“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” – Aristotle
Now, here’s the thing, I am not saying that anger is a good thing. Anger is most certainly an unpleasant and potentially destructive emotion. However, what cannot be denied is that anger comes to us all from time to time, whether we like it or not. It is an explosive and highly reactive emotion, that, during the heat of that anger, is very difficult to understand and diagnose. Anger, like all things, when treated mindfully can not only be tempered, but can also be used to better understand the self. Here we take a look at how to better understand those things that might make us angry, and how we can utilise this quite base impulse to become more reflective and mindful.
1. Accept Your Anger
You will be angry. I have often been angry, and then escalated and fed that emotion as a result of the anger I have at myself for being angry. So, you see, if you judge yourself for feeling this way, you are only fuelling the emotion further; a self-perpetuating fire. By accepting the anger, you take ownership of that emotion and open yourself to understanding it, as opposed to smiting yourself for feeling it.
2. Find The Source
Sometimes we know exactly why we get angry at the moment of impact, on other occasions, however, we do not fully understand our reactions, triggers and catalytic circumstances. It is not entirely useful to diagnose the cause of your anger during it, but it is useful to take time to reflect on the incident after the flare up has died down. Why did I react in anger? What was it that triggered me? Why? Has this type of event triggered anger in me more than once? Can it be avoided in future? All of these musings will help you to understand your relationship with anger and offer the beginnings of a foundation upon which you can build better coping mechanisms to avoid a road to rage!
3. Consider The Validity of Your Emotional Reaction
Another question you may wish to impose upon yourself in the wake of an angry episode is this, ‘was my emotional reaction proportional to the cause?’ Anger often comes when we feel that we have been wronged, and our reactions often seem justified. However, on reflection, was it justified? Could you have reacted in a more useful way?
Being wrong is hard. Anger often comes to us when we feel that we are right about something, and that our stance on the matter has been opposed in some way. Reflection makes us consider the possibility that we may have been wrong. I like to try and think carefully about whether my stance was correct, and whether I should admit fault in some way and apologise. Nobody likes being wrong. But failure to admit genuine wrong doing is a weakness far beyond the wrong doing itself.
4. Consider Future Reactions
Once you know your triggers and have decided how to respond appropriately to a situation, you may now be able to consider how to better react when a similar situation comes up in future. Is there something you can do to calm yourself? Is kindness, consideration and forgiveness a more useful way to go (it usually is, we think!)
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up About A Bad Reaction
You may be embarrassed about a way in which you have reacted. It’s OK, it happens. Although this emotion is undesirable and inherently negative, it will happen. All that you can do is continue to work on the way that you process anger, and to be mindful about moving towards a more deft management of it.
6. Learn and Grow
As you may have surmised, the key to using anger to your advantage is in using your reactions to learn about yourself. Reflection is an important part of growth, and anger, being such a potent emotion, is a clear signpost towards your tendencies, triggers and impulses. Use the knowledge it gives you to lead a more mindful life.
By Chris Thomson
Self-care depends largely on knowing yourself. Here are some thoughts on how to better care for yourself at work: Self Care at Work
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