The multifaceted emotion: Be angry, but peaceful
By Savina Akoumianaki
What is anger?
Anger is a normal reaction to certain stimuli and in some amount may be a necessary part of life. But anger can also be an aggressive, self-destructive reaction and lead to extreme behaviors. We experience anger when we feel that someone or something is wrong and/or unfair. Anger can be caused by both external and internal factors. You may get angry at a specific person or a situation or even because of problems you identify within yourself.
Have you noticed…
• Others – or perhaps yourself – becoming uncontrollably angry due to small, unimportant triggers like the traffic light not turning green? In these cases the reasons for anger are much deeper than the things that trigger it. The sources of intense tantrums or losing self-control are usually sequels to traumas from our past that have hurt us in similar ways. They show that we have been unable to manage our anger effectively in the past.
• Yourself or others getting extremely anxious and impatient, for example interrupting other people due to an inability to wait and listen? This is also very common among angry people, as their minds are full of simmering thoughts that they can’t stop.
• People who complain all the time and don’t seem to be able to see both sides of a situation?
• Those who can’t forgive and are obsessed with revenge?
• People who are oversensitive and snap at the slightest annoyance or provocation?
• People who lack empathy? Sometimes we think so much about our own anger or are so burnt out due to angry thoughts that we can only think of ourselves, making us cynical, cold and uncaring.
What can I do?
We have all felt, feel or will feel anger. It is a part of life. But how can we manage this feeling so that we don’t hurt others or ourselves? It is healthy to express our anger, but only in a non-aggressive way. Keeping our anger inside without expressing our feelings can lead to many problems. It is not uncommon to hear individuals referred to as “aggressive”, “passive aggressive”, “cynical” or “cold”. What is often the case with such individuals is that they haven’t learned how to express or communicate their anger in a healthy way. Some go to the opposite extreme, ignoring the source of their anger and attempting to only think positive thoughts that are unrelated to what is making them angry. This isn’t helpful either because it can lead to self-destructive behavior and depression, leaving their anger unresolved and ready to resurface. In order to healthily manage our anger it is necessary to know what we really want and how to achieve it without hurting anyone. This means respecting others and respecting ourselves. How can we learn to do this? For starters it can be helpful to try and look at things logically instead of emotionally. Our emotional and logical sides are both very helpful, but when emotions take over we lose balance.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Studies have shown that if anger is not dealt with it can gradually lead to more anger and aggression, which do not help us to resolve our problems. The best is to find out what motivates the anger and to develop strategies to stop these factors from driving us.
The first process is a change in thinking. Angry people tend to curse a lot. Cursing and generally speaking very strongly reflects their inner world. We are speaking again about so-called “dysfunctional automatic thoughts”. When we are angry our thoughts are exaggerated and take on an overly dramatic tone. An attempt to replace these thoughts with more reasonable ones has special significance. For example, rather than say, “I hate you”, take a deep breath and say, “What happened hurt me a lot and made me very angry, but it’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s an opportunity to tell you what I really want.” It is crucial to exercise the skill of elaborating on our thoughts. Another pitfall is the excessive use of words like “never” or “always”. Besides being inaccurate, these words are used to justify our anger and the position that there is no solution.
There is always a solution.