Saturday, November 24, 2012

How To Eliminate Negative Emotions: Anger

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. 
- Proverbs 17:14

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. 
- Ambrose Bierce

For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind. 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

What is anger?

Dictionary definitions:

  • The strong feeling you get when you think someone has treated you badly or unfairly, that makes you want to hurt them or shout at them. (Macmillan Dictionary)

  • A strong emotion or feeling that is oriented toward some real or supposed grievance (The Free Dictionary)

My definition of anger is that it's an emotion that one feels when one's real or supposed rights have been violated.

There are different types of anger:

  1. Righteous anger
  2. Unrighteous anger
  3. Grey area

Righteous anger is an appropriate emotion triggered in response to injustice, crime and/or violence.

Unrighteous anger is an exaggerated emotion triggered in response to "supposed" injustice, crime and/or violence.

The triggering of anger depends on situations.


1. Righteous anger - When someone is bullied, one may become angry at the bullies. (It is wrong to bully!)

2. Unrighteous anger - When one finds oneself in a heavy traffic, one may become angry at the person in front of him/her for not moving fast enough. (Stuck in the traffic together, even if one wants to go fast, they can't)

3. Grey area - When someone is late for the meeting, and one has to wait for that person and become impatient and angry at the person who is running late. (Is this justifiable anger?)

Harmful effects of unrighteous anger:

  • Physically, the strong emotion of anger causes blood pressure to rise in the body, and releasing stress hormones that could potentially decrease one's immunity, becoming more susceptible to opportunistic infections. 

  • Emotionally and socially, angry person can provoke people around them to become angry as well, spreading the virus of anger around them.

Notice, one only becomes angry when one finds oneself in these situations or imagine being in these situations.

  • In situation 1, when the bullies stop bullying, one's anger dissipates.

  • In situation 2, when there's no heavy traffic, one's anger dissipates as well. However, what if you have to go through that heavy traffic every morning and night?

  • In situation 3, when you don't meet up with that person who's habitually late, your anger dissipates but what if he/she's your friend, or family member? And you meet up with that person regularly?

My defintion of anger is the strong emotion that is triggered in response to the true (or supposed) violation of one's rights.

  • In situation 1, one's right of "not to be bullied" was violated and the anger was triggered in response to the injustice of "bullying."

  • In situation 2, one's "supposed" right of "not to be stuck in the traffic and be late for school or work" was violated, and the anger was triggered in response to the "supposed" injustice of "heavy traffic."

  • In situation 3, one's "supposed" right of "not having to wait for someone" was violated, and the anger was triggered in response to the "supposed" injustice of "running late."

Now, regardless of the types of anger, the cure for anger is the same.

  • Preventing that recurring situation all together, or understanding the reason(s) behind the true or "supposed" injustice can also help with the anger as well!

Here's what I mean,

For situation 1, when bullies are removed (e.g. reprimand, suspension or expelled), there's no anger to be triggered, but it also helps to know why they are bullies in the first place. Statistically speaking, it is highly likely that the bullies were raised in some kind of dysfunctional families, and lived in violent/abusive neighbourhoods. Although the fact that the bullies were raised in these harsh environments does not justify their bullying, it helps people to understand where they're coming from, and how to solve the cause of the problems rather than just bluntly reprimand them for their bad behaviour.

For situation 2, one can leave home early when there's less traffic, or move into areas where it's closer to school or work, or write a letter to the city council for requesting the improvement of the traffic system. Of course, at this point, it helps to know why one becomes angry in the heavy traffic in the first place because not everyone in that heavy traffic become angry.

One possible cause of the anger may be just due to one's own personal issues at home or work, and it's just a way of venting one's anger at "supposed injustice." If one can solve the underlying issues, there might be no need for venting fruitless/needless anger in the first place in the heavy traffic.

In the situation 3, one may choose not to meet up at all with the person who's perennially late, or one could turn up late as well, at the expected time when the person who's usually running late turns up. Or if it's appropriate, one may bring up the issue of one's anger/annoyance at the other person running late, and find out what the causes of running late are, then it might help one to bear the other's person's lateness better. For example, I know at least one person who always turns up a bit late deliberately, just to make the waiting person anxious for his/her arrival. It was his/her way to feel needed by the waiting person, a sign of insecurity. Of course, not everyone is late for this reason, some are terrible at organising time, and some just leave late, and arrive late. Duh.

However, honest conversations about these issues can at least begin the process of resolving them eventually (whether resolved or not).

Anger, frustration and annoyance can be eliminated with appropriate actions that prevent the certain situations from occuring, and understanding of the causes of anger could also reduce the amount of anger one feels significantly as one gains more insight into how anger is triggered and begin the process of healing.

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