Anger. It is our most basic, natural primitive emotion. Anger motivates us to take action. Anger communicates our displeasure with an issue. Anger allows us to gain control of situations, and it validates how we are perceiving an experience. However, it can also overtake our true emotions and lead us to act irrationally. It can cause us to express ourselves in a manner that cannot be understood and can damage relationships with others. But, more than all of that is that it can damage the mental health of others as well as ourselves.
Let’s look at how many in our society have acted, including us. For example, how many of us have looked at something on social media and became incensed? We get mad at others’ political beliefs, religious beliefs, or even if they are simply having a good time somewhere. Then, if we disagree with their post, instead of just moving on, we may comment with the hope or belief that will change something. After that, when it gets responded to in a manner that opposes your viewpoint……..well, now the rage starts! And why? Their viewpoint doesn’t seem to change, nor does yours. Typically, they are just as mad as we are and they dig their heels in too. If you disagree, please email me at the address below because rarely do viewpoints change based on angry comments. People believe how they want to believe and that, honestly, is one of the great things about where we live. We are allowed to do that. However, instead of celebrating differences, we just get angrier and angrier. Then, we look for more ways to express our rage since our original choice wasn’t very effective. This can come out in how we drive, how we express ourselves at work or with others, an increase in drinking, gambling, etc. Not surprisingly, these don’t work either.
This is not meant to imply, “Don’t ever get angry”. That is not possible nor healthy. However, we don’t seem to recognize our goal when we are expressing our anger. We just want people to know how angry we are, which is ineffective when pushing for change. Try these ideas to see if your anger lessens:
- Taking time to understand where the other person may be coming from which could calm both sides.
- Slow things down.
- Say back to someone what you are hearing just to make sure you heard it correctly and
- think through how you want to respond before doing it, both verbally or in text.
It is remarkable that listening to those with alternate viewpoints has offered some phenomenal conversations, some that have allowed me to temper some of my viewpoints and allowed theirs to be altered as well. The nice part about that is that how much the anger lessens on both sides of the conversation.
As stated earlier, I am open to further discussion about any of this. However, it is advisable and often important to look at our anger and see if a) it is a problem and b) do we want to alter it? Some anger is worth our time, some is not. It may be time to take a look at ours.
Michael J. Pollak, PCC-S, LICDC
Co-Founder and Dual Diagnosis IOP Director