How often, in our stressful, chaotic lives, does a whole day
pass without getting angry at something? How much of that anger
do we simply bury or deny? How many times, after ranting, raving,
and dumping our anger out on someone else, do we later wish
As a society, we have become desensitized to anger. We are bombarded
by media images of war, racial intolerance, violence, and crime;
collectively we have come to tolerate incredibly high levels
of anger, therefore individually we see no reason to give it
Yet, everyone has a problem with anger. It’s not just
you, or me, or that guy at the traffic lights who does his nut
when the car up ahead forgets to indicate. Anger is endemic
to modern life, it’s everywhere, and this fact alone makes
it much more likely that we’ll put up with it –
with all sorts of horrible consequences for ourselves and others
– rather than do something about it.
It’s almost certainly true that we can’t prevent
anger arising, but we certainly can change our attitude to it
when it does – and we can change how we deal with it.
Most of us feed our anger. We rage at feeling out of control
and then blame others for our sense of powerlessness. Therefore,
the anger never really goes. It’s stored away, unchanged,
in our memories, our energy systems, and the cells of our bodies.
But there has to be a better way of dealing with anger than
merely going onto automatic and either bitterly swallowing it
or spewing it back out in uncontrolled fury.
Perhaps, instead, we could talk to it. Listen to what it’s
trying to tell us: because anger always has its own unique message.
It’s a warning system. Red alert. Stop, it says, something’s
wrong; some work has to be done here.
‘Work?’ you say, ‘I don’t like the
sound of that.’ Nobody does. Generally speaking, we’d
all like to avoid the work even though that means staying angry.
However, the point is that we do have choices. Anger is a learned
response, and it can be unlearned. It is a complex, self-perpetuating,
negative cycle of events, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations
- yet this cycle can be broken.
We do this firstly by acknowledging that we’re angry,
then by expressing that anger in some appropriate form. We do
it by taking responsibility for our anger; exploring its origins,
and getting the message it’s trying to tell us. And, finally,
breaking the cycle of anger means letting it go.