Tensions are running high this week following the American presidential election. Many infuriated people have taken to social media to express their viewpoints. These candid and emotionally-charged streams of consciousness exude a raw and palpable sense of anger.
Anger is a universal human experience that cuts across all political party lines. In order to lessen the personal and societal impact of anger, we must better understand it.
Anger often results when our expectations aren’t met, when things don’t go our way, and when things are out of our control. Unfortunately, we may not be able change the behavior of other people and there are so many outcomes and situations that we simply have no influence over.
We do, however, have control over our own responses and actions. Although it’s not always easy, we have the ability to alter our perspectives and attitudes, which can lead to feeling less angry. Of course it takes conscious effort and energy, but like anything, it becomes easier over time and with practice.
We must first become aware of the negative patterns of thought that provoke us. We must identify what in our minds causes the anger to occur. We then have to unlearn our usual, conditioned (often automatic) mental and physical reactions. From there, we can replace the habitual ways of thinking and being that cause us distress with new and better ways of functioning and interacting.
Suffering tends to arise from attachment to desire and delusions of permanence. When something doesn’t work or go as planned and we have absolutely no ability to change it, we can either continue to be angry and resist or we can accept the reality of the situation and begin moving forward. This strategy can be applied to some of the most basic and common, yet potentially agonizing, everyday life situations.
How frustrating is traffic (especially when running late!)? How maddening is it when technology does not work the way it is “supposed” to? How annoying is it when the forecast calls for clear skies, and then it rains?
We can let road rage get the best of us by driving recklessly and putting ourselves and others at risk, or we can change our mindset: “this traffic is out of my control. I can allow myself get mad, or I can shift my thinking and do my best to remain calm.”
We can let technological difficulties send us through the roof, or we can read a manual, ask for help, or simply let it go and come back to it later when the initial anger has subsided.
We can curse the weatherman, the weather app, the city we live in, or we can do a number of things to alleviate the situation—carry a small umbrella or raincoat, have a back up plan or head indoors, or maybe we embrace the rain and go play in it.
In addition to letting go of the struggle, finding acceptance is essential. In doing this, you will end up feeling so much more in control than if you let your anger spiral out of control. Of course, the length of time for this process varies from person to person, especially if anger is a result of grieving. It is important to recognize that everyone grieves differently and that there is no single prescription for overcoming intense emotional pain.
Anger is A-ok
It is unlikely that deep-seated anger will dissipate overnight, and you also may not even want that. Sometimes, anger can serve as a useful emotion by igniting passion and motivation within. It is ok to be angry. To feel anger is human and natural. The act of truly seeing and being with your emotions just as they are (i.e. really sitting with your anger) is another opportunity to practice mindful acceptance.
The important take away is to notice the feeling when it arises and to realize what triggers it. Once you’re aware of your anger and what causes it, you can start taking small steps toward new ways of responding to what irks you. From there, you are well on your way to a more peaceful and balanced, yet empowered, version of yourself.
We are human and we are imperfect. Sometimes we mess up, but we can learn and grow from our “mistakes”. All we can do is try our best. Anger can be hard to admit to because outward displays of rage and fury are societally discouraged, yet it is something we are all likely to experience at one time or another.
Try setting an intention to incorporate more acceptance into your daily routine and see what happens. When you slip up, take responsibility for it and acknowledge it, but without beating yourself up. Active self-compassion will make you a less angry person in general and will make it easier for you to be kind to other people, too.
Change is the Only Constant
Like anything in life, emotions are transient in nature. All of the pain you feel is real and valid, but it is also impermanent. Let this notion aid you in transcending your anger and regaining control over both your internal experience and your external behaviors.
We are always in charge of how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other. As challenging as it is sometimes, do your best to keep your mindset present and positive. Try to keep your heart open to love and compassion even when it may seem impossible. Aim to always keep hope and faith alive. Embrace your innate goodness. Know that you are worthy of acceptance and belonging regardless of what anyone else says or does.
Let’s Talk About it
There are many techniques for anger management beyond what is mentioned here. Activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, exercising (even just going for a walk), listening to music, and journaling, are just a few ways to channel anger effectively. Therapy is an excellent place to explore feelings of anger and the most adaptive ways to cope with it.
Call or email me today for a free and confidential phone consultation!