How to Deal with Anger and Keep Your Cool
Anger is a natural emotion we experience in life, and there’s no getting around it. However, it can be an unhealthy and unhelpful emotional reaction that can increase the risk of serious health problems (both physical and emotional) and damages to your relationships.
Anger is a common reaction to events and situations that are frustrating or threatening, but can also result from other emotional situations such as loneliness.
Despite being a natural emotion, that doesn’t make anger any less dangerous to your health or social relationships, especially when it becomes a habit. In fact, anger is a secondary emotion that’s started by another emotional reaction to certain situations and events.
Why do so many people get angry?
Anger, in the moment, can feel powerful. Anger can temporarily control a situation and create the feeling of being in charge.
However, anger is most often an unhealthy emotion that displays someone is more out of control than in control.
So is anger always “bad” then?
No, anger isn’t always “bad.” Nature put it there for its use as a means of defense, if nothing else. Working to lower your anger in your daily life doesn’t mean it won’t be there when you need it.
Habitual anger is a waste of time. Getting angry rarely fixes anything. At its worse, it places you at risk to violence, health problems, relationship issues, and legal troubles.
If you’re looking to rid yourself of habitual anger, look at the primary emotional reaction you’re having and place your focus on dealing with those situations.
The greatest remedy for anger is delay.
― Thomas Paine
Managing anger is more about managing your primary emotions
If you engage in habitual anger, what you’re trying to do is assert yourself and manage the situation in an unhealthy way.
What are the emotional sources of anger?
As previously mentioned, anger is a secondary emotion… an emotion that follows other emotional situations. Examples of these primary emotions include:
Learning to manage these primary emotions will tend to help reduce your habitual anger.
How do I manage myself to be less angry?
To manage yourself to move away from habitual anger, look at being less demanding. This doesn’t mean you have to change your values or goals. Rather, it means to simply think in less demanding ways.
The Three Major Musts
Demanding ideas in your thinking can flood you with the primary emotions mentioned above, which can then lead you to habitual anger.
There are 3 primary demands and attitudes that make your life harder to manage. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Major Must #1: “I must be perfect in what I do and win the approval of the significant people in my life or I’m no good.”
This first “must” is placing a demand on you, holding your own self-approval for ransom with the condition you must perform perfectly and be showered with the approval of others at all times.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Sure! In reality, though, it’s impossible.
With that “must” in place, you’ll soon overwhelm yourself with strong self-disapproval… like calling yourself names. If you do this often enough, you’ll start believing what you’re thinking.
Major Must #2: “Others must treat me with respect and consideration at all times or they’re people that must be punished.”
This second “must” is a demand you lay on others, one that conflicts with reality. You’re demanding that others put you above their own self-interest at all times. When they act in their own self-interest and not yours, you lash out in anger.
No matter how much you wish it might be, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be the most important person to the point where all others are putting you first at all times.
Major Must #3: “The world must be easily enjoyable, give me what I want without hassles, or my situation is terrible and I can’t stand it.”
This third “must” is a demand you place on the world. If you keep defining the world as a bad situation in your life because it’s not rolling out the red carpet just for you, you see the world around you as a terrible place… and you’re subjecting yourself to live in that “terrible place” every day.
The fact is, you’re making yourself miserable by demanding the impossible of yourself, others, and the world.
I came to realize that if people could make me angry, they could control me. Why should I give someone else such power over my life?
― Ben Carson
So what do I do?
Now that you’ve seen the type of thinking that may lead to habitual anger, let’s shift it so it doesn’t end with you damning yourself, others, and the world.
Thinking in preferring ways
Let’s take those demanding thoughts and flip them around a bit to see how you can relieve yourself of the primary emotional reactions that might lead to anger.
Preferring -vs- Demanding
Instead of demanding that you perform perfectly and get those never-ending approvals, let’s change these to:
“I would like to do well and receive approval all the time, but I can deal with it when I don’t. My focus is on doing well for me, not seeking perfection or demanding the approval of others.”
“I would like that the people in my life give me respect and consideration, and I appreciate when that happens, but it’s unlikely to happen all the time. People have their own lives, and their lives don’t revolve around my wishes.”
“I’d like to get what I want and not be hassled, but it’s not a perfect world built just for me. I’ll enjoy the world more by accepting it “as is” rather than believing the world must be my own personal fantasy land.”
By dialing down the demanding ways of thinking, you can keep all your values and goals, but experience a lot less frustration and sadness just by saying it’s OK to not have things “your way” all the time… because it won’t happen anyway!
You’ll not wake up one day and find yourself 100% perfect, you’ll not influence all others to make their life revolve around you, and it’s unlikely your wishes will change the course of the universe.
What kind of thoughts do these demands look like?
Here are some examples of demanding thoughts that may lead to upsets:
“Just my luck. It’s raining.”
Yeah, okay, it’s raining, but it’s not about “your luck.”
“I never get a break.”
If you’re alive right now, it’s likely you’ve had a lot of “breaks.”
“I screwed up on that. I’m such a loser!”
A single failure doesn’t prove much of anything about your worth as an individual.
More tips for dealing with your anger
Lower the volume on anger by recognizing all the things that do go well.
Stop adding anger into already frustrating situations with the “Why me’s?” and focusing on all the “deserving” you believe that you’re due. Why not you?
Instead of demanding that you must be perfect, look at the failures you experience differently. If things don’t go well, there may be something to learn, or something to accept. Nothing is a failure if you learn something from it.