I’ve heard it said that anger is how we punish ourselves for the action of others and I think I agree.
I recall a specific situation about 5 years ago when I was feeling very angry. I was feeling it every day and it was all consuming. I was doing things that were not in my usual nature. I wasn’t sleeping well and I was having nightmares. I could barely focus at work and was not a lot of fun at social events. I had good reason to be angry and to this day I believe that anyone in my situation would have been angry. But it was ruling my life and in fact it was probably on the verge of destroying it. I was very unhappy.
So what did I do?
After about a year of this intense anger I contacted the person at whom my anger was directed and asked to meet. My request was accepted and we met. I explained that I needed to not be angry anymore. And guess what? It worked. Just meeting and saying this allowed me to move on. It was dealt with and it was over. My life changed and I gradually started to return to normal. I could sleep soundly again and the nightmares stopped. I could focus at work and I was fun to be around.
Is it that simple?
Yes, I think it can be. You see, we can’t control the actions of others but we can control how we react. In life there are people and things that can induce all types of negative and positive emotions. For example, I feel angry and sad about cruelty to animals and that will never change. However, I choose not to let this overwhelm my life as that would be self-destructive. I feel angry when my human rights are abused but again, I choose not to let this rule my life.
Unfortunately there are people who struggle to do this. And there are people whose anger is misdirected. For example, the road user who is excessively rude to me when I make a minor mistake. Road rage is an extreme version of this. I find it helpful to tell myself that they are having a bad day and then I quickly get over it. I find laughing also helps. You’ve encountered this person, yes?
Who would choose to be angry?
This becomes easy to answer when I ask a contrary question: “Who would choose to be happy?” I think you’ll agree, everyone would choose to be happy and no one of sane mind would choose to be angry. Being and staying angry causes a loss of control and sometimes irrational behavior. Ask me, I know. This in turn tends to lead to regret and guilt, and it can even land you in trouble with the law. Hence the concept of self-punishment.
We cannot avoid feeling angry when we have been served an injustice but we have to address it immediately and get over it. If we don’t, we can expect to be unhappy, not something any of us would choose. And furthermore, our unhappiness is likely to cause unhappiness in those closest to us due to no fault of their own. Relationships suffer: therefore, more self-punishment.
Anger management is not complicated… making the decision to stop being angry is the most difficult part. Sometimes this can feel like giving up something you’re entitled to. Be that as it may, it’s going to be much better for you. You don’t even have to forgive or forget to manage your anger… it’s just about controlling your mind. Remind yourself that the only person your anger hurts is yourself and the person that you are angry with is not hurting at all.
Why am I writing this article?
Well, because I think a lot of South Africans have been feeling angry of late, and I include myself here. You just have to go on to any social media platform to see this. I believe there are good, valid reasons for feeling much of this anger. However, it can be extremely damaging and pointing this out is my reason for writing it down: both for myself, and for you.
Keep strong and take care everyone.