You Have a Right to Be Angry, You Have the Choice to Control It

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I am reading an absolutely fabulous book called You Are What You Think by David Stoop, Ph.D. His chapter called "Self-Talk and Anger" was so revealing that I felt that I had to share it with you.

It's Okay to Be Angry. First, it was enlightening to discover that anger is a valid emotion. We typically associate anger with someone losing their temper and acting on this strong emotion in a negative way. In fact, many children have been hurt by someone not controlling their anger. Our early experiences with anger sometimes cause us to go to extremes to deny these feelings.

However, watching the nightly news can cause even the most jaded person to feel a surge of anger. One story that has been repeating itself lately is a mother killing her own children. There is no disguising this feeling for me - it makes me angry. Another example, when someone lies, and I know they are lying, I really get mad. Whether you call it frustrated, mad, irritated, or angry; you have a right to feel this emotion.

How Do We Deal with Anger? Your response to anger falls into a few groupings (although the variations are too numerous to list):

Accepting / Unaware - You tend to be overwhelmed.
Accepting / Aware - You deal with your anger effectively (growth).
Denying / Unaware - You get physically sick.
Denying / Aware - You focus your anger inward (overcontrolling).

The only place that growth occurs is when you accept anger as a valid emotion and you are aware when you are angry.

What Not to Do. One thing that you don't want to do to resolve your anger is to vent it. I know this is a controversial statement so bear with me. Many prominent Psychologists believe that anger is like a reservoir and the only way to relieve the pressure is to act on the emotion or express it in some physical or verbal way. However, unless you direct these actions into resolving the problem, you may actually be making it worse. We know that what me think about expands.

For example, if you are telling your friend about a fight that you had with your spouse, it may make you feel better momentarily. However, it doesn't resolve the issue between you and your spouse. In fact, depending upon what you friend tells you, you may feel even stronger about your feelings of anger and hold onto them with greater force. Furthermore, if your spouse knew that you were discussing your private fight with your friend, it may increase their level of anger.
How Should You Resolve Anger. The reason that we get angry with other people is because we place demands on them. Often, these demands are legitimate expectations of other people's behavior. However, one thing you should know by now is that you can't make anyone do anything. Sure, you may force them to obey your demands; however, they won't do it willingly under those conditions. In fact, because of the Law of Unintended Consequences, you will pay a price.

So, what do we do? We change. Instead of saying someone "should" or "shouldn't" do something, which is a demand, we change them into "wants", "desires", or "wishes". By doing this, you take back control. Your happiness is no longer wrapped up in what someone else should do.

If you don' believe this will work, try this for a week: When you start to feel anger, isolate the demand that you are making. Now, change that demand into a desire.

Action Steps:
1. Write down the demand you're making in your mind. i.e. She shouldn't gripe at me for working late.
2. Re-write the demand into a desire. i.e. I wish she knew that I'm working late to get that promotion so we can spend more time together.
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