Anger is as natural an emotion as is happiness, grief or fear. Nobody can claim that he or she has never been angry in his/her life. We are often angry when we can not control our circumstances or with people who do not come up to our expectations, or have hurt us with their indifference or bad attitude.
We have the right to be angry when we have been provocated emotionally or physically. But we do not have the right to be cruel! Often, in white hot rage, we forget the fact that there is a very thin line between being angry and being cruel or rude. It’s a common sight to see angry people throw away all norms of civilization to the air. They utter words or sling allegations which they do not really mean; words which they regret bitterly when their temper has cooled down. But often it is too late, because they have caused an irreparable loss to their relation with the person on whom they have vented their fury.
Some times frustration and disappointment is building up inside us on a particular person or circumstances, but unfortunately in a fit of rage we target the wrong person. And the unsuspecting victim of our fury is hurt beyond words! A close friend Salima’s only son has settled down abroad and she feels let down and disappointed as she and her husband have to live all alone at their age. Her caring daughter daily carves out time from her responsibilities to help out her aging mother. And as she is a teacher in a reputed school, this is not an easy job for her!
Last week Salima called and told me in an anguished tone, “I don’t know what got into me that day. I had been asking Seemi (her daughter) to take me to my doctor as my arthritis was getting worse by the day. But she could not come immediately as her husband was down with high fever. After a particularly restless night, I called her in a fit of anger and told her that it was good that she had no children. When she didn’t have time to look after her sick parents, how could she have taken care of her children? Oh! How could I be so unkind to my darling? I told her later that I was sorry and she still comes to help me out. But she is no more her cheerful self, just stays tight lipped as she carries out her usual chores, but I can clearly read the pain in her eyes.” Salima’s distress reminded me of a quote, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret!”
A true incident related in a magazine by a devastated father moved me to tears. This fellow had bought a new car after years of savings and was very particular about its maintenance. One day, he found his seven year old writing something on the car with a sharp knife. In a fit of rage, he hit his son so hard that the little boy fell on the road and gashed his forehead. The father’s anger vanished when he saw the blood flowing profusely. He rushed his little boy to a nearby hospital where he got seven stitches on the cut. The doctors further said that they would keep the boy under observation to rule out any internal brain damage. Feeling ashamed of himself for his cruelty to his son, the man was staring with a dazed look at his cherished car when suddenly he burst into tears. His son had written on the car, “I love my Dad and his awesome car!” The son was released from the hospital after a few hours, and in a couple of days was hale and hearty but his father kept wondering whether the emotional scar he had created in his son’s soul would ever heal!
To hold our temper in provocation needs a lot of courage. A famous saying goes, “The strongest man is one who can control himself when he is angry”. This does not mean that we should not be angry at all. Although we are taught from our childhood that it is a part of good etiquette not to exhibit anger openly, pent up anger is like a toxin which harms our physical, mental and emotional health. The point to remember is that we can either scream at the top of our voice when we are enraged or express our displeasure in a calm voice. According to Lyman Abbott, “Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry!
There are times when we realize that our angry outbursts are affecting negatively our relationships with family and friends. This is the perfect time to seek out and follow anger management techniques, something which will change the way we express our anger.
Count to ten: This is a very old technique but it works. When you feel that your temper is rising, (before it gets the better of your senses), count slowly from one to ten. At the same time take deep breaths and try to relax. More often than not, you will have cooled down considerably by the time you reach ten.
Move away: Try to move away from the person who is provocating you. Go to another room for a while, sit down in a comfortable chair and try to think of ways which could improve the situation. Writing down the reason for your anger is also helpful as you calm down when you pen down your emotions.
Exert yourself physically: Going for a brisk walk, jogging or engaging yourself in any other physically activity, dampens your temper as you get a physical outlet for your emotions.
Do not accuse: Often in a rage we sling accusations at each other which detoriates the situation. For example instead of saying vague things like, “You never understand my feelings”, be specific and tell the person you are angry with the reason for your anger i.e. “I am upset because you forgot my birthday”.
Do not bring up settled issues: A blunder most of us make when we are angry with some one is that we remind them of quarrels long settled. Instead of arguing about past differences and making the situation more volatile, focus on what the issue is at present and try to thrash it out with a cool head.
The next time you are angry just remind yourself that you should not enter the danger zone. The zone when in utter rage you hurt the people you would not even dream of harming in normal circumstances. Because according to Aristotle, “Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way…. that is not easy!”