A couple of years ago, for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, I came to the conclusion that I had a problem with anger. I realised that anger was an emotion that I was feeling on a regular, if not daily, basis and even more concerning was that until that point I hadn’t even been fully aware that this was the case.
These days anger is a rarity for me. And rather than a negative character trait, the purpose anger now plays in my life is to serve as a warning sign that for whatever reason I am not looking after myself properly in that moment.
You might think that this is a strange thing to say when so often anger can appear to be caused by other people’s actions or events beyond our control. But for me the number one rule of taking responsibility for myself always applies.
I’ll give you some examples:
- If I find myself getting angry during my daily commute, perhaps because someone is taking up too much legroom, the chances are I’m angry because I haven’t calmly and politely asked the person to move up a little. A couple of years ago I would have sighed and seethed with frustration at the person rather than clearly and politely stating my need. These days I do the latter and nine times out of 10 it’s met with an accommodating response. If it’s not then I get up and move.
- If I find myself getting angry with a friend or family member for giving me advice that I haven’t asked for, I know it’s because I haven’t set a boundary and told them that ‘I’ve got it covered thanks’ and stated kindly that I’m not in any need of advice right now.
- Or If I start getting angry and frustrated after or during a meeting at work, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s because I haven’t said what I wanted or needed to say.
I could go on but I hope I’ve made my point. Taking responsibility for my own wants and needs means that it’s rare that I have any reason to get angry. When I examined the instances from my past when I would feel consumed by anger or frustration, nearly always it was because I wasn’t speaking my truth or making sure that I was being clear to myself and others about what I wanted and needed in any given situation.
What I did back then was suffer the situation and then bemoan it afterwards. The futility of this seems so obvious when I write it down but I see people behaving like this all the time and on the odd occasion I still do it! Now and again if somebody starts to complain to me about someone or something they are not happy about I ask them whether or not they have told the person in question how they feel or done something to rectify the situation. These questions are often met with surprise and more often than not the answer is ‘no I haven’t.’
If I feel angry with a person or situation I ask myself the same question. Then I stop and I ask myself what I need. Sometimes it’s as simple as more sleep, food, a break or a kind word for myself and if I can’t figure out why I’m feeling irritated then I give myself a quick reminder of all that I have to be grateful for. That soon puts a smile back on my face.
“For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I watch people on a regular basis go about their lives mindlessly displaying anger to their fellow humans and I feel grateful that I no longer do that. I spent years tutting, sighing, huffing and ranting without even realising all the precious time I was wasting doing so.
This kind of mindless anger is probably more prevalent in big cities like London because people are often stressed, busy and in a rush but I’ve learnt that displaying anger or feeling angry doesn’t solve anything, it definitely doesn’t make the train go faster and in fact it will just leave you feeling worse.
Taking responsibility for your own welfare and comfort is the best way I know to secure your own happiness. As Leo Tolstoy said: “If you make it a habit not to blame others, you will feel the growth of the ability to love in your soul, and you will see the growth of goodness in your life.”
For the next few days I challenge you to conduct an anger audit in your life. This means really being aware of when you feel animosity, frustration or anger towards others or about events that occur in your day-to-day life. When you notice it happening do the following three things.
- Ask yourself ‘Is this something I can change or not?’
- If the answer is yes then change it! If the answer is no then let it go.
- Show some compassion first to yourself and then for the person you’re feeling angry towards. When I watch people snapping and sniping at each other on public transport, more often than not the person who appears to be the initial cause of the anger is merely an innocent bystander. For example the person who shouts ‘don’t push me!’ to the person being pushed by ten other people.
“There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” ~ Plato
Please comment below with your thoughts or techniques for dealing with anger, I’d love to hear them. Also, if you like the post, do me a favour and re-tweet it, like it, or share it on Facebook. Thank you.