Anger Management: What’s the Best Thing to Do When You’re Pissed Off?
A recent discussion involved the best way to handle anger.
I suppose we all get angry at times. That’s just part of life.
What’s important isn’t so much trying to suppress our anger, as channeling our basic instincts and raw emotions in a positive manner — assuming that’s an option.
My stance on the anger question should be obvious. I tend to fight back. In fact, I find counteraction to be almost therapeutic. I feel much better after blowing off steam, whether it’s writing, screaming, direct confrontation, or flipping off someone. These approaches just work for me. Letting things all out in the open doesn’t increase my blood pressure. I suspect venting even lowers it. Hopefully, I’ll prove this by living to be 110 and still shooting my enemies the finger.
My anger management “solution” isn’t contrived. I don’t consciously think about it. It’s natural, perhaps even instinctive. For instance, the easiest and quickest columns to write are always those when I’m angry about something. Most of the time, there’s no forethought at all — just raw emotion and the words begin to flow like a steady stream. Why dam up this natural flow of energy? I think most would agree that creative arts — including writing, music, and so forth — are a very constructive response to the annoyances we all observe and experience in our lives.
However, is screaming at someone you don’t even know who cuts you off in traffic productive? I believe so. This fiery impulse reminds me of yelling at the television screen while watching a football game. The players can’t hear me, of course. But I sure as hell feel a lot better venting my anger towards something after a fumble costs me $500. Usually, the angst has dissipated a short time after the outburst (unless my team fumbles again). On the other hand, I’m not sure I could feel contentment if I tried to hold back my anger inside.
Does this mean we should always express ourselves openly? I don’t think so. Where anger usually has no place is between people who are close emotionally — such as family members, friends, spouses, or even co-workers. I see no benefit to humiliating those closest to us (even when deserved, perhaps). The problem with angry words between people who have built close relationships is — you can’t take them back. Ever. And words are like scars. Words that cut the deepest never disappear.
Is this a contradiction? Perhaps. But there are a lot of wrongs in the world, and most advocacy movements begin with anger. We’re angry at the president, congress, the oil companies, the killers of whales, the banks, the French, the National Rifle Association — whatever. Anger can sometimes be a good thing. It makes us pay closer attention, if nothing else.
But anger should not to be confused with passion. In fact, passion is the fuel of human life. We live for the things that we’re most passionate about. Matters that cause us to argue can (and often do) bring us closer together. They cause us to think. They cause to us question ourselves, which is essential to learning and evolving. Passionate debate and discussion — even when things get heated — can be invigorating. What’s essential is separating the point of the discussion from the person we’re arguing with. Indeed, most of us have close relationships with the people we most often disagree with — even sometimes vehemently. Hence, it becomes mandatory to channel anger constructively which allows us maintain the highest virtues of love and respect. Most married couples understand and adhere to this.
My counterpart in our discussion made what I think are rather obvious points in rebuttal. She cited my health and happiness, presumably in great jeopardy, imploding slowly but surely one angry moment at a time due to my psyche’s gross mismanagement of my emotions. Not only is anger stressful, therefore triggering numerous potential health problems, it adversely affects our quality of life. After all, it’s not good to walk around angry all the time. At first glance, these negative consequences of anger are irrefutable.
So, instead of getting angry, what should you do? She insisted the best approach is channeling negatives into positives. In other words, instead of focusing on what went wrong, look back at what may have gone right. And if nothing went right, then think of a similar situation or another day when things did go right. Here’s a podcast about this subject: CLICK HERE Here’s a popular blog which captures the essence of that philosophy. CLICK HERE
This new age philosophy sounds good. Nonetheless, I’m convinced that due to our basic instincts (maybe it’s in the DNA), some of us simply aren’t constituted nor conditioned to always turn the other cheek and focus on the good things instead. We can’t change the essence of fundamentally who we are and how we express ourselves. Furthermore, it’s important — even vital — for real evil which is out there to be counterbalanced with an equal (if not greater) measure of passion and reaction. Civilization — and its survival — needs angry people.
This cuts to the core of what I consider to be the essence of living a productive life. Selfish as it might be, I argue that our happiness may actually depend on conflict. We have no alternative than to embrace the “Type A” personality in ourselves and put all this pent up energy to good use. Alas, the world is full of good uses for anger. The possibilities are endless.
The jerk who cuts in line at the store needs be confronted. The service employee who is unmistakably rude should be scolded. The selfish prick who intentionally takes up two spaces in a crowded parking lot probably deserves to have his car scratched. The moron who blows cigarette smoke in your face without apology likely deserves a hearty bitch slap. Anger is a good reflex.
And then there are the bigger issues. The racist fools who ridicule the new Miss America need to be openly disgraced. The mindless zealots who want “Creation Science” taught in our schools must be exposed as buffoons. Charlatans like psychics and fortune tellers who prey on the weak must be confronted and put out of business. Again, here’s where anger is good.
And then there are the biggest issues of all. Wall Street types who nearly drove the world into another Great Depression should be charged, convicted, and sent away for life. Monsters who committed horrible crimes against humanity, often sanctioned by governments, should be hunted down. Corporations and contractors that cheat the taxpayer, pollute the environment, engage in corruption, and do any number of other bad things should be boycotted and put out of business. The bottom line is — anger becomes essential towards righting the world’s many wrongs.
You don’t win life’s most important battles by doing breathing exercises or simply focusing on good things.
You win — first of all — by getting angry.
Writer’s Note: Special thanks to Patti Beadles for the discussion and links above.