stages of anger
I think that there are certain stages associated with anger.
1. Rejecting the present moment. First there is some incident that I don’t find pleasant. I don’t believe that the incident itself triggers my anger. It all depends on how I respond to what is happening in that moment.
I believe that the present moment is all that there is in life. There is no past or future, they are constructs in our minds. Whatever there is, is in this moment, whatever we can do or feel, is in this moment. This moment can take different forms but this is all there ever is. We like some forms of it while we don’t like the others. But regardless of our feelings, we have no escape from the reality of the present moment. There is no running away from it. There is accepting it, there is molding it, there is playing with it, there is flowing along with it, but there is no running away from it.
When we deny the present moment, we face anger. The problem starts when we dislike what is happening in the present moment. I am not saying we should not try to change it to do what we want, that would mean we never try to do anything in our lives. I am saying we have to accept what is happening, before we can change it. Accept the present moment for whatever it is, only then can you bring abut change.
2. Anger. Second stage flows automatically when we deny the present moment. We feel mad at being in an unwanted situation. We think, ‘How can this happen? I did not want this, I did not cause this. How can this happen to me?’ Intense anger results. This leads to the next stage.
3. Pride. Even more dangerous! You start out to fix the situation. Anger is your motivation. Pride is pulling you to change the situation to suit your tastes. Full of adrenalin, you take some action. I don’t know about you, but I have never been really proud of any action taken in anger. Nothing good ever came of it. Usually I ended up doing something that took me to the next stage.
4. Guilt. The adrenalin has passed by now and you can’t believe it all happened. You are in shock. You are, in fact, still in denial of the moment. Then comes realization and guilt. Why did I act that way? What was I thinking? Usually, the situation that caused all this looks insignificant compared to what you did in response to it.
Not one of these stages feels good. You are left with a miserable feeling.
Here is what I think can help
1. Accept the present moment for whatever it is. This one is obvious. Denial of Now is falsehood, it is denial of truth. Accept what is happening. ‘This can’t be happening to me’ is a total lie. It is happening to you. Face it.
Accept the situation for what it is. Accept that you did not like what happened. Feel the emotion of anger and accept that you have it. A lot of people feel guilty about there anger or get angry on their anger which makes it a self feeding negative emotion. But there is another, better way to look at it. See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. When you are angry and you accept this, you can look at yourself when you are in this negative emotion. When you are not focused on denying it or feeling bad about it, you free yourself to face the reasons that are causing it. Once you realize and accept the reasons, you can work at removing them.
Such a situation is also a test of all your years of character development. They take your test and give your report card right away. You get to know where you stand as far as handling uncomfortable situation goes.
2. Use mental chanting . Do this to keep your cool. Say something to yourself like, ‘Everything is OK, everything is good’. Keep the phrase short and keep repeating it. Feel it as you repeat it in your mind. This will help you more if you do it often. It’s good to do it daily to strongly associate the feeling of calm and control with your phrase. I just say, ‘All is well’ and thump my chest lightly as I do it. When something uncomfortable happens and I do it, I automatically start feeling calm and in control.
It is like adding a reservoir of positivity to a phrase. The phrase repays you with all it has, when you need it.
3. Avoid action. I call this acting in the safe mode . Think of what you can do to distance yourself from the unpleasantness. If you can do with just doing nothing for sometime, do nothing. Don’t act under intense emotions. Cool yourself down first.
If no action is immediately necessary, just try to detach from the situation and observe your feelings. Accept and realize that you are feeling angry. This automatically starts dissipating the anger. You start seeing the futility of the emotion.
If action is necessary, do the minimum possible to get away from the situation and get away as quickly as possible. Do whatever you have to do with humility instead of pride.
4. Avoid negative situations. If you see that certain situations that you get into are negative and constantly cause you stress and anger, avoid them. Ex. You are in the company of quarrelsome friends who get into a fight everyday. You get mad during these fights. If you can see that this is an inherently negative situation, you can make pre emptive efforts to avoid it(avoid being with such friends or motivating them to mend their ways) and, hence, avoid getting angry. Consciously reject such negative situations.
5. Seek out stressful situations. Does it seem contrary to the last point? Notice that I used ‘stressful’ here instead of ‘negative’ in the last one. If you find certain situations stressful, but there is nothing inherently bad in them, you can reduce the associated stress by consciously seeking them out in small doses. If you get angry while discussing your philosophy, consciously get into small discussions on philosophy, with the primary aim of maintaining your cool. As you get more in control, increase these doses. Keep it mild in the beginning and increase difficulty as you go along.
6. Meditation. Meditation is also a pre emptive action. It has so many benefits. If you do it regularly, even for 5 minutes a day, it gives you a peaceful and calm countenance. You are more in control of your emotions and you find it easier to detach and observe your anger in a bad situation.
Should you not think about solving the situation? You should, but with a clam mind. If you think of solutions when your mind is agitated, you are going to act to satisfy your pride, not to solve the situation.
Accepting the present moment is very powerful, more than most people think. Even if you screw up badly and are in the guilt phase, accepting the moment and your feelings in this moment, will help you improve this moment. Guilt will go when you are focusing on the present. this is because you are not dwelling in the past and the mistake you made then, you are accepting the lesson.
Accept full responsibility for your life and all your experiences. If you are feeling angry, you are responsible for it. Don’t blame it on others. If others are responsible, they will have to do something to make you feel better, they can make you feel angry by doing certain things. If you believe this, you give away power. The truth is, you are in total control of your emotions and life. Others can only affect you if you let them. You have the sole power of removing this unpleasantness from your life and making it as beautiful as you want it to be.