Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Do unto Others ... - A Study on Anger Part III

A Study on Anger – Part III

Managing Anger

Have you ever lost your temper over some little thing and totally over reacted or become angry but you are really angry about something else?  I have done do, and often times have said and done some hurtful things when I am angry, and when I've calmed down again I hate myself and feel ashamed.  I think we probably have all found ourselves in this position more than once. 

Although, as discussed before, anger is neither good nor bad, it can be frightening. What counts is how we handle it (and ourselves) when we're angry.  Anger is a common emotion and is a totally natural reaction to something that has hurt us. 

As children when we get hurt we feel angry and we want to hurt back. If a child hits another child even if it was accidental, the other child automatically strikes back. As we mature we usually learn that hurting someone back doesn't help with the problem. If the hurt was not intended and was purely accidental, hurting the other person may make them want to intentionally hurt us. If the hurt was intentional and we hurt back, the other person may feel justified in first having hurt us and in giving more hurt in return for the hurt we've given them."

“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” -  Lyman Abbott

But what is the best way to manage your own anger? 

“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

Looking differently at and changing how we react with situations that make us angry takes practice. Unfortunately, when you are angry, you often act on a judgmental basis. For example, if you are in a situation that is potentially dangerous or dangerous towards loved ones such as children, then you have no choice but to act.  However if your anger is not in an emergency situation, then research suggest that you should really slow down, step back and try and think more clearly.

I find that sometimes if I am already irritable then just an offhand comment can make me angry and I then direct my anger wrongly. This is because my initial judgment has made the remark feel more threatening than it really is and it’s particularly at these sort of times it is better to slow down and think before responding in anger. But how often do I do this – perhaps not often enough!

Having experienced so much emotional anger over the years I do know that anger expressed wrongly not only wounds those it targets, but can impair the hearts of those who nurture it whether it arises from your own inner pain, or from a loved one. 

My research has showed that when we are involved in an argument or reacting to someone who has hurt us, responding in anger often justifies our anger and then that too causes more pain. We need to try to put ourselves in the other person's shoes; we might then see what we have contributed in even a small way to the problem. If we can find a way to say I'm sorry, and ask for forgiveness in anything we might have done to contribute to the problem we may then be able seek to find forgiveness in our own hearts to extend to that person. 

How hard this is to do when you feel that your anger is justified, you may well be able to see the other person’s point of view but when hurt has been caused on both sides you want the other person to also meet you somewhere in the middle and be sorry as well.  But that might not be the case so it takes courage to say sorry especially when you don’t thing you have been completely in wrong in the first place.  I am not sure right now that I have that kind of courage to this. I can forgive and be forgiven but to actually start the process of resolution and healing in this way is not something I think I can do right now.  But all the time the anger is unresolved the more it broods and is repressed which is not healthy.

“To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.”  William H. Walton

When I am really angry I sometimes ask myself if my best friend is in this situation, what advice would I give to them. This enables me to look at the situation more objectively and stand back from it.

Each instance of anger asks us to make a choice.  We can respond by being hostile, including overt violence, or we can respond with hostile inaction, such as withdrawing.  We can also harbour resentment; or we can work to better understand and manage our anger to resolve the issue. 

“There is nothing more galling to angry people than the coolness of those on whom they wish to vent their spleen.” 
-  Alexandre Dumas

As previously discussed suppression of anger may have harmful effects on us in that the suppressed anger may find another outlet, such as a health risks, future outbursts of unmeant anger, or to our own mental well-being. However, psychologists have also criticised the "catharsis theory" of aggression, which suggests that "unleashing" pent-up anger can reduce the feelings of anger – I am not quite sure about this although I can see that unleashing pent-up at the wrong time could cause untold harm.   

But there are healthy ways of dealing with anger that can help you resolve, forgive both yourself and others and make positive changes in your life and others:

1.   Acknowledge your anger:  When we feel angry about a situation we are facing or at a person who is challenging us in some way, our anger is a signal and warning that something is out of balance. As a warning, anger saves us the grief of sitting still and doing nothing about a situation or when circumstances require a positive change. Clenching your teeth while repressing your feelings is not good for you, the person with who you are angry with (or your gastrointestinal tract).  Give yourself permission to feel angry:  It’s OK to feel angry.  Feeling anger does not involve making a judgement about whether you are right or wrong about your feelings, they are the just the way you feel. Allowing anger doesn't mean that you will necessarily communicate it to another, or tell someone that you feel angry with them

“Anger is an essential part of being human. People are taught to deny themselves anger, and in this, they are actually opening themselves up to hate. The more you deny yourself the freedom to be angry, the more you will hate. Let yourself be angry, and hate will disintegrate, and when hate disintegrates, forgiveness prevails! The more you deny that you are angry, in attempts to be "holy" the more inhuman you will become, and the more inhuman you will become, the harder it will be to forgive.” - C. JoyBell C.

2.   Stepping back:  The main advice I have always had when I am angry and the one I give my son is to hold your breath and count to ten before you say anything or to try and walk away from angry situations.  Research suggests that this is good advice.  Give yourself some space on your own and allow yourself to feel the anger.  By being in a safe place of love and privacy you are less likely to express your anger badly with someone else, and you get a clearer idea of what you are angry about. If a situation arises unexpectedly and you feel your temper rising, walk away if you can before you react.  Make sure you give yourself enough time and thought to what exactly you’re angry about. You need to be sure before you can resolve it. It will usually involve a person, but not necessarily the one who's the target of your anger and it is with this person you need to sort the situation out with.

 “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred”. - Thomas Jefferson

3.   Spell it out: Writing down your feelings is a good way in which you can sort out why you're angry and what you could do to improve the situation. Putting your feelings into words can act to lessen the feelings of anger and help them work their way out of your system. The first thing to do is list the situations that make you angry and note down exactly what it is about them that makes you angry - it could be the here and now, or it could be a build-up of issues you haven't resolved, or some things from the past. Finding the reason for your anger is an important step, is your anger justified and in proportion?  If your anger turns out to be more to do with the past than the present, then think about how to address that before, or as well as, dealing with the current situation. Writing down your angry feelings on a piece of paper and then tearing up the paper is a way of symbolically destroying the anger.

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” - Thomas Paine.               

4.    Get physical: Connect to your body and mind by channelling your anger.  This could be an activity that can release tension - dancing, kickboxing and running – or just scream. Instead of letting frustration burn you up, release it, a good laugh or a good cry can also work. If necessary lash out by hitting a cushion, breaking crockery if you have to, or making some kind of angry noise (make sure that it’s somewhere it will not alarm anyone else though!). 

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” - Wayne Dyer

Another way to lessen your angry feelings and help you get control is called EFT or Emotional Freedom Techniques. This involves tapping on acupressure points and it helps release intense emotions so they won't be expressed destructively. 

5.    Seek perspective: Being at peace can also reduce anger. Sometimes we just need to stop and be still. Using meditation or breathing exercises can help or such exercise as Yoga.  Music can also change how we feel. If we use uplifting music when we are upset it can help us calm down.  Make a list of the things you're grateful for. Sometimes just sitting and focusing on what is right in your life can give you increased fulfilment and lessen stressful situations.  

If you stop to think about it, anger has likely been the great motivator of change in your life. My anger (or desperation) ended a toxic relationship after years of putting up with someone who discouraged me and abused both me and my son. I was angry with myself for putting up with their behaviour for so long, and yes I did hope that they would change. Eventually though I was fed up enough to let my anger win, and it gave me the power to take help when offered and the courage to end the relationship. Only when we put our anger in perspective and get mad enough to change the direction of our lives can we earn self-respect.

6.    Connect with others: Sharing your feelings with a trusted person can often be very useful but be careful of the friend who encourages you to be angrier then you actually are.  If you know someone who finds it easy to understand another's point of view, it may be worth doing some work with them talking through your anger and looking at who is either directing their anger at you, or who you are directing your anger at.  Old wounds can be easily triggered and for many the response is anger.  If something happens that reminds you of a bad experience from the past - let yourself feel what you've hidden for so long, and then let it go through forgiveness. For more deep-rooted anger (may be from childhood or something else more serious) talking to a counsellor may be able help you change your perceptions and help you overcome your anger. 

      Talking to a counsellor both helped me come to the realisation that I needed to walk away from my bad relationship and then later to come to terms with the abuse and the fact that I allowed it to happen.  It doesn’t mean that all those angry feelings are completely gone, or that they don’t come out now and again when I feel someone is trying to manipulate or control me, but they are now really just a dull ache and I have both forgiven myself, my ex-partner and the past.

“Defensiveness is usually someone silently screaming that they need you to value and respect them in disguise. When you look for deeper meanings behind someone’s pain you can then begin to heal not only yourself but others.” - Shannon L. Alder

7.   Take action: If you are under a verbal attack a healthy response is anger. Rather than cowering in fear or retracting and feeling even more vulnerable, a little anger can push you to yell out a resounding "Stop". Anger is an enforcer of good boundaries so that you don't become a doormat or pushover in instances when others try to dominate or threaten your safety and well-being. If you are suffering abuse by someone’s anger then try to chart out steps to improve the situation. A plan of action can lend a sense of control; help stop the madness or giving you the courage to walk away.  In an unexpected situation, self-control is all about thinking before you act and can put some precious seconds or minutes between feeling a strong emotion and taking an action you may  regret.  Trying to understand another's point of view before expressing your own anger often helps diffuse anger. Strangely enough it has also been said that by doing something good for someone even though they haven't treated you well may also diffuse their anger and yours.  By witnessing and understanding anger in others we can see how destructive it can be, but we can also see its merits in many situations. We learn that anger turned to passion can help us achieve our dreams and even how it can champion the lives of others.

“... but if I've learned one thing, it's this: forgiveness is crucial. If you can't forgive someone you're mad at, that anger will poison you. You have to learn to let it go"... "people have reasons for doing the things that they do, especially when they care about you. You may not always understand what they are, but if you can try to understand the person then you might see that they really care, despite what happened." pg 100 Meredith to Vlad”- Heather Brewer

8.   Watch it: Sometimes even when things seem resolved your inner dialogue of thoughts and feelings can serve as an early warning system for future conflicts. It can also help you determine if you're holding a grudge long after it's good to do so. Self-awareness is the ability to notice what you're feeling and thinking, and this is why once the cause of the anger is resolved you may still have to deal with the physical effects of that anger- all that energy has to go somewhere. This can be taken out on another person, such as a partner, or an object - by punching a wall, for example and lead down the path to self-harm.

Often we allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. We lose many hours brooding over grievances that could in time be forgotten by us and by everybody. Why waste time being unhappy when you could be taking a more positive approach and direct your feelings to do things that are more worthwhile.

9.    Prayer:  Prayer has helped me lessen my anger and to forgive.  However new research from American and Dutch scientists have now proven that praying can help ease anger, lower aggression and lessen the impact of provocation.  Studies have shown that prayer may really be an effective way to calm anger and aggression although it should be pointed out that these results only apply to the typical benevolent prayers that are advocated by most religions.  Vengeful or hateful prayers, rather than changing people’s view of a negative situation, may actually fuel anger and aggression.

Brad Bushman, Ohio State University: “When people are confronting their own anger, they may want to consider the old advice of praying for one’s enemies, it may not benefit their enemies, but it may help them deal with the negative emotions. People often turn to prayer when they’re feeling negative emotions, including anger. We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally”.  In the research published by both the American and Dutch scientists it was found that prayer helped to control anger regardless of the person's religious affiliation, or if they attended church or prayed regularly.

10.   Redirect your anger:  Justified anger is anger that is fair and reasonable in the circumstances. Anger can be good for you because it's designed to protect us, our relationships and our way of seeing the world.

 “The world needs more anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn't angry enough.” ― Bede Jarrett

I am so sad sometimes at just how angry our world is and the level of aggression, anger, greed, selfishness and self-harm. Turn on the TV to any news cast or news oriented program and watch it objectively. Most likely, it won't take you long to see just how angry some of these people are. Some days it seems as if a spirit of anger is permeating the entire world. Media gives a power and a force to angry words and violent images seen through the eyes of those that watch. It is a powerful medium that can be positive or negative, a force for good or exploitation.

“Where in is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?”― Mahatma Gandhi

One of the main characteristic of our angry world seems to be envy, the kind where one cannot tolerate the thought of anyone being in any way better than oneself and a burning need to be superior to others, a belief that one is fundamentally better than other people (including countries); or its the “got-to-have-it” mentality.  People seem to be more impatient, rude and demanding.

“Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”― Malcolm X

But across the world anger is being redirected through legitimate discontent. When we get riled up confronted with circumstances that just seem unfair, our anger can move us deeply and points out what matters most to us. It could be world hunger, saving the whales or the need for a go slow sign outside a school.  A cause needs angry individuals to fuel it.  The "I don't care attitude" does not change the world. It’s often the greatest accomplishments of this world were achieved because someone got angry enough to insist on a change.

"The key to the transformation of the world of Anger lies in self-mastery-channelling the energy that has formerly been directed toward winning over others into winning over oneself. This begins simply with the humility to respect and admire what is praiseworthy in others." Civilization began the first time an angry person cast a word instead of a rock.” ― Sigmund Freud

When I was younger I think to some extent I was addicted to drama, the negative feelings and then the rush you can get when these feelings are passionately released – it was almost like being on the “rollercoaster” at the funfair - and the ride was certainly difficult to get off!

Through writing this blog I have become aware of the positive feelings you can get from anger as well as the negative ones. By recognising the positive and negative feelings associated with my anger, I can find other means of achieving and concentrating on the positives ones.  Instead of dwelling on my anger looking for the good in my life helps it go away faster. Focusing on the things I am grateful for and that bless my life is one of the best ways I can overcome anger. 

It’s been many years since I have felt so calm and I believe the calmness is because cancer has forced me to live day by day, has enable me to become more grateful for what I have now and learning to let go of my anger in a positive way.  I try and live by the motto "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," (much mentioned throughout my blogs) and imagine how much less anger there would be in the world if everyone believed in this way.  

The Prisoner – Tears for Fears
“Here behind the wall, I feel so small,
Breathing but not perceiving
Here anger is me, Love sets me free
Feeling and not believing,
Here in my mind, Biding my time,
Waiting but not relating
Here anger is me, Love sets me free
The Prisoner is now escaping”

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