Welcome to Day 10 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.] I hope you find this information helpful.
Ever wake up in a bad mood and with no distinct reason why? Ever snap at a spouse or criticize your child in a voice that is less than controlled? Did that moment of frustration grow ever larger until you felt your insides boiling?
Disagreements. Conflicts. Misunderstandings. Hostilities. Prejudice. Discrimination. Violence. War. Anger is everywhere. The constant media makes it appear, whether it’s true or not, as if there is more anger now than ever before.
One thing is certain…there are more people than ever before. But there’s always been anger. Anger has fought all the wars. All the Crusades. It’s oppressed and enslaved entire populations. Anger has taken out vengeance on countless others. It’s brought destruction upon the world. Yet, anger may have a great – and positive – role.
Anger isn’t just a simple on-off switch. One can be disappointed, annoyed, or frustrated, yet not bitter, seething, or enraged. Understanding the significant differences in levels of anger is not only helpful to adults, but perhaps in some ways more so to children who are just learning to handle emotions for the first time. Anger is also a message.
We know anger stems from the flight or flight reaction, whereby our autonomic nervous system releases the adrenaline type hormones of epinephrine and norepinephrine in response to a perceived threat to our survival. It’s a hard-wired instinctual response that, when used properly in a circumstance where the chance of survival is at stake, can indeed be a key in survival. But in usual circumstances of daily life for most people, it can be the equivalent of employing rocket fuel to boil an egg.
Mark Twain, author and observer extraordinaire of the human condition, once said,
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
But is all anger harmful? After all, anger is an emotion. Emotions are intrinsic to all of us. Anger, however, is not a primary emotion. For example, when a small child is having a temper tantrum or a teen lashes out at a teacher or other adult, anger isn’t the core component. Anger is the wayward expression of a deeper emotion. These deeper and more primary emotions in part include fear, guilt, sadness, grief, hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and injustice. Sometimes anger is directed outward, but many times it is inwardly directed towards self.
Anger has been called by a number of people “an energy”, a phrasing made popular in 1986 by the song Rise by Johnny Lydon and Public Image Ltd. There may be much truth to this. Anger can, if channeled by constructive means into progress, and via problem solving and the recognition of the underlying emotions responsible, be a major force of change. We have seen this in large scale in the battle for women’s rights, civil rights, and a variety of other causes. 2014 Nobel Prize winner, Kailash Satyarthi, a powerful children’s rights activist, discusses how peace can be achieved through anger in this TED.com video.
An unfortunate side effect of society’s distaste for anger is that children, beginning in early childhood, learn that anger is not an acceptable emotion. For most people, this attitude against anger continues throughout adulthood. The problem with this approach is that what results is a poor understanding on how to control anger in a healthy way (by not repressing it), and a deficiency in properly expressing the primary emotions underlying anger.
The repression of anger is indeed like the Mark Twain quote mentioned earlier. Many studies have cited the many ill-health effects of repressed anger. These in part include high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, digestive issues, depression, insomnia, headaches and migraines, chronic pain, fatigue, and skin rashes. Anger, when unchecked, may also lead to criminal acts, violent acts and abuse, job losses, school problems, substance abuse, relationship issues, and accidents.
So what is the best approach to anger?
Several steps I propose include:
FIRST…DON’T MIRROR ANGER: Emotions are a social behavior, seen not just in humans, but also in all mammals. Smile and others smile. Yawn and others yawn. The same is true of anger. Do not allow anger in others to provoke anger in you, and vice versa.
PATIENCE: Typically we hear the mantra of “count to ten” or “take three breaths”. There is much wisdom in doing so. The short pause helps to collect thoughts and allow us to become more in touch with inner emotions and the significance of the situation.
UNDERSTANDING: This entails both an understanding of self, and one’s primary emotions, as well as an understanding of the other person or persons. The specific situation. Their underlying concerns and emotions. Especially in a family, it is important to freely be able to verbally express concerns with accuracy and honesty. Having a working vocabulary of emotions can translate to better relationship management outside of the family.
COMPASSION: Merriam-Webster defines compassion as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” This directly refers to the idea of first understanding the other’s emotions, and then taking the step further to relieve that distress.
FORGIVENESS: We cannot hold onto past grievances or hold one up to past behaviors and expect change. We can’t generalize behaviors and attitudes of groups and nations. It isn’t uncommon to fall into old patterns of behavior when confronted with seemingly similar situations. Only calm communication can clarify the underlying emotions involved in any difficult situation.
OPTIMISM: To be able to fully move forward from anger, we need to be able to see a horizon where there is hope for change. Stories of POWs, held for years by captors, yet able to not just survive but also to move forward without anger are a testament to the power of optimism and hope. Not seeing beyond the past to a better and more positive future will not vanquish anger nor provide a means to progress.
PURPOSE: With anger there is often a feeling of helplessness. People in this position feel defeated and depressed. They cannot see opportunities nor can they see a resolution in their situation. Finding that purpose and utilizing optimism to regain sense of hope can release them from anger’s hold.
NOTE: If you feel you cannot control your anger on your own, or find a loved one cannot do this for himself or herself, please seek the advice and help offered by mental health specialists who can teach techniques and provide therapy to bring you and/or your loved ones to a place of peace and hope. Should you feel unsafe in an anger-fueled situation or relationship, immediately seek shelter and request help.
Additionally, there is a technique proven to help not just anger, but anxiety, depression, and focus, as well as contributing to our well-being and resulting in positive health effects. That technique is meditation. Biochemistry-trained Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has a brilliant TED.com video on The Habits of Happiness.
Until tomorrow, I leave you with this…
[You can enjoy all the daily posts from the #30PostsHathSept bloggers HERE]