A guest post on healing from anger, by Prakhar Verma.
I’ve had a weird relationship with anger.
I was an extremely angry kid in the past.
As I grew up, I learned to control my anger with a meditation practice, but I never healed my relationship with anger until recently.
Like me, maybe you’ve tried to take control of your anger before. Maybe you took a pledge to stay calm, but then a small frustrating event got the worst out of you.
So how do you get a zen-like mind without going to the Himalayas for the rest of your life?
Luckily, you don’t need to abandon the complications of daily life to make peace with anger.
For a few months, I thought I was free of anger when my life was going well. But then, I found how wrong I was when things fell apart.
Not getting angry when the world is perfect is easy. The real skill is to make peace with anger in the worst situations.
What I Tried That Didn’t Work
As I decided to take control of my anger, I tried many things that worked temporarily, but not permanently.
Here are a few things I tried:
I Tried To Suppress My Emotions
For a long time, I tried to hide my emotions. I felt anger, but I would swallow it somehow.
This solution worked well for handling the situations, but it was destroying my mental health.
When I would reach a threshold, I would let all the anger come out at once. It was even worse because it was an accumulation of all the times I suppressed my feelings.
I Tried Using A Journal To Identify The Triggers
I’ve been journaling for a long time. While it does help me regulate most of my emotions, it didn’t help me with anger at first.
Anger is a high-energy emotion that doesn’t wait for anyone. It may come at any frustrating event and before you know it, you burst out in anger.
Even though I identified a few reoccurring triggers, I still hadn’t found a way to solve the underlying issue.
I Tried Pausing To Take A Deep Breath
Sometimes, I would pause and take a few deep breaths to turn the fight-or-flight response to a pause-and-plan response. It worked in situations that were not that significant, but it still wasn’t a reliable solution in the long-term for two reasons:
First, I could not always remember to pause. Second, even when I paused, it may have helped me to stay calm at the moment, but when the situation repeated itself, I was back to square one.
My Two Root Causes Of Anger
The reason all these tactics didn’t work in the long-term was that I didn’t solve the main issue.
It took me a while to find the underlying problem. One day, I had an epiphany.
It wasn’t the triggers that were the cause of the anger. The triggers were just the activators of anger.
I finally understood that the main reason anger ruled over me was because I was expecting two things from life: control and fairness.
Control and Fairness
The mistake I was making was that I was trying to control the uncontrollable. I was expecting life to go my way.
You see, I plan things out in advance and I love it when things happen exactly how I expect them to go. If anything came in my way, I would get frustrated.
Another reason was that I was expecting life to be fair. For example, I thought if I work harder than others, I deserve to get what I want.
Life doesn’t work that way. Yes, you may control the things in your hands, but that’s all you can do.
Expecting life to go your way or to be fair only leads to anger, resentment, hatred, or frustration.
One day or another, you will get unlucky and face the outcomes you never imagined.
- You do your best to prepare for an exam, but for some reason; you perform poorly.
- You do your best to fix a relationship, only to break up in the end.
- You do everything you can to advance in your career, but guess what: it wasn’t enough.
How I Made Peace With Anger
Fixing your relationship with anger isn’t about anger. It’s about your relationship with life.
I realized that I wasn’t loving life enough. I would expect life to give me what I wanted if I did what was expected. It was like making a contract and expecting life to fulfill it.
To get out of this trap, I started to love life. I still do what’s in my control, but I’ve stopped making contracts with life. I accept and love life as it is.
I also accept anger as a guest. Before I would do everything to draw anger away, but it would still sneak in without my permission.
Now, I realize that anger is just another emotion and there is nothing wrong with me if I feel it.
I think of every frustrating situation as a test. It doesn’t matter if I fail or pass. What matters is that I keep a note of it and try to do better in the next test.
Instead of letting anger use me the way it wants, I try to use anger in the best way possible.
How do I use anger? I’m glad you asked.
I use healthy outlets to express anger (instead of suppressing it). For example, I will type out an angry letter. In the letter, I don’t hide my emotions. I openly write whatever I’m thinking without judging myself for thinking those thoughts. Once I’m done, I hit delete. That way I express myself without doing any damage.
I also transform the energy of anger into a positive action. For example, you can take immediate action to make a situation better, or if something is completely out of your control, you can do a workout. Working out changes your brain chemistry and lets your mind and body release everything it had been holding back.
You can also change your brain chemistry by distracting yourself with the activities that release “feel good” neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Listening to music, watching comedy, or expressing gratitude are a few ways to do it.
The root cause of your anger and frustration may be an addiction to control or an expectation of fairness from life.
Let go because you can’t control everything in life. Turn your focus inward and control the only thing that will always be in your control : your actions and perception.
Life may be unfair, but there are people who have faced much more unfairness than you or I. In fact, you and I are luckier than you think because of the life we get to experience as humans. And I’m thankful for that.
Sorry life, I didn’t love you like I should have. But now I do … unconditionally.
Prakhar’s mission is to help ambitious people design their epic lives at DesignEpicLife.com. He writes about life, self-improvement, happiness, success, productivity, and other topics related to designing a better life.
Prakhar has 3 special, free gifts for OLD listeners, including a cheat sheet to design a success checklist, an email course to find the ingredients of happiness, and an ultimate guide on emotional intelligence. You can grab them by heading over to DesignEpicLife.com/OLD.