Apart from being the title of a popular movie with Jack Nickolson, anger management is also a skill. One that is very useful. And one that I was very bad at in my early days. Still learning about this, by the way, and still have a long way to go, but making progress.
Anger is a very destructive emotion. Not necessarily because of the actual, physical damage that it can generate (for things, relationships and persons), but also about its highly addictive potential. Anger is a sudden energy surcharge and it’s triggering our adrenal glands. That is very tricky. Because we also trigger adrenaline when we’re in a survival situation. Our body is not very good at recognizing subtleties. If we expose it too much to a certain stimuli, it becomes attached to that stimuli. Little does it matter for the body if we were really in a survival situation, or if we were just angry that our coffee was too hot. It will still get addicted to that sequence of chemical reactions.
As it builds up, anger can also work very close with our sense of entitlement. That surge of energy makes us feel powerful, even though we’re not usually very daring. But in a burst of anger we may do or say things that create a certain image of ourselves. We see ourselves as someone who takes action, who makes things happen or who fights against injustice (again, little did it matter for our ego if this justice is really justice, or just discontentment that things aren’t really going as we want them to go).
It’s obvious that both addiction and entitlement are really toxic.
So, how do you manage them?
It’s hard. Very hard. But doable.
Probably one of the most important things in this process is to observe and understand that we’re angry. It may seem trivial, but we’re not always observing anger. We’re so focused on the triggering event, or person, that we simply find normal to yell, we don’t even realize we’re angry. It’s like the other person is pushing a button that bypasses our sense of self. We become, in a sense, the reaction and we cease to be a person.
So, if we can really stop and say “ups, I’m angry now”, half of the job is done. At least for me.
The other half is to understand that everything that we think or do when we’re angry is twisted. It’s not real. Or, to be more precise, it’s not accurate. It’s more about what we want to happen, how we want the world to be, than how the world really is. When we’re angry we’re really in a violent patching exercise, during which we apply various patches onto the persons or situations which triggered us. We try to adjust, or to construct a new world on top of the real one, one that is closer to our expectations, and we do this in an aggressive way.
Of course, the world doesn’t give a shit.
If I can get to this point, my anger is usually managed and I can continue with my day more or less normally. At least I’m not on auto-pilot, and I can take small decisions, like breathing, looking the other way, taking a short stroll, or a break, etc.
Soon, the potential storm is averted entirely.
I’m not saying this is easy. I’m just saying that, with exercise and patience, it’s possible.