Let me start by saying that anger is completely normal and natural. It's also completely OK to feel anger even when you are a happy person. The trouble comes in when anger gets out of control and starts affecting our happy state of being.
ANGER IS A GOOD THING
Yes, you read that heading correctly. Anger is a good thing. If we did not have anger, it is likely that humankind would never have made any sort of progress in this world. Without anger nothing would change. Anger is a catalyst for change, as it is when enough of us get angry at a situation that we force change. One of the most notable examples here in America is, of course, the Revolutionary War. When enough people got angry at the way the colonies were being treated, they came together and fought back, and from that sprouted the United States of America.
When we allow anger to propel us into considered action, it is a positive thing. Anger is a problem when we let it build, when we let it fester, when we misdirect it or we let it control our thoughts, words and actions to the detriment of ourselves or others. it is a problem when we react irrationally or express it destructively. It's also a problem when we allow it to affect our state of mind; when it becomes the default state in our minds.
ANGER AND THE EGO
There are many conversations we can have about anger and its benefits and drawbacks both on a personal and global level. However, today it is all about you and how anger may be one of the things holding you back from experiencing true happiness.
You may say that you don't get angry that often, or that when you do get angry, it passes and you're fine. Really, you're fine. The thing is, that if you do not acknowledge your anger as it is happening, or if you do not deal with the problem that is causing you the anger, it will keep asserting itself until you take action. Anger is the ego's way of telling you that something is out of sync with its needs.
When someone cuts us off in traffic for instance, our ego shouts "How DARE you?". It is a sense of injustice that someone forced themselves in front of you. Your mind perceives it as a physical threat and your ego perceives it as an affront to its importance.
You can deal with this by laying on your horn and shouting obscenities, neither of which will really make you feel any better, you can choose to tailgate them so they know you are displeaseed OR...you can just let it go. After all, in the end, no one was hurt and it is at least possible that the person just failed to see you there; that it wasn't intentional.
How do we let it go though? You're really steamed. That person could have caused an accident. You could have been hurt. Maybe your kids are in the car and THEY could have been hurt. It could have damaged your car, made you late for wherever you are going, inconvenienced you! You feel compelled to respond. However, most of the responses we may choose to make in that situation are probably irrational and out of proportion to the actual damage done, which quite frankly is none. Literally no one was actually hurt.
ANGER AND HAPPINESS
Anger left unacknowledged or honored is going to fester and grow. Each incident is a pebble, each adding to the pile until it is a mountain that is virtually unconquerable. This is how anger affects your happiness; your contentment. So, how do we deal with the pebbles before they become a mountain?
1. Acknowledge that you are angry.
The very first step is to acknowledge that you are angry. Allow yourself to let the emotion just be a part of you momentarily. Feel the heat that comes to your face. Feel the rush of adrenaline.
2. Analyze the anger.
Try to determine the real reasons for your angry reaction. If you were cut off, it is likely that you were startled and felt fearful for a moment. It may also be that you felt it was an injustice. After all, you were there first; they should have to wait like everyone else. Recognizing the reasons you got angry in this situation will help you to start to manifest different reactions when similar situations pop up.
3. Honor the anger.
Once you have acknowledged that the incident caused you to feel anger, honor the anger by accepting that it is a rational response to a perceived threat. Thank yourself for the alert; that you appreciate the quick warning of danger.
Let yourself be more than your ego. There are hundreds of reasons that person may have cut you off. The odds that they did it simply to inconvenience or endanger you are next to none. Maybe they are rushing to the hospital because a loved one has been hurt. Maybe they were avoiding a collision with another vehicle you didn't notice. Maybe they are just a jerk. Honestly, you will never know. Whatever the reason, it is done and by not forgiving them, you are letting the anger fester inside of you when they have already put the incident out of their minds.
5. Express gratitude.
For instance, if you got angry because you felt fearful, train your ego to be grateful that you have this response that allows you to take preventative measures to avoid physical harm. You were able to tap your breaks and successfully create a safe distance again without causing harm to you or others. How awesome is it that you have such great reflexes? Don't forget to write about your gratitude in your journal!
6. Let it go.
Now that you have acknowledged and honored the anger, take stock of your surroundings and understand that the threat no longer exists. Assure yourself that you will remain vigilant for similar threats and that it's OK to return to a content and calm state. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel the tension and heat leave your body.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The above 6 steps do not require an hour of meditation. They can be done and should be done immediately and can take just seconds. Practice these steps for every situation where you find yourself getting angry. With enough practice, you will train your mind to follow these steps on auto pilot. This doesn't mean that you will never be angry, but it will ensure that you deal with your anger in a healthy and productive way. Your happiness will thank you for it.
There are other situations that can cause a more deep seated anger, but those things are better explored individually in future posts. Understand for now that most situations in which you are feeling angry can be dealt with in the steps I described above. Making sure that you are addressing these feelings is going to help ensure that you are keeping your happiness a focus of your life.
Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash