How to Manage Your Anger through Changing Your Perspective
Humans are the only known animals who have a choice about how they view the world. You can choose to manage your anger or let your anger manage you. Not only do you have choices about how you respond to the world around you (for example, when someone mistreats you), but, even before that, you also have a choice about how you perceive that person’s actions.
Do you think she did that on purpose? Was it an accident, or did he do it deliberately? Is the mistreatment specifically directed at you alone? Do you view this as a catastrophe — a life-altering event? Is this something that you think should not have happened? These questions are all ones your mind considers, albeit unconsciously, before you have a chance to react — or, better yet, respond to provocation.
You might say Mike is a born pessimist, but actually that’s not true. Human beings aren’t born with attitudes — those attitudes come from life experience. What is true is that Mike is the product of an alcoholic home, where things could be going well one minute and in complete chaos the next.
He found out as a child not to expect the good times to last and that he and the rest of his family were always just one beer away from a family crisis. So, for all of his adult life, Mike has expected that most things will eventually turn out badly, given enough time.
No matter how loving his wife is or how cooperative his children are, in the back of his mind he harbors this expectation that any minute things will change for the worse — and he’s ready to react in anger when that moment comes.
Why will he get angry? It’s Mike’s way of defending himself against chaos, a way of feeling in control — unlike when he was a child hiding under the bed while his alcoholic father ranted and raved well into the night.
Mike is unaware of how his early childhood influenced his view of the world. Like most children of alcoholics, he figures that because he survived those unpleasant years (physically at least), he’s okay. He also has no clue why he loses his temper so easily.
Why anger is called “blind” rage
The more intense your anger, the more it overpowers your central nervous system — in other words, your brain. When you’re in a state of rage, you are, for all intents and purposes, deaf, dumb, and blind to everything that’s going on around you — something that is not true when you’re merely irritated or just plain mad.
Rageful people only hear and feel their own anger and they only see the target of their wrath. Ragers often experience emotional amnesia after they calm down — they can’t even tell you exactly what triggered their outrageous behavior in the first place, nor do they remember any of what they said and did during their tirade.
Ironically, they’re often shocked by the harm they cause, and they can be genuinely remorseful. Problem is, because they’re blind to their own dangerous emotions, they have difficulty benefiting from these experiences.
The only way to effectively manage rage is to prevent it from happening in the first place — to act before you enter into that state of uncontrollable emotion. That’s why it is important to take immediate action when you first realize you’re getting angry and to follow the advice about how to keep your cool.
How to choose the lesser of two evils in anger management
Think of a situation that has left you feeling irritated or angry lately. Ask yourself: What did that person do that elicited this emotion? More importantly, why did he act that way? Now, see if you can come up with two other explanations for that person’s behavior. Consider how you will feel based on each of these possibilities. Then pick the one that will produce the least adverse emotional consequences.
For example, let’s say you’re irritated at your dentist for running late for your scheduled appointment. Your first assumption is: “This guy is so greedy for money that he’s packed his day with too many patients, and now we all have to wait!” Okay, maybe that’s the case.
But try to come up with two other reasons he could be late. Maybe he had to spend extra time with a patient who was really afraid of dentists. How about another possibility? Maybe the dentist’s mother is sick and he had to take a phone call from her doctor about her condition. That could be it, too.
Now, which of these scenarios would upset you the least? Maybe it’s the sick mother. So now, just for the sake of your own stress level, assume that his mother is sick. Take it another step and try to empathize with him. Wow, it must be hard to have to see patients and keep up such a cheerful façade when he’s upset about his mother.
Maybe if you’re understanding of him, you’ll help make his day a little easier. (And if nothing else, you’ll have kept your irritation from turning into anger and ruining your day.)