"How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the cause of it." Marcus Aurelius

April 9, 2015

Overcoming the obstacle of anger

Some Relationship advice?

Anger is an emotional response from a real or imagined threat. Anger is painful and we need to get relief.

We use anger to protect/cover up vulnerable feelings. We learned to deny and suppress our feelings so we will not be in emotional pain anymore. However, when something happens in the present, it reminds us of unfinished business in the past and compounds it.

When life makes us angry, we regard it as a problem to be solved. Most people feel frustrated when someone or something obstructs them in some way. And most people respond to the feeling of frustration by immediately wanting the satisfaction of forcing the "obstacle" to get out of the way—or, if it won't move, to curse it and insult it. Looking at the "other side" is called empathy, and it can go a long way to calming yourself down, keeping the peace, reducing the sense of urgency and fostering simple courtesy.

We can catch ourselves wanting to give someone what we are sure is good advice: "This is what I would do" or "This is what you should do." If worrying about what other people think is pleasing to us, we can choose to continue. If it doesn't please us, we can make another choice. We can choose to stop! If bad-mouthing our spouse gives us pleasure, we can continue. But if it makes us unhappy, we can choose not to do it.

As the process continues, it occurs to many that the simplest choice is to stop doing what makes them unhappy. For instance, if nagging our partner about leaving their shoes in the hall pleases us, we are free to continue. If it turns out that we hate doing this, we are free to stop. Instead we can choose to say, "It makes me angry when you do that, I would prefer that you pick up after yourself." When we start to please ourselves, we use our adult judgment to make the appropriate choice as to when, where and how much we need to say.

If a loved one breaks a dish, catch yourself about to assign fault. ("Oh, I shouldn't have left it so close to the edge.") This is an absurd waste of your time and energy. We can stop reacting and express our feelings appropriately: "It makes me angry when you do that!" We can impose a logical consequence, such as having them pay for a replacement.

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