Anger. We all experience it. Anger can be subtle and seductive in its ability to hijack your present mind. It has the ability to cause us to fly into a rage. That rage if unchecked will damage not only ourselves, but those around us that we love, as well as innocent bystanders. They say that “time heals all wounds” and on some level that is true, but not completely. Some people hold their anger inside, it simmers, and from time to time, it boils over. Angry words are spoken, action may be taken, but the underlying issues are usually still right there under the surface.
What is it about us that when we get hurt, we can lose control of the rational side of our being? I know that it is not really that simple. Anger is a developmental milestone in a child and is the beginning of the ability to assert some independence. But as we mature (hopefully), anger becomes increasingly an ineffective strategy. Why don’t we just let it out? Vent to anybody who will listen. Express ourselves in a way that makes the child inside us feel heard, feel better about being hurt. There are many reasons. Chief among them would be that this type of behavior only serves to replicate that anger in another. It is also most often directed at the ones we love the most.
The pain that can be inflicted by a few carelessly chosen words said in anger is one thing The misery that is created when we consciously to choose to hurt another is quite different. In the first situation we are not intentionally hurting that other person, but the pain that we may inflict is real none the less. In the second scenario, the words said in anger are intentional, even if they are said in an impulsive rage. What is interesting is that they do more damage to the individual uttering them. The words said to intentionally hurt another live in us, they feed on us and if left unchecked consume us.
Why do we get angry? What purpose does it serve? Is it more effective than dealing with issues in a rational detached way? How do I feel after a bout of anger? Does anger really hurt me more than the person or thing that I am angry at? Do I like it when others point their anger at me? All good questions and here is my take on the answers.
Why do we get angry?
The two most common reasons that we experience anger are a loss of control. I don’t like the way you are doing this. You are not listening to me. I don’t want to do what you are asking and am uncomfortable saying so. You get the point. The other common reason that we get angry is that you hurt my feelings. I don’t like what you said, or did not say. This is in most instances related to a loss of control.
What purpose does it serve?
I am sure that somewhere in our pre-historic past anger was a very useful emotion. Particularly before the advent of a robust language to communicate subtleties. In today’s world anger does have a positive and useful application. However, that positive and useful application diminishes with frequent use. Think about the it, when people who rarely if ever show their anger, express themselves angrily, it makes an impression. In fact anger used as an accent can serve to reinforce the importance of a topic. But it must be out of character for the person using it for it to be truly effective. Otherwise if this is a normal part of the communication strategy, it loses effect on the audience.
Is it more effective than dealing with issues in a rational detached way?
Some might say yes. I would disagree except as described as above. Remember being yelled at as a child – sorry mom and dad – sorry daughter. It does not feel good, even when you are flat-out wrong. Ok, yes, it made an impression, but that is not the way that I want to teach daughter, and it was not what my parents wanted me to learn. And in the interest of full disclosure I for sure was frustrating to my parents and the control they were seeking to impose was in my best short and long-term interest, but the truth is rarely had the desired impact. As I am sure is true with daughter today.
How do I feel after a bout of anger?
Well if I am honest, for a few minutes I feel good. I made you pay for making mad. I gave it to you good, because you hurt my feelings, because I am unable to control you or this moment. And then, remorse. I don’t like hurting others. I cannot control others, only myself. My anger does not make you want to be around me, it does not make you want to do what I want you to do, it might make you submit to me. Not good, persuasion is a far more effective tool. Sometimes we are cruel when we are angry, and this makes us all feel horrible – whether we want to admit it or not.
Does anger really hurt me more than the person or thing that I am angry at?
Wow, you bet it does. Whether you can feel it or not, that anger is a violence that you inflict on yourself, first, last and in-between. When you understand the true impact that your anger has on others, it comes around all over again. I regret every instance that I have gotten angry. I regret that I was not able to express more effectively, I regret that hurt myself (release of a host of wonderful hormones and chemicals), I regret that I most likely hurt the person that I was angry at or, and this is really silly, I regret getting at some inanimate object that did not behave as I wanted it to. Yep, some major league hissy fits in my past and not just as a child.
Do I like it when others point their anger at me?
Uhmm, yeah, sure I do.
The thing is that once those words are said, they are out there. Once you have been mean or cruel, which in my mind are subtle forms of anger mixed with a strong measure of insecurity, you can say you are sorry, but you can’t unring that bell. It also says something about how you really feel about the person. Now this is the important part. You can retake the words said in anger. Do it now! Talk to the people in your life that you are angry at, have been angry at. You will feel better. Chances are that they will too. Use the discomfort of apologizing as a springboard to move to a more positive form of communicating. Not only will you feel better, people will enjoy your company far more.
What could you do? If you could retake the words said in anger?