Alternative Anger Management- How not to be angry in the first place.
I have written blogs before about anger management where I discuss a few simple techniques to deal with anger such as, breathe to 10, walk away, offload your feelings by writing them out, go for a brisk walk and so on. These are all valid and effective and I continue to promote these with clients. But anger management is not just about those simple techniques- there’s a lot more to anger.
Read on to find out.
Anger goes deep. Deep and as early as your childhood and the messages passed on by the people around you, parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers etc.
Ask yourself this question. What are your daily actions, attitudes, beliefs and character saying to your children and people around you. Is what you do, contributing in making them angry or diffusing anger?
Hopefully, the following will provide some answers to that question for you.
So, let’s talk about some attitudes and behaviours we can cultivate to make us less angry and more peaceful. When you have mastered these, the effects will cascade, fostering calm and peace to others. The application of some of the below may not be as easy as it sounds but it’s not impossible either.
1 – Use Compassion rather than confrontation
Most of us have witnessed a scenario when one person starts shouting, the other shouts back, anger escalates and sometimes becomes physical. Imagine the opposite, one person shouts and displays aggression and the other talks back calmly and with kindness. The chances are the anger dissipates breaking the confrontational cycle. Acting from compassion is more effective than acting from pity or hate.
Try to believe that no one is the enemy as we are all connected. It makes sense to seek a solution instead of proving we are right or better than others. The angry other person is still an individual with worth and value- connect from this point rather than from outward aggressive behaviours
‘Don’t be angry until you have walked in their shoes for a few miles’ (Mahatma Gandhi)
Take the example of a girl who was bullied for being overweight. Previously, whenever she was bullied she retaliated which sparked the bullies to bully her more and situation kept escalating.
Out of desperation, she tried a different approach. She responded with love and kind words to the bullies which disarmed them of the power that they held over her and slowly the situation calmed down. Loving the hater is not easy but can be done.
2 – Learn assertion skills
Anger is often the inability to express our needs calmly, clearly. However, you speak loudest by not yelling and by demonstrating your point with constructive action.
Learn to say no. A ‘no’, uttered with conviction is better than a superficial yes. How can we change anything unless we have the courage to say what is wrong?
Think carefully before you respond to an angry person. Think carefully before you respond to anyone for that matter, considering whether your words will hurt or help the world. Find the right words before you speak.
3 – Make time for Solitude
Children these days go from school to a multitude of different activities (gymnastics, piano, extra tuition etc….), come home, have a rushed dinner to finish off their homework, then to bed and the same again the next day. Where is the time for rest and solitude? Is it any wonder that they end up angry adults? Life does not need to be faster, but more peaceful. Having regular time away in the quiet to make sense of the information overload and experiences of the day is pertinent. In the absence of this downtime anger builds up, leading to confusion and lack of direction. This is equally true of adults in our fast-paced culture.
Allow yourself and your loved ones the opportunity to learn mindfulness and object meditation to appreciate the benefits of solitude.
4 – Make time for Self-care
Anger is often triggered when you are tired and run down- take care of yourself. As well as keeping healthy physically, work on being morally and ethically strong. In the absence of this, it is easy to feel judged by others and to judge the self harshly. Anger stems from fear of being judged and judging others
5 – Stay connected to humans
In this digital world and influx of social media, the danger is that we lose connection with real people. Delving into more and more screen time means we are neither alone as we have hundreds of virtual friends but not truly connected either. A sort of state of in-betweenness. Parents set the example of not really being there for their children when constantly glancing at their smartphone or texting and engaging in social media.
Pick the phone up, make that long overdue visit and connect with real people or we will lose the skill of human communication. This lack of connectedness and emotional expression leads to frustration and anger.
Connecting is not just talking to real people but listening to them as well. Most of us are familiar with ‘You are not listening’ retorts from an angry child or adult. If people have full attention when they need it, they will be less likely to be angry.
Emotional release and permission to express oneself safely enhances relationships and helps builds a connected rather than competitive community. The reverse generates anger and insecurity.
6 – Build on spiritual strength
Aim to relate with love and truth as hate spurs anger and revenge has no gains.
‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’ (Mahatma Gandhi)
Listen well and gain the other person’s perspective, working towards forgiveness. Forgiveness is never about letting the other person off the hook. It’s more about you letting go of the burden of holding on the anger indefinitely, which would eventually have repercussions on your mental and physical health.
Make a goal every day to be better than what you were the day before.
7 – Self-worth versus stuff
For many people, there is more emphasis on acquiring stuff. Acquisitions do not make us better people or build inner strength and confidence, the lack of which creates anger. There is more joy in things we create than buy and discard which is common in the current throw-away culture and excessive consumer choices. Possessions do not define our worth but things we create does. We may spend a lot of our time choosing from the 20 brands of biscuits in the supermarket rather than the pleasure of eating a few biscuits we have baked ourselves. As they say, less is more.
The least angry people are not the ones with the most money but those who appreciate the beauty and goodness around them.
8 – Integrity and humility
Parents can help children avoid lies by treating their desires with honesty and respect. If parents lie, they are setting an example that this is an acceptable coping strategy. Lies are like sand, they cannot create a solid foundation, only a shaky and insecure one. There will be anger when the sandcastle eventually topples. Anger often dissipates when one senses the truth in one’s motives and authenticity of passion.
We all like to take credit for our achievements but the truth is nobody succeeds on their own. Recognise and appreciate others contribution. As individuals, we grow and flourish when connected to the larger flow of a family and community
9 – Model love and respect
Children learn something from textbooks but more from the examples and character modelled by the significant others around them. Live what we want our children to learn. Children will be less angry and will flourish if they are respected and not asked to undertake something that the parents would not undertake themselves.
Often, we are too engrossed in leaving a material inheritance or legacy- the house, business or jewellery and do not have time to consider the ethical or moral legacy; the parenting style and messages that foster love and respect. The lack of this often resounds for generations and causes much anger and sadness.’ My mum never hugged me or said she loved me because that is how she grew up. My grandma was the same’. Love does not necessarily need words, it can be expressed in actions such as not making them feel they are a burden or sacrifice, instead, showing them that they are your ultimate joy and pleasure and priority in life. People sense our love as well as our distraction and resentment of them simply by the look in our eyes, expressions and by our daily actions.
‘An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of teaching’ Mahatma Gandhi
10 – Acceptance
Discrimination means we choose not to see the value of people who may appear different to us rather than viewing people with dignity and seeing the good in them. Learn about difference and be open-minded and curious about different cultures.
As humans, we all have imperfections and weaknesses, which make us angry, but a simple gesture of love and tenderness can set off a transformation that diffuses the anger. Focussing on someone’s shortcoming and criticising may backfire and bring about a defensive or rebellious reaction. In contrast, giving praise, admiration, gratitude, generosity and encouragement will promote positive behaviour.
‘When you point a finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you’ Mahatma Gandhi.
Instead of looking at what is wrong with others we need to look at how we can become better human beings and make a difference to people and the planet. Look beyond labels and find good in all. Look for commonalities rather than differences which foster anger. Ultimately, we are all outsiders to someone or another.
Finally, anger is like electricity, if used well it can fuel you to move forward and get to a better place. But if we abuse or misuse, it can kill us.
This article is inspired by the book- Gift of anger by Arun Gandhi- Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
Hansa Pankhania is a Stress Consultant, Trainer, Speaker.
She is the Author of:
She Is a Fellow of the International Stress Management Association and has worked with over 100 companies nationally to promote the natural wellbeing message.