For many of us, anger is the ultimate enemy. We’re not ourselves when we’re angry. We say the meanest things to the people we love. We hurt them, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and looking back to our angry times we feel nothing but regret. We wonder, sometimes, who that person was who said and did those harsh things while taking over our bodies.
And when one man’s anger gets combined with another’s, the result can just be mayhem. How many relationships have begun going downhill after a particularly nasty fight where things are said that neither party means? So today we’ll spend a little time looking at the nature of this emotion, and what we can do to manage it better.
Conscious anger is better than unconscious anger
There are many occasions in life that deserve your anger. It is legitimate in these situations to be angry. Think of a mother who has to discipline her child. She has to choose to be angry, with a clear message of punishment and reward that the child understands. So if your anger is conscious, and you’re in full control of your faculties, it means that you’ve already thought through the situation and made your choice. This is different to the passionate anger that consumes us every now and then, which makes us want to pick up the nearest piece of china and send it crashing against the wall.
Focusing on the present
Most anger is either regret about the past or anxiety about the future. If you find yourself bubbling over with anger, take stock and question yourself about where it’s coming from. If it is about something that has happened in the past, and if it is something that is making your fearful about the future, then remember that both the past and the present are mere illusions, images of our minds. Only the present is real. So by focusing on the present moment, you can often master your anger.
Breathing calmly in angry moments
Breathing techniques and meditation are quite effective in calming the mind. Anger is generally characterised by heavy breathing, which you can control by consciously slowing it down. If you take deep breaths, and if you still your body physically with restraint, you will find that the anger will dissipate on its own.
Adopt a stoic attitude to life
The ancient Greek philosopher, Seneca, wrote a treatise on anger management called ‘On Anger’. His thesis is that we feel angry when our expectations are not met, and the fact that we feel angry so often means that our expectations from life are too unrealistic. One way of dealing with anger, he says, is to tone down our expectations, become a little pessimistic about life, and be thankful for what we have rather than bitter about what we want. Expecting bad things to happen and to be prepared for them, says Seneca, is the way of the stoic. And the stoic person is never an angry person.

Damien Peters

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