Anyone can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.
How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.
Have you ever been so angry that you’re shaking? So angry that rationality goes right out the window? When you get angry, how do you handle it?
Angry people can be rational or irrational. Anger itself doesn’t have consequences, but acting on that anger does, and the consequences of those actions can be positive or negative.
Anger is designed to be a survival mechanism. When bad things happen to us, anger provides us with adrenalin along with a drive to overcome it. But how we define “bad thing” and what we mean by “overcome” is where we can run into trouble. When acting in anger, it would help to ask ourselves, “What do I hope to achieve?”
Often, people are angry about things that they can’t put right, but they want justice. However, justice is not the same thing as vengeance, and the distinction can be fuzzy to angry people.
It can be helpful to ask ourselves some questions before acting in anger. These questions will not only help focus our response and make it more likely to be positive; they will also give us the time we need to go from the irrational, shaking kind of anger to the indignant, action-oriented kind of anger. Some questions we might ask ourselves include:
- What are the motivations of the person with whom I’m angry? Were they being malicious?
- What do I hope to accomplish by my actions? Will my actions achieve this?
- Will my actions make things better?
- Will my actions make me feel better in the long run?
- Are my actions consistent with my values?
Anger can be an on-the-spot emotion, but it can also linger. It might be in response to an ongoing injustice, repeated incidents, or something that you just can’t get over. This kind of anger can have a negative impact on your whole life.
Some of the worst trouble I’ve gotten myself into has been anger-related—acting impulsively in anger before thinking something through—writing a scathing or accusing e-mail without giving myself time to process my anger, for example.
Ongoing anger, even when justified, can be a very undesirable state because of its harmful effects on our outlook, our relationships, and our focus. It is important to try to understand and ultimately process it. This can be very hard, but acknowledging our anger, and processing or appropriately acting on it (if possible), is a critical part to ridding ourselves of its harmful effects.
What do we do about anger that’s associated with something we can’t make right—something that is irreversible? That’s a much harder question because we can’t bring our anger to bear on whatever the problem is.
Anger like this can be addressed by looking inward, acknowledging it, and recognizing how it is affecting us emotionally and physically. With time and patience, we can learn to anticipate when it is going to surface and manage it so that it doesn’t affect our outlook or our actions.
Anger is not inherently a good or a bad thing, but how people act on it and how it affects them can be.
It’s important for us to get to know our anger—how it affects us and what we do about it.