Everyone has some degree of anger. Anger can be a healthy, motivating emotion. But it is too often destructive to ourselves and those we love. Anger seems to exist on a continuum. On one side of the continuum there are those who get mildly angry every once in awhile but then can get over it quickly and on the other side are those who exist in a chronic state of anger and irritation. Anger and irritation follow these people around like an obsessed past lover who does not want to let go.
If you tend to find yourself on the latter part of this continuum more often than not- then anger is a serious, serious, serious problem in your life. The reason why it is a serious problem is because it is constantly getting in the way of you experiencing fulfillment, connection and purpose in your life. Your anger is taking a huge toll on your body (especially your heart, blood pressure, brain and nervous system), it is harming other people in your life, it is isolating you from others and it is erasing any sense of gratitude you might otherwise have. Your anger is literally draining the good right out of your life.
I tend to think that feelings of frustration and anger come from a person’s perceived inability to deal with or control something that appears to be a problem. So in this sense anger is really a manifestation of anxiety. When a person feels like they lack control in their life- what tends to vanish is a deeper sense of autonomy and self-reliance. Without a feeling of autonomy and self-reliance everything becomes a potential trigger. Everything can become a symbol for the lack of control that you feel in your life. Even stray cat or dog hairs on the floor. As a result you end up getting overwhelmed by all the small stuff, all the time.
This can manifest in various areas. Here are just a few of those areas:
Cannot stand some people and their ideas.
Cannot control emotions.
Repeatedly get really low.
Feel a lack of progress in your life and a failure to meet your own goals.
Don’t feel good about you.
Easily lose interest in things.
Always frustrated with others.
Continually feel stressed, helpless, overwhelmed and screwed.
Now it is true that anger is just one part of who you are. Even though you experience continual irritation or anger does not mean that you are not a good person and that you do not experience days where the anger is absent. It does not mean that you are not loving and kind. It just means that you have a significant amount of anger and anxiety that lives in you (it is literally like a substance in you) and it can get in your way at any time and leave you feeling like you have no control over your emotional state. This can feel really discouraging and just ends up perpetuating the anger.
Sure maybe life is not the way that you want it to be. Maybe you lack the passion for the things that you have to do. This is a problem but it is not the real problem. Plenty of people do things they do not want to do but still remain generally happy in their lives. Even if all your dreams and expectations came true- a person with chronic anger would still feel unfulfilled and irritated most of the time. Like Carl Jung stated, “what we resist just persists.”
So the real question becomes, how does a person change their perceived inability to deal with or control something that appears to be a problem? Get a new job? Make more money? Find a better partner? Become a rock star? These things might help a bit, but only for a short period of time. Eventually you will lose interest and just feel irritated and emotionally overwhelmed again most of the time.
What is crucial is that a person is able to establish an inner sense of emotional control.
I believe that anger is hard wired into our biology. We inherit it from our parents (and others sometimes) and they get it from their parents and on and on. This is why I look at anger as a biological issue, not so much a psychological one. We can talk about anger all we want. It may bring short-term relief, but it won’t change our biological conditioning.
Just like our bodies need water to remain hydrated, it is so crucial that a person with chronic anger and irritation integrates effective techniques into their daily life in order to establish a better sense of emotional control (especially if they would like to avoid being on medication and experiencing a series of dysfunctional relationships).
Mindfulness techniques offer an individual the ability to better control emotions so that emotions are not running your life (emotional regulation). Mindfulness also helps us to practice interpersonal effectiveness, which will help us to stop harming others in our lives and start relating to others without always getting angry or frustrated. Finally (and in my mind most importantly), mindfulness techniques help us develop something called distress tolerance, which helps us to cope with stressful situations without getting too upset.
Ultimately a person who has anger issues is really struggling with a deeper anxiety. The anxiety of not feeling in control in their lives. Even though this lack of control may seem like it comes from external factors, it is really an internal issue. When you feel like you have more control over your internal emotional state, you will notice a lot less anger manifesting in your life. As a result there will be more room for the gratitude, joy and satisfaction to creep in.