Recently at the grocery store, I stood with my cart near the customer service counter. With only one customer ahead of me, I patiently waited to ask a question. With my turn approaching, I felt several customers starting to crowd around. My cart, along with others, was beginning to cause a problem. That's okay, I thought - I have a quick, easy question so it shouldn't take long. I asked my question, a young girl assisted me, and all was fine.
Once done, I attempted to move out of the way so others could address their needs. But, I found myself trapped. If I moved forward, I would run into a young man. So I tried to move back. Unfortunately, I stepped on the foot of a woman just inches behind me. I immediately apologized and again attempted to get out of the way. What interested me was how quickly and immediately upset we became. I heard the frustration in her response as she mumbled something about me watching where I was going. Instead of helping the situation, her frustration caused her to push us closer toward the counter. Eventually, I worked my way out and thought, "Get out of the way, lady!" Then I realized, she was likely thinking the same about me. But...why are we so angry?
It seems we are triggered by the slightest provocation. Others so easily annoy us, as if we are not annoying too! Most of us are aware that road rage is an issue. In fact, it is now labeled as intermittent explosive disorder! Even bitterness is thought destructive enough to be the next mental disorder. We are quickly and easily agitated with one another. The problem is, we are paying a heavy price. We have increased mental illness and stress, increased risk of heart disease and other physical problems, interpersonal problems, suicide, addiction, and an enormous use of prescription medications just to cope. The stress of anger and hostility is taking its toll. So much so, even our children are suffering!
But, to know how to handle anger, we must first understand anger. Anger is not really the issue, but rather our internal and external reactions that make the difference. Internally, we experience feelings, while externally, we express them. Anger can actually be a good and productive emotion. It helps us fight to survive when in danger. It also gives us power to make positive changes in the world. But, most often, the anger we express is negative - the one that destroys relationships and causes physical distress.
Anger is actually secondary to a primary emotion. It often follows fear, hurt, rejection, disrespect, feeling trapped, and a host of other emotions! When we experience these feelings, we often develop a need to control the situation. For instance, the woman above may have felt hurt that I stepped on her foot, trapped by the increasing number of customers crowding around, or possibly fearful that she might lose her place in getting assistance. The truth is, her anger was not about me!
So what was the source of my anger? I could feel the tension building as the crowd became impatient and anxious to be next in line. I felt trapped and in everyone's way - I became angry. We both tried to control the situation. Although it is a false sense of control, anger makes us feel like we are. Just think how many times we react in a day. Eventually, we will feel exhausted, upset, and a host of other emotions, never realizing why we are miserable. But we are only hurting ourselves and as hard as this might sound...
ANGER IS A CHOICE!!!
We have the power to choose to control our emotions or let them control us! So, the next time we feel angry, we should stop and think. What was going on before the anger? What feelings were aroused? What thoughts came to mind? When we start to really look at our own reactions, we have the opportunity to find out who we really are. This will eventually lead to the source of that anger. Then, we begin the journey of having real control. It is hard at first, but it does get easier. Eventually, we will ask - "why are we so angry?" And then we find peace!