By Khristin Paisley
In order to manage anger it is important to understand the emotion “anger” before it can be “managed”. Managing anger does not mean to live a life devoid of this emotion, however, a certain amount of serenity comes from understanding it. Anger is often explained away as a “toxic”, “unhealthy” and a “bad” emotion. There truly isn’t a “bad” emotion, what makes something “bad”, “toxic” and “unhealthy” is what we do with it and that is what takes anger out of the realm of emotion and moves it into an action. It can be used as an impetus for self-reflection, acceptance, love and understanding of ourselves, and others; or it can be channeled in a negative way that causes harm. To ask ourselves “why am I angry?” and “where does this come from?” is a necessary first step in being able to manage this emotion that brings about feelings of shame.
Anger can be described as a “byproduct emotion”. This means that it is the result of a primary emotion. These primary emotions can be: sadness, jealousy, fear, insecurity, and frustration to name a few. Anger is a response emotion, ergo “The dog pooped on the floor again!” or “That person cut me off on the highway!” or even “My teacher gave me an F on the test!” These are just a few examples of how anger can creep into our daily lives and be an insidious entity. In the situation of the dog, it’s frustration, the dog couldn’t get out in time and whether it was our personal responsibility or that of someone else’s we are the ones dealing with the consequence, we are the ones dealing with the consequence and have to spend our time dealing with it. In each of the above examples what we are really feeling is that we are being discounted, disrespected, devalued, that something (physical, emotional) is being taken away from us, and the result is feelings of anger. If we take a moment to assess the “why” of our feelings, this allows us to love ourselves better, and to contribute positivity instead of negativity to the world and to those around us.
Whether someone believes in Karma or not does not change the simple fact that we receive what we put into the world, even if what we receive comes directly from within ourselves. It is analogous to: the dad comes home and beats the child, the child then beats the dog and then the dog turns and bites the child. We are eventually revisited by what we put into the world. Anger can be a blinding emotion or it can be a source of enlightenment. Maybe the person that cut us off on the highway was speeding to the hospital and concerned about a loved one and was understandably distracted. It’s possible that they just received some news of great importance and their life is going to be changing for good or bad and were distracted. Maybe they were just didn’t see us, how many times during the course of a day, week, month or year do we get distracted? If they did it on purpose as an act of road rage, what do we gain by sharing their emotional space? Should we allow ourselves to be infected with their toxicity and then share that same toxicity to others? The answer is no. We always have a choice in the “how” we respond to a situation. The old adage of “Think twice before you act” isn’t as basic as it appears when taken at face value. What it is really saying is to take a breath, take a moment and think of how the action will affect yourself and those around you because there will always be a reaction.
This isn’t to say that anger doesn’t have its place in our emotional tool box. Once we understand the “why” and “how” of our anger, we always have the choice in the way we respond. We can choose to be led to an understanding of ourselves and a path of personal betterment or not. We can choose to use it as a motivator to try harder next time or we can blame our faults and shortcoming on others instead of taking personal responsibility. We can choose to be led to a better understanding and acceptance of others when their actions negatively affect us. We can choose to let the negativity stop with us or we can become infected by it and visit it upon others. If we choose the latter it is our loved ones that are first infected like any true sickness. Our spouse, our children, our friends and family will first receive the brunt of it and gradually it will erode love and affection, trust and compassion until there is nothing left. Then if our loved ones follow our unfortunate example, it will revisited upon us as well as the other people they interact with and so on and so on again and again. We can choose to understand our anger and through understanding it, manage and control it; or we can be controlled by it and in the end lose all that we hold dear. There isn’t one clear cut answer to managing this emotion for everyone, however, the end result never changes. And the constant is that we always have the choice, just remember to always take a breath, take a moment and reflect on the situation. Surprisingly, it only takes a second, to either build happiness or discord and that is a result that no one will be immune to.