Are you worried that you have a problem with anger? .
We should not try to get rid of anger, as some New Age groups and Buddhist-inspired practitioners would have us believe – incorrectly. Anger is not always destructive; it would not have been preserved throughout the evolution of our species if it had been intrinsically harmful to us. Those who argue that anger may have been useful at one time, but that in contemporary circumstances it is no longer so, are wrong. I will explain why.
Even in the most civilised environments, we cannot be completely sure that we will not encounter a circumstance in which we are physically threatened. In this sense, anger provides the necessary strength to defend ourselves. But it is not only in these terrible circumstances that it can be beneficial. Anger can prompt action to correct social injustice. It can motivate behaviour to reduce or, if we are lucky, reverse climate change. Even in personal relationships, with our family members or intimate partners, anger can be beneficial. Is it surprising?
What anger tells us
Anger tells us that we have a problem that we should ideally deal with when we are no longer angry. Sometimes we cannot postpone it; we have to deal with a provocation or an interference without postponing the pursuit of our goal. So what? We must be able to focus our anger on the actions – not the actor – that cause (or threaten) harm or block our path.
I believe that hurting the person who interferes with us is often a primary goal when we are angry and therefore may be embedded in the very nature of anger. However, it is possible to redirect anger to stop the interfering person’s actions instead of trying to harm the actor. Often those who act in anger later regret what they have said or done. It is not uncommon for a person to explain actions they later consider regrettable with a remark like ‘I lost my mind’. You know what? You can give it back!
One way to do this is to help the angry person calm down. If the angry person does not ask for a ‘time-out’, you have to do it. The time-out works best if you have discussed its benefits beforehand when the situation gets too hot. Everyone should have the right to ask for a time-out and, with prior agreement, it should be granted. It takes awareness to ask for a time-out rather than returning the anger that is directed at us.
Awareness of anger.
Think for a moment about the phrase: presence of mind. It means that you have to be aware of what you are thinking and planning to do. Your response to someone’s anger directed at you must resist the impulse to return the anger. This is especially difficult to do when you think the anger is totally unjustified. It is difficult not to reciprocate anger because I believe that anger inherently entices its target to join the battle. Don’t do that. Taking a break will help you resist the urge to retaliate, figuratively or physically. The person who triggered the anger will thank you for stopping his outburst, even if he is unable to say so.
When we get angry or someone gets angry with us, we should not ignore it. Anger can be communicated not only with words, but also with facial expressions. This emotion is an important signal that there is a problem or misperception that needs to be addressed. But do not try to do this in anger. We need to find out what caused the anger and see if we can correct it. The most common trigger for anger is frustration, which is usually experienced when the pursuit of something we care about is blocked. Anger is rarely helpful in removing a blockage, but it tells us that there is a blockage that needs to be identified, examined and hopefully reduced or eliminated. It is rare that this can happen while we are still angry.
We have to take our time. Calm down. Reflect. Discuss and then remove the blockage together or, if not possible, find a way to live with it. It is almost always possible, it is just not necessarily easy or quick, but in the long run it is what will sustain collaboration with others. Collaboration with others is a necessary condition for the life of all social animals. We cannot do it alone, but it is most enjoyable when we achieve a goal together!
FREELY TRANSLATED BY PAUL EKMAN GROUP: https://www.paulekman.com/blog/anger-problem/