A basic human reaction to perceived probable pain or being hurt is anger. It’s instinctive of any being. When we perceive danger to our kin or ourselves, the fight, flight or freeze mechanism of the amygdala helps to ensure our protection. Anger isn’t bad when it is expressed in the proportionate intensity and to the perceived threat. Unfortunately, we sometimes react in disproportionate ways to the wrong people.
Self-awareness helps us to keep this in check, if we have learned to hit the pause button when triggered and can take the time to understand our own thoughts and feelings before we react inappropriately and instead choose a helpful response, then we have come to a level of self-mastery.
I love Aristotle’s quote, “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.
If we can learn to notice what makes us angry and then explain it to the people we care about and share our lives with, it can help to strengthen those relationships. There is a clear line between feeling anger and resorting or rather reacting in violence. If we learn to self-assess and then choose our words and actions appropriately keeping our higher purpose and intentions in mind, we will be able to be happier people with better relationships and let’s face it, life is about relationships, whether personally, professionally or socially.
Having said this, suppressing anger is not helpful either, as we know it may just erupt like a volcano again in the wrong proportion, at the wrong time to the wrong person, while expressing it with the underlying intention of truly finding a solution can help keep us and our relationships healthy.
If we take the time to really look at our emotions, including anger, we will be able to see what lies beneath them. You might have read an older article I wrote about our values and the iceberg. If not, here’s the summarized version:
They say that a human being can be likened to an iceberg because only the tip is visible. That tip is our behaviors, what others can see and hear us do and say. What drives our behaviors are our thoughts and feelings, (including anger) what drives these thoughts and feelings are our values and priorities which stem from our needs. What drives disempowering and undesirable behaviors comes from a perceived fear that our values are being challenged or that our underlying basic human needs may not be met.
There are emotions that take care of our dignity and often of our freedom and anger is one of them. One of my triggers is when people are late and make me wait for them, my value of respect is being challenged, I feel angry because I think they don’t respect my time, they don’t respect me. I also get angry when I see injustice, my basic value for human freedom feels threatened.
Anger isn’t bad, none of our emotions are good or bad, they just are human. You can’t tell someone not to be sad or angry just as you can’t tell them not to be happy when they are. Emotions drive us to action, as you saw in the analogy of the iceberg, and sometimes, anger is what can motivate us to make a change. Many things can trigger us to feel angry, but the next time you experience the hot blood starting to rise to your cheeks and your hands clench up into a fist and your breathing becomes fast, pause and do a self-check if you want to allow a disproportionate and most likely harmful reaction to escape you rather than thoughtfully choosing a response that will help solve the situation rather than make it even more upsetting.
What makes you angry? Would love your comments, and what values or unmet needs do you think are being challenged? When I asked this of some of my readers, here is what they shared:
“Witnessing and hearing unthinkable acts against helpless people animals everything. And most times not doing much about it: except talk and discuss.”
“When plans are disrupted, I feel angry. When I feel attacked? When I don’t know if I can trust the people around me, when they are not authentic, I feel angry.”
“Injustice. Justice is a human right ….in fact the right of every living being.”
“Anyone preying on children or the old or the helpless. When people say they will do something for you or make plans and then never follow through.”
“Lying to you, thinking you are such an idiot and can’t see through it.”
“When people talk down to people who are not very privileged or otherwise . “
“Everyone seems to be giving serious answers, but honestly, when people cut in front of me and end up going slower than I am currently going. I get furious! Stupid, I know but extremely annoying.”
“When people constantly criticize every single that I do without much basis for the criticism. “
“The glorification of busy…. everyone s faking.”
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