We’ve established that when we get angry, we only harm ourselves. But now we have some good ways to get physically relaxed when anger strikes. We can do progressive relaxation, especially of our faces, or we can Chi Walk to develop a quieter mind at all times.
First, we recognize that we are angry, and then relax ourselves physically. Now we can get control of the situation. This is not about suppressing our anger, so that it continues to boil inside us. It is about focusing on the bigger picture, and things that really matter.
When we are first learning to channel our anger, it may be helpful to start with some questions:
Don’t Make It Personal
- Is this a personal challenge, or is it something external? Few things make us angry like being insulted, humiliated, or talked down to. But not every disagreement is an insult.
Most people blindly serve themselves, without thinking about anyone else. They would be surprised to found out that anything they did was a problem to us.
We believe they are paying attention, and we conclude that they hurt us intentionally. But we’re wrong. They couldn’t care less.
If the disagreement is work-related, home-related, money-related, or family-related, it isn’t about us. It’s about things that are outside us.
And if it’s outside us, it doesn’t matter much.
When the other person is only thinking of himself, we can use this positive message: “I enjoy and prove myself in negative situations.”
We can thank our anger for alerting us to the possible threat to our person and our feelings. But it’s work is done while we deal brilliantly with this negative situation.
Be Flexible, Within Limits
- Is my picture of what is acceptable too rigid? Sometimes, we have a vision of the way things should be, and get angry when the reality is different.
We draw “a line in the sand.” We have our limits.
No one should cross certain limits. Your human rights are sacred. Sexual harassment, racism, and all the other -isms are not acceptable.
But you may think you should be treated politely because of some personal quality. Your intelligence, your experience, your kindness, these should all count for something.
In a perfect world, they would. But we have to let this go. Reality rarely gives us what it should, and demanding that we get what we want will only make us angry. Bad people may even provoke this anger, to show that they will not give us what we want.
We can make our desire for respect and appreciation known, but we cannot demand it. Anger because others don’t treat us the way we think they should is often a mask for something else. You may feel embarrassed, or humiliated, or ashamed, or afraid, or vulnerable.
In most cases, the frustration and disappointment of the moment are not lasting. Ask yourself how you will feel about this in 6 days. Or 6 weeks. I had a wise friend who often said, “In a hundred years, no one will have any idea this happened.”
Do not focus on this personal slight. It is not about you but about the other person’s inability to perceive and appreciate you. Tell yourself: “I am in complete control of myself and my part of this situation.”
Do not get angry. Be strong and in control. This situation is trivial. The other person cannot control you and your feelings.
There Are No Problems
- Is this a real problem? Another wise friend told me, “There are no problems. If there is a solution, there is no problem. And if there is no solution, it is a reality you’ll have to live with.”
Remember how well you have managed difficulties in your life. Sure, some things got away from you, but forget them. You have dealt with stuff you didn’t want to deal with, and you came out on top. You’re still alive, you’re a survivor.
You solved some of them. And you lived with some of them. And here you are.
There are a couple of good things to tell yourself about this annoying situation. The first is “I’ve got this.” Be confident. You will confront and manage this conflict. You’ve done it before.
Also remind yourself: “I’m a skilled problem solver.” You may be afraid that you cannot solve the problem, but don’t get angry. Confront your fear. Ask yourself what is so difficult about this problem. Is it something you cannot do, or really, really don’t want to do? If you don’t want to do it, is there a way to make the task more interesting, valuable, or enjoyable to you? You’re a skilled problem solver, and you can find a way.
If the situation is full of emotional triggers, tell yourself, “I’ve managed difficult people before.” Say this even if you are not 100% sure.
It acknowledges that this situation is difficult. You’re putting it up against the toughest challenges that you have ever faced. There may be deep personality conflicts embedded in the problem. But you are also telling yourself that there is nothing to fear, and nothing to get angry about. Your logic, reason, experience and personal strengths will emerge victorious.
Tranquility is Strength
- One Last Message: It may take you some time to cycle through these questions and answers. You have relaxed physically, but your mind may be racing to turn off the source of stress.
This is the time to tell yourself: “I will remain calm.”
Remember that anger is a learned response to certain kinds of stressors. It is useful in letting us know that some internal boundary has been crossed. But it is not an effective response to conflict in daily life.
Remaining calm is more effective. This is especially true if someone is getting personal and trying to provoke us. We frustrate these bad intentions when we remain calm. Disappoint the bully or the jerk by not allowing him to enjoy the emotional reaction he is trying to provoke.
We also prove our internal strength. Strong people do not repress anger. They are aware of it, but control and channel it. Remain calm, and bring your reasoning, problem-solving mind to bear. We will solve this problem or deal with an unpleasant reality.
The next step is to express our anger constructively. Not to hold back and poison ourselves, or to explode and lose self-control. We will assert our own point of view with power.
We’ll take a look at that next time.