Anger would appear to be one of the most prevalent and destructive manifestations of our thinking. As the pace of daily life seems to speed up and expectations crowd our days we often feel challenged to keep a calm perspective. It may start as a very minor irritation when the morning coffee is too strong or we’re out of cream. We can each create our own list of “glitches” between waking and lunchtime. Kids missed the school bus and need a ride.
Can’t find the report I have to present at noon. Car keys must be in another jacket. All of these are relatively minor in their own right but, with the snowball effect of taking each one personally, we soon find ourselves gripped by a low mood. And we haven’t left the house yet.
When our day starts with frustration and angst we can be fairly safe in assuming it will continue down the rabbit hole unless we catch ourselves and recognize what’s really happening here.
As long as we accept the misconception that anger is justified and appropriate we’ll continue to be at its mercy. As long as we accept too, that outside events are responsible for our thoughts and moods we’ll continue to be at the whim of whatever happens and whatever we’re thinking. As long as we refuse to recognize that we have choice (we can decide whether to follow a thought or not, act on a thought or not, take it personally or not), then we’re stuck in our reactive habit. We are the thinkers. We’re creating each scene in our movie.
So what is anger? Because it appears to be such a powerful emotion and seems so destructive, it may seem to be more difficult to understand or to deal with. But is it really?
Let’s look at what anger really is. Simply put it’s an insecure thought with the volume turned up high. Anger is a learned response to frustration and insecurity. It’s a product of outside-in thinking as evidenced by such descriptive phrases as “That made me furious,” or “You made me mad.” Things don’t make us mad. Things happen and we have angry thoughts about them. Life is an inside-out experience.
So what do we do when we have an angry thought, an old habit from childhood? First we must truly see it for what it is . . . a thought. It’s simply one of the thousands that we have every day. Because of our current state of mind we take that thought very seriously and personally. We forget that we have choice and that we can decide to step back from the situation, gain some perspective, see it as an innocent thought and let it go. We can truly decide “not to go there.”
Anger never creates a greater feeling of rapport or respect. It rarely, if ever, solves a problem. It doesn’t really clear the air, as once believed, but rather creates distance. The good news is that it’s just a thought. It’s a habit. We have within us the most amazing capacity for insight and wisdom that will act as our barometer and early warning system when anger is in the script. Our compassion will prevail and we can choose the higher, calmer road.