Combating Anger

I think the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to control my anger. In high school, I remember getting in one fight with my best friend. I felt she was being a drama queen and she thought I was being bossy. It turns out we were both right. We decided to have it out in the middle of the Student Government Activities Office, a group we both represented. The office door was open and linked with the main office so every secretary, principal, truant student and visiting parent heard our argument.

It felt good to get my rage out, although the consequences we suffered were rather mortifying. After that, when we had problems, we solved them in a quieter fashion, by talking about each other to our mutual best friend, which doesn’t work any better now than it did then.

It doesn’t work because because the anger I feel now isn’t the kind of anger that isn’t generated by your best friend being a jerk (or telling you you’re being bossy when you know very well that you are). Adult anger is fueled by all kinds of things that aren’t as easy to work out as simply yelling at the person you’re angry with. First of all, yelling rarely solves anything. Secondly, sometimes the reason you’re angry is more complicated. You’re angry at yourself for a stupid mistake. You’re angry at your boss for blaming you for someone else’s failure. You’re angry at your spouse for being inconsiderate. You’re angry at your child for hitting his/her sibling. You’re angry at a deity for denying you whatever it is that you want. You’re angry at the universe for punishing you for a crime you’re unaware of committing. You’re angry because you feel powerless. You’re angry because a driver cut you off. You’re angry because Target is out of your under eye concealer. You’re angry at your bank statement. You’re angry at the puddle of pee on the carpet (dog or child?) You’re angry that the world is on your shoulders and no one is there to help you. You’re angry at your parents for growing old. You’re angry at your sister for not helping you with their anniversary party. You’re angry at a cousin for not inviting you to her wedding. You’re angry that the price of gas went up.

Aren’t you just exhausted reading all the reasons you might be angry? I was exhausted writing it. I had to stop myself or I was going to keel over right in the middle.

Some of the reasons we get angry are beyond our control.

Some of the reasons we get angry are because we lost control.

Some of the reasons we get angry is because we can’t control something.

People disappoint us.

People blame us.

People wrong us.

We get angry.

But, we don’t have to live with anger and we don’t have to let anger control our lives. Sometimes we need to have an outburst. Allow yourself five or ten minutes to cry, to vent, or to rage. Just make sure you’re doing it in an appropriate place and at an appropriate time.

The bank teller or grocery clerk need not feel the wrath of your anger even if he is being particularly slow today. Your anger came from a different place and passing it off to some other person may make you feel better initially, but because you aren’t solving the real problem of your anger, or handling it in a progressive way, you will end up feeling worse.

I spent five minutes before my bath the other night crying because I was angry that all my other friends get to live with their husbands and mine is 10,000 miles away. After five minutes, I stood up, got in the bath tub and rinsed the day’s dirt and my anger away. I felt better. I can’t really control our situation right now; I can only accept it.

When the driver cuts me off or goes to slow or turns into a parking lot with the rear of his car still in the driving lane, I give a little shout, usually in Hebrew and at the top of my lungs. But, I make sure that my windows are rolled up and the other driver can’t see me. I’ll tell you why. The biggest reason is that I don’t know if the other driver is violent and will shoot me, secondarily, I don’t know if his mother just died and his real focus isn’t driving; it’s mourning. If that’s the case, the last thing he needs is me waving my middle finger at him and telling him to get the heck off the road. As a side note, I don’t flip people off. I’ve always been afraid that someone my mother knows would see me and tell her. She’d be so disappointed. So I just keep that finger to myself.

Anger directed at people is difficult to deal with because if you don’t confront the problem, it’s sure to happen again. If you confront the problem while you’re angry, you’ll probably be met with a defensive and outraged opponent. When you’re angry with a spouse, boss, sister, friend or the like, it’s advisable to wait awhile before confronting him or her. That way, you’re calm. You have the ability to say, “Husband, can we talk about something that has been bothering me?”

“Sure, wife. What’s the problem?”

“Well, last week you promised that you would help me more around the house and I feel(these words are key) that you haven’t done that.”

Using words like I feel, I think and I believe instead of accusing words like you + negative verb allow the conversation to remain intellectual or at least it slows it’s progress to emotional.

When you’re confronting your boss, there are, unfortunately, other things you must consider. For instance, your job could be at stake. Now you have to decide if what you’re upset about is worth bringing up, if your boss will be receptive to it and then, of course, how to do it. My last boss, Satan, didn’t care about me so even if I had a legitimate claim where she was clearly in the wrong, she would defend her action, bring up the problems she had with me and send me in tears from her office. It got to the point where I knew there was no point in approaching her. I took the problem to her boss who told me to get over it. Then I quit. There are some kinds of anger that just aren’t worth ruining your life over.

If you’re angry at your child, you have to devise a way to show your child you’re angry, but you still love him or her. As I am still childless, I’m not much of an expert here. But, I’ve had the pleasure of watching most of my girlfriends raise their children and they do a few things in common. They immediately address the situation and apply whatever punishment is appropriate for the behavior that caused the anger. Spankings do not come immediately. One friend has her child retrieve the spanking spoon and sit on the stairs and wait for the spanking. This is genius. It prevents her from spanking in anger and it allows the child to think about why he is being punished. If you don’t spank your children, the lesson is the same. Put the child in a corner while you have time to simmer down so you can calmly tell your child why you are upset. Screaming at a four-year-old or a fourteen-year-old is far less effective than you think. This isn’t Susanna speaking here, this is a few years of study in education in which experts agree: screaming at your children is not an effective means of modifying their behavior. Of course, my mother yelled at me all the time, but she never screamed. Yelling is raising your voice; screaming is losing control. You’re the adult and you must maintain control, even when you’re angry. That’s hard, but that is what you have to do.

The anger I’ve been struggling with lately is anger at circumstance. I’m angry at the hand I’ve been dealt this round and even though I can look around and see other people with far worse, I’m still angry with what I’ve got, or rather with what I haven’t got.

The only way I can combat this is by finding joy in what I do have. If I waste all my time being angry at the half empty glass, which can give me nothing by the way, then I’ve lost any opportunity to be happy with what is in my glass in the first place. My glass contents are pretty good, even if I’m angry about what’s not in it.

So I’m going to take a few minutes to vent, rant and cry, then I’m going to pick myself up, shower the anger off and move on.

You can do that too.

How can you be angry when you see this baby hedgehog?

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