Understanding Anger in 3 steps

For us to manage anger, we need to understand where it comes from.

#1. Anger is almost NEVER the primary emotional response.

Anger is so common because society has told us it is the only acceptable emotion, that all other emotions are weak.

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We learn in childhood that many emotions are weaknesses and only people who are soft experience them.  Society calls us snowflakes, sensitive, and over emotional.  Men are called wussies or feminine.  On the flip side, society REWARDS anger and rage as powerful with fame and status. It started with the Gladiators (who were in reality actually scared and surviving for their lives more than aggressive) and it continues today with people in big business and politics.

#2. When our core Beliefs are challenged, we can become angry.

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We are taught from a young age all of the things that become our core beliefs.  Parents, friends, the education system, society, religions – all of these have a place in handing us our thought patterns that we carry throughout life into adulthood.

What does this look like ? Some simple examples are:

  • the Earth is round
  • parents should take care of their children
  • young people should respect their elders
  • we all need to make money to survive

What we need to realize is that although some of us learn the above things, other people may not.  Maybe someone never went through the Western education system – they would not have been told the Earth is round.  Maybe someone grew up in a broken home, NOT being taken care of by their own parents – their version of parenthood would be MUCH different than someone else’s.  Maybe someone’s family didn’t respect elders, sending them away to a care home and forgetting about them, or witnessing elder abuse.  There are some cultures around the world that DO NOT focus on money and capitalism – although that is quickly dwindling with the rise of the global economy and technology.  People who grow up around various religions are taught different values.

If someone has a belief that life is a certain way, they will become upset when exposed to information that is DIFFERENT from what they currently know and believe.

So what do you do ? Recognize that people only understand and see the world from THEIR experiences, and their experiences are not YOUR experiences.  Neither is wrong, they are just different.

I am NOT saying this is an excuse to abuse and mistreat others, or that we should tolerate that behaviour.  All I am saying is that rather than being angry about a behaviour or belief someone has, try to understand the reason behind their behaviour and belief.

#3. When our expectations are not met, we can become angry.

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Ever gone into a store to pick up something you need, only to find out they didn’t have it?  What happens when you try to use a piece of technology and it doesn’t work ? How do you feel when you lose something, like your keys ?

When these kind of situation makes someone upset, it is because they have the expectation about the situation, and what actually happened was different than what they thought would happen.  Their expectation was not met.  Instant disappointment, which if you remember the iceberg above, could result in anger.

Expectations also go hand in hand with core beliefs.  We learn that things are a certain way in the world (which may or may not be true, but it is what we learned so we accept it), and when the world doesn’t live up, we get upset.  Much of this is just how we THINK things are supposed to be, not how things actually are.

Some examples of this are:

  • expecting ourselves to perform or behave in a particular way
  • expecting others to perform or behave in a particular way
  • expecting tools, technology and animals or plants to perform in a particular way
  • expecting people and things to look a particular way
  • expecting particular treatment from other people

The more expectations you have on how things should go, the angrier you will be in life – because you are constantly being disappointed by a world that doesn’t measure up.

So what can you do to start to respond to life with less anger ?

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#1. Try to identify which REAL emotions are at play.

#2. Try to identify what part of your life’s programming, your core beliefs, is being challenged by the situation you face yourself in. Recognize that not all people have the same life programming because they were raised in a different environment than you.  Doesn’t make it right or wrong, it just makes it different.

#3. Try to let go of ALL expectations and assumptions of how things are going to happen, and just respond to the things as they happen.  Stop assuming you should be a particular way, and stop assuming that others should be a particular way.

#4. Notice the physical body responses to anger – I don’t talk about this here but I will do a blog about this in the future.

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