I Quit Anger

And how you can, too.

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

I’ve quit cigarettes.

I’ve quit alcohol.

I’ve quit my comfort zone.

I even quit anger.

But sometimes, I fall off the bandwagon. I give in to the urge to be angry and to take it out on those around me. These can be very un-spiritual moments, to be sure, but now, they are few and far between.

I remember that feeling of my stomach tightening into knots, my heart rate increasing and the insane desire to scream and shout and lash out because life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, or because someone else wasn’t behaving the way I wanted them to. That was how my anger manifested itself — I exploded.

Perhaps you resonate with this feeling. Or maybe your anger is the type that implodes. Instead of striking out at others, you drive it deep into your body, where it sits and simmers, making you feel like a pot of boiling water with the lid pushed down by alcohol, drugs, criticism, resentment and even by depression.

Neither of these are good ways to handle anger. We all know it, and yet it can seem almost impossible to channel this forceful energy into something more appropriate –especially when we’re in the moment of intense anger.

Why do we get so angry?

It’s usually other people make us so angry, isn’t it? If it’s not your annoying boss or insensitive partner, then it’s your unruly children, the bad drivers on the road and just stupid people making stupid decisions that impact on your life.

Perhaps you feel that you simply can’t help getting angry because anger is a personality trait, something you were born with. It’s your fiery temperament, your hot head or an uncontrollable characteristic that you inherited from your mother, who in turn inherited it from her mother.

You might even feel justified in your anger, viewing it as a survival skill, a tool to help you get what you want or to control those around you.

Sometimes we simply don’t know how else to do what we manage to get done with our anger because anger gets results. Anger gets people to pay attention.

But anger isn’t the only thing that gets results.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Anger and Control

We all know that it’s not right to use our anger to manipulate others or as an excuse for uncontrolled behaviour. And while it may seem impossible at times to overcome the anger habit, it really isn’t.

My philosophy with just about everything in life — including anger — is simple. I remind myself that we can’t always control the things outside of us, but we can always control the things inside of us. It really is that simple.

I was only able to overcome my habit of reacting with anger when I finally internalised this idea that I am truly responsible for every one of my actions and reactions and that even getting angry is a choice that I make. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a choice at the time, but it is.

There is no point getting angry about things we have no control over. Our anger won’t make any difference to those things since we have no control over them.

So that annoying boss, slacking co-worker, traffic jams, disappointments, rejections and other external stimuli that we allow ourselves to get angry over might not go away at all, but the option to choose inner peace is always available to us. It might not happen overnight, but we can practise choosing peace every day.

Practising Peace

Once I took responsibility for my anger, and I accepted that I make the choice to react with anger to certain stimuli that were coming my way at the time, I realised that I could choose to respond differently.

It’s not always easy, of course, but I regard choosing peace as a practice, so I get to work at it every day.

I know that sounds and feels like an anti-climax. “Self-empowerment” and “choose peace” as alternatives to reacting with anger just lack the necessary drama and mystique that powerful change-your-life kinda tools should have. These ideas have no glitter, they don’t sparkle. They lack pizazz. (Insert jazz hands here.)

In fact, I think I can hear you groaning already. That’s it, you ask? We’re back on the whole self-responsibility thing again?

Well, yes. We are.

Because that’s where the magic happens.

Learning to take responsibility for yourself and for the ways in which you choose to respond to the world you live in, is like having a magic wand. Once you start taking responsibility for all your actions and reactions, including the thoughts that you choose, then you can truly start to make changes in any area of your life.

You will no longer be at the mercy of the emotions, opinions or actions of others.

You will be truly the master of your own destiny.

And isn’t that the whole point?

Footnote: Understanding that you are fully in control of all your actions and reactions to life doesn’t exclude getting help when help is needed. Asking for help — from a friend, from a professional, from your spiritual helpers — is a proactive choice that is available to all of us. Choosing to ask for help is taking responsibility for your life.

Try this:

Take some paper and pen and write down 5 things that really get you hot under the collar. Those 5 instances that you know are the triggers for your anger.

Now, next to each one, just imagine choosing a different reaction next time you bump up against one of those 5 instances. Which choices are available to you?

Here’s an example:

Trigger: Road rage caused by traffic jams and bad drivers.

Alternative choices:

  • Listen to a CD/MP3 in the car that you really enjoy, which will help you keep calm (audio books, self help, music.)
  • Choose a different road.
  • Speak to your boss about changing your working hours so that you can either do more work from home or come to an arrangement where you can arrive at and leave work outside of peak traffic hours.
  • Do something else to avoid the traffic, such as go to the gym or night school or go for a run.
  • You could practise breathing techniques while sitting in traffic.
  • Investigate the possibility of using public transport instead.
  • Car pool with another driver so that you don’t have to be at the wheel, where it’s more stressful.
  • Spend time every day visualising sitting in traffic and experiencing calm, instead of aggression and anger.
  • Even choosing to attend anger management classes is a choice that is in alignment with being in control of yourself.

The point of this exercise is for you to see, in black and white, that you really do have many options available to you in any given circumstance. Some choices are better than others, and getting angry is just one of them — it doesn’t have to be your go-to reaction.

Practice choosing peace, and make that your go-to reaction instead.

Originally published at angienoll.com on March 23, 2017.