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Anger as Your Teacher
Posted by:   |  May 26, 2014

Anger is a natural human emotion, yet it can be one of the most destructive emotions. It can harm us and others physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. On the other hand, anger can show us what is important and can teach us about ourselves, about our character and specifically can provide an indication on how we cope with frustration, disappointment, adversity and other difficult emotions. If we use anger as our teacher, we can learn from it and, in the process, master not only anger, but also ourselves. Refining and transcending anger provide us with the opportunity to develop our character and to become the type of person we wish to be. By mastering our emotions, especially anger, we become our best self and create the emotional freedom to which we aspire.

The following are a few practical tools and techniques that will either prevent anger in the first place or will enable you to manage your emotions after you have become angry.

Learn from the past

Reflecting back on situations when you were angry and how you acted is key for learning and improving. When you were able to overcome anger, ask yourself what you did (differently) to manage the situation well. If you face the same challenging situation again and again and you are not able to make sense of your actions and the outcomes you experience is still to act angrily, you can simply (which is not easy) tell yourself, “This anger is harming me and is amplifying negative energy. It isn’t worth it and it is not good for my well being. I am the one that suffers.” Then you are better able to let go of your attachment to the desired outcome and mentally move on. Try to give yourself the above message before anger takes place or shortly after it happens.

A good idea for mastering anger is to keep a journal of anger situations and reactions. Pay careful attention, not only to unsuccessful experiences, but particularly to when you successfully handle difficult emotions. Write down how you handled it and read it again and again to remind yourself of what you did and what to do differently so you can apply it in the future.

Develop patience and find a mantra

Anger is an emotion that drives us to act impulsively without thinking. Anger hijacks our mind and our soul. So, if we try to do the opposite (not to react) and allow ourselves to stay with the anger, we will be able to build our resiliency toward anger and will allow wisdom to kick in and help us do the right thing. Try to give anger a chance to subside before speaking or acting. You may count to ten, twenty or even fifty before acting. You can add a mantra such as “become more and more relaxed,” or “centered and balanced,” or try “patience and humility,” or “serenity and compassion.” You can add the mantra between each number and it will have a calming effect. By consistently practicing the mantra when you are not angry, this tool will serve you well and make you more relaxed when anger appears.

Relax by breathing deeply

Breathing slowly and deeply has a powerful effect on the body which effects our mental state positively. It allows the individual to access a calming state and release stress and anger. As soon as you notice that you are feeling angry (even disappointed, irritated, annoyed, aggravated, upset etc.) breathe slowly and deeply; inhale and exhale slowly. As you exhale, feel your anger, frustration and stress being blown out. When you breathe in slowly and deeply and focus your attention on it, you connect to your body and can be in the present. By doing so, you embrace mindfulness and serenity. If your mind wanders (which is normal), simply, calmly and without judgment bring it back to focus on your breathing.

Detach yourself and observe from a distance

If you are aware of a situation that could cause you to become angry, mentally try to distance yourself and observe the situation as an outsider. Imagine that you are watching the situation from a distance, seeing the whole picture. This will enable you to emotionally dissociate yourself from what is happening, while remaining calm. This distance extends your perspective to deal with the situation in a better, wiser way.

Distancing yourself is a skill that many professionals use to remain objective in difficult conflicts and negotiations. When you master the ability to become an objective observer, you will become the director rather that the player in an anger provoking situation.

What a wise man does

When you become angry, ask yourself, “What would a wise man do in this situation?” You might think of a particular wise person you know or have read about. Imagine what he or she would tell you. This will help you access knowledge that you already have stored in the database of your brain but might not have thought of without this approach.

Watch yourself in the mirror when you are angry

There is an ugliness to anger, especially if you contrast it with the way you look when you smile. Next time when you get angry, look at yourself in a mirror. When you see how “ugly” and “mean” you become when you are angry, and realize what the other person sees and feels when he sees you in that mode, it should be a strong motivator for you to conquer your anger. You will be amazed to see that even the act of changing your angry facial expression to less intense, will have a positive effect and will bring positive energy to you as well as on the other person.

Focus on the good qualities and positives

Your anger limits your perspective and view of your needs, specifically on what you consider a wrong doing by others toward you. Even though you don’t appreciate the way the other person interacts with you, you can still respect him for the positive things he has done in his life.
When you are angry at someone, your focus is limited to what the other person is doing wrong. Force yourself to do the opposite while focusing on what is positive about this person. If you do that, you will have a more balanced perspective. This makes it easier to deal with that person and specifically with the issue at hand. You would also be able to NOT take the situation personally against you or against the other person.

Develop a healthy perspective

Insanity is a loss of our perspective and our sense of proportion. For example, we may think that our personal challenges are more important than anyone else’s; in fact, we may not even be able to consider other people’s needs at all. We may have overreacted to perceived disrespect and inconsideration, with anger and accusation, mostly when we are already feeling frustrated. Small issues become major problems and our lives get out of balance.

It is important to develop a sense of proportion. Before you get angry, or when you start getting angry or even after anger amplifies, ask yourself, “How important is this issue in my life?” “What is my actual loss?” “Is what happened really so awful?” “What will be the impact of this issue in a week, month or a year from now? Most of the time, you will realize that you make a bigger deal of the situation, which unfortunately promotes anger, negativity and a lack of happiness.

The above list is a practical way to deal with anger. So, familiarize yourself with them and experiment to see what works best for you. Be creative and develop your own variations. Adapt what you think is helpful for you to deal with anger. Good Luck.

Please visit author, Moshe Ratson at his google+ Profile: +Moshe Ratson



Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in New York City
License # : 000697