Recently I have been battling with some negativity in my life, particularly to do with a few specific people and their actions. This negativity was manifesting itself as anger, blurring my positive vision of the world and getting me worked up over things that I would normally class as little and insignificant.
I let this anger infect my life. Just thinking about these people, or the latest “episode” of something annoying they had done and the anger would start again, even if I was at home spending time with my lovely wife. It was a terrible and unhealthy way to live and I had to do something about it. I had to address my anger.
What Value Does Anger Have In Your Life?
It’s a simple question really. What value does anger have in your life? What is the overall gain of getting angry? What function does anger perform that is useful to your immediate survival and/or your long-term growth and development as a human being?
Hint: the correct answers are…none, none, and none.
Do not fool yourself into thinking that anger plays an important role in your life. Do not pretend that anger is a useful tool for expressing your emotions. Do not excuse your anger because it “makes you feel good to get angry”. It doesn’t work that way.
Anger is an uncontrolled outward manifestation of a negative internal state. It is the representation of all the negative emotions stored inside you. It is your disappointment, your fear, your procrastination, your high stress, your low self-esteem, your unpaid credit card bill, and your annoyance at your receding hairline. But that last one may just be me.
The point is that anger is not a valid or useful tool in our lives. It does not achieve anything positive. In fact, it makes things much worse by ignoring the real issues that are bothering us and instead just acts as a quick release valve – causing us to explode with anger when the pressure inside gets too much.
But, I hear you say, surely releasing that negative energy from inside us is a good thing? Technically yes, but not with anger. Releasing internal negative emotions through an outward negative action like anger just makes everything feel worse. Much worse.
For starters, allowing ourselves to get angry just as a form of release means that we are not addressing the real issues. We are not looking at why we feel that we need the negative release. We ignore the cause(s) of the negativity and jump straight to the outward release. If we never address the cause then the need to release will always be there making us reliant on the angry outburst just to make us feel even remotely happy.
This leads us to the second major problem with getting angry – not only have we ignored the actual negative causes in our lives but we also add more negativity into the mix by getting angry. We still have all the original issues to deal with and now we also have our anger and all the negative response that it generates. And anger always generates a negative response.
I used a quasi-metaphor previously saying that anger was like a quick release valve but in reality it is actually a two-way valve, releasing negativity in bursts, but also allowing negativity to flow inside. And guess what? That valve is set to let negativity in by default.
A sudden burst of anger can, and does, release some of the negative emotions from inside which is why people can misguidedly think it is good for them to do so. But when that burst has finished the valve switches back to its default direction and starts sucking negative energy inside. It becomes like a magnet for negative emotions, funneling them inside you until you feel ready to burst with anger again, resulting in a very vicious cycle.
The only benefit anger serves is that it is a tangible output of our internal negativity. It shows us quite clearly that something is not right in our lives. It is as if our mind is waving a big flag at us and yelling “Helloooooo…I am not happy!” Why would we ignore that?
Using anger as an indicator for change, rather than a primitive release mechanism, enables us to start tackling the real problems. It empowers us to take control of our lives and make the positive changes required to rid ourselves of anger forever.
The simplest way to do this, to successfully address and remove our anger, is to ask “why?”
In my recent situation I found that certain people, and their actions, were the triggers for my anger. These people were underhanded, deceitful fakers and they seemed to be always trying to make me look like a fool. For a while I let this get to me, building up the negativity inside me until my anger started bubbling out of me.
But then I asked myself two simple “why” questions and I changed my whole perspective:
- Why would a person act in a such a negative and unkind way toward me?
- Why am I letting such actions control my emotions?
With the answers to these questions came a complete 180 shift on the situation. I realised that these people were acting in this way because they were scared and/or intimidated by me. They saw me as a threat – a direct competitor who was going to steal their opportunities for success. The reality was that we were part of a team, working together towards the same goals, but obviously some people just aren’t team players.
Managing to identify why these people had been acting this way was comforting, but I made the most progress when I asked the second question of myself: Why am I letting such actions control my emotions?
Answering this question took some deeper thinking but the result was worth it. I discovered that I was tying part of myself, and my identity, to being successful in this job. I had mistakenly made myself believe that my achievement and success as a person would be partly measured by achievement and success at the job. This is completely untrue but it is very easy to believe your identity is tied to a particular outcome and then get caught up in the emotions that occur when things don’t go smoothly. Luckily I saw my anger as a warning.
Whilst I am constantly striving for more success, more achievement, and more personal growth in my life, deep down I believe that I am already a success. I have already had some wonderful achievements in my life that I am proud of and I know that I have the skills, knowledge and power to keep improving myself, to keep challenging myself, and to keep achieving.
And that’s all it took to address my anger and re-frame my thinking on the situation. Now, instead of feeling angry and an urge to compete with these negative people, I feel a little sorry for them. I now realise that they see the world as a zero-sum game and they believe that everyone else is competing directly with them. They are the kind of people that cry that life isn’t fair and think that the only way to “win” is at the expense of others. This is a sad way to live.
The other positive I have taken from all this is that I have reminded myself of my true path in life. I am not defined by a job and I am not defined by the approval (or otherwise) from other people. I am defined by myself and what I do. I control my own destiny and no one else has the power to change that. For this reason I am happy for the challenges that have been presented recently and the resulting anger I felt, for it was this anger that has served as a reminder to me. A reminder to always be living for myself and doing what I love.
If you are experiencing anger in your life, stop and ask yourself “why?” What is causing your anger, what is your anger signaling to you, and what changes can you make that will address your anger?
Anger is a warning that you are not happy. Don’t ignore it.