Anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. Everyone has times of being happy, sad, frustrated, horny (yes, even your kids and parents), and angry. Anger is neither good nor bad, but is merely an emotional state of being. Anger, like pain, is a warning that something is wrong.
You may not enjoy the feeling of pain, but imagine what life would be like if you lacked this important warning system. Have you ever accidentally put your hand on a hot stove? What happened next? You pulled it away FAST. Had you not felt pain, you might have left your hand on the stove until it burned to ashes. I’m glad to feel pain, as it’s one method my body uses to keep me safe.
Anger, like pain, helps give you a warning when something is wrong. You feel anger when someone or something is violating your beliefs, or shoulds. Suppose I believe that you should arrive at a certain time and you arrive late. I may be telling myself “you should have been here on time, you made me angry.”
Wait, you know better than that. Others don’t control your emotions. Here is the reworded thought. “I’m feeling angry because I expected you to be here on time. I dislike waiting but I chose to wait for you. I made that choice and have no need to blame you for my feelings.” There are some people who have numerous expectations for others and get angry easily. Other people are more likely to “go with the flow,” and find that the less “shoulds” and “musts” that they have for others, the less likely they are to feel angry.
It is necessary to deal with your anger as it arises. When you are feeling angry, you need to stop and identify your “shoulds” that are being violated and rephrase your thinking. There are people who push their anger inside themselves, deny feeling angry, and instead, do things that hurt themselves such as engaging in addictions. When you feel yourself becoming angry, instead of pushing it inside yourself, it’s important to go back to your emotion chart on the previous page and take a detour.
Learning to control your strong emotions such as anger will take practice, and will be an ongoing project. In order to reduce anger, you need to learn to stop feeding your anger by continuing to chew on it over and over again, like a cow chewing it’s cud. You also need to learn to identify your feelings of being violated, and face them openly, rather than through practicing addictive behaviors. You may have irrational belief systems about how you expect others to behave. Examining your beliefs will help you decide which feelings of anger are warning signs of danger, and which ones are irrational ideas that you are putting onto others.
Road Rage: An Example of Displaced Anger and Use of Humor.
Hurry-up Henry believed that he owned the road. He hated to wait in traffic, and became enraged when other cars cut in front of him. If he had a bad morning, or was running late, he felt he had “the right” to lean on his horn, give hand signs out the window, and tailgate any car that “cut me off.” By the time Henry arrived to work, he was exhausted and suffering from a serious headache. His doctor told him that his blood pressure was dangerously high and he needed to learn to calm down.
Henry examined his “shoulds” and realized he held a belief that when he had a bad morning, other drivers “should” get out of his way, they “should” be careful and polite drivers, and no one “should ever” cut in front of him. He wanted other drivers to recognize and respect his bad mood. Henry began to realize that he wasn’t in control of other drivers, and they would never meet his expectations. Henry (who tended to see himself as superior, although he had many serious problems) began to think of the other drivers as monkeys.
“You can’t expect a monkey to be a good driver.” Henry explained. “Since the road is filled with monkey drivers, I get into my car with the thought in his mind that I can’t expect anything from the other drivers. I am responsible for being extra careful because you never know what those monkey drivers will do. Other drivers are not worth getting upset over.”
When Henry had a problem at home, he learned to resolve the problem rather than express it on the road. Henry found that he arrived to work in a calmer mood and his days went much smoother when he drove carefully and avoided fights. When Henry changed his beliefs, he also decreased his anger and learned to manage his road rage. He was happier as he learned to deal with his problems directly, using humor rather than acting them out while driving. Henry’s doctor was pleased to inform him that his blood pressure had gone down to normal.