THERE are a lot of angry people out there. We have the run of the mill anger that we all feel at some point. You know, the anger that arises in our chests when something is annoying, threatening, frustrating or trying to fight us. We grit our teeth at our managers, slam doors at home, yell out expletives to stupid drivers and mutter words under our breath. We tell our kids off for losing their shoes, yet again.
Anger is a completely normal human emotion. It is normal to feel a reasonable amount of anger in response to annoyances. In most cases, it is not a problem. In fact, we wouldn’t be here today if not for feeling it.
What other emotion would have helped us fight predators in the past, if not for anger? Anger allows us to constructively deal with certain situations we find ourselves in. But there is another level of anger. Anger that hurts. Anger that causes you to abuse those around you. Anger that causes violence. Anger that you feel you can’t control.
Anger is a feeling that causes physiological changes in your body. Increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as the release of stress chemicals. It is a reaction that puts your body into the fight or flight response. It gets you ready for a fight: red face, sweating, shaking and tension in the limbs. When it escalates too much it may feel that you are out of control.
Whether you can control that anger or not, you will know if you have a problem with anger.
Why? Because there have been consequences. You have seen what your anger has done to the people around you. The results of your angry outbursts will be in your life. There might be relationship breakdowns, problems at work or friends avoiding you. There may be tears, bruises, overturned furniture, blood and the people you love cowering in the corner of a room.
There are obvious results of excessive anger problems that you will see once you have calmed down. It will be right before your eyes. At some level you know you have anger problems. It’s harming others. It’s harming you.
Anger turns on the fight of flight response. The inner part of your brain is feeling threatened (for whatever reason), and often, it goes into an attack mode which you may feel is unstoppable. Something is setting you off and often it is disproportionate to what is happening in the moment.
But you know what, whether you feel you can stop it or not, you know what the consequence are because it has happened before. You have seen what your rage has caused. We can blame our abusive behaviour on the current stress we are experiencing, the way we were brought up, our parents, or even the future that we foresee.
But I would like to explain something to you. There are a few major factors that determine everything in our lives.
Firstly, our genes. You are born with these and there is not much you can do about them (not yet anyway). You get what you are given here.
Secondly, your environment. This is the context in which you live now as well as the one in which you grew up. This includes your parents as well as other people around, the kids at school, the ups and downs of childhood. So everything in your surroundings since your were born.
So whether you have good or bad genes; or grew up in a good or bad environment — all have had considerable impact on the way you are now.
However. Us evolved humans have something a bit extra that lower-order animals don’t. This is because we are conscious and we have reason. We are not like other animals who are affected totally by their genes and environment. We have an awareness of our feelings, thoughts and behaviours.We behave in certain ways that have consequences, and we an ability to ‘reflect’ on what happened, and make a choice to change it if we choose. Cats and cows don’t do this. They can’t consciously set out to change their behaviour, their thoughts or their environment.
So given that we can learn from the outcomes of our behaviours, it is safe to say, that if you are excessively harming people in your life through your rage, that you can choose to do something about it. If you are abusing people in your life, then you can learn (by getting the right help) to stop doing that behaviour. There are many techniques you can learn, that will help you control your anger, which in turn helps those around you.
Anger ‘in’ hurts you. Anger ‘out’ hurts others.
But you must take responsibility for this, and learn how to manage the anger that arises almost too quickly for you to control. It is not normal to be excessively angry and hurt fellow human beings.You are not a product of your genes and environment. You have that extra ability which allows you to ‘do something about it’.
Use that extra special human ability that other animals don’t have — consciously do something about your anger.