What Anger Doesn't Do[ Apr 4, 2011 ] [ by Wendy Dolber ]
Anger doesn’t change anyone. It doesn’t make your kids listen to you. Or do their homework. Or stop texting at dinner. It doesn’t make your spouse or significant other love you any more than they already do. Or guess what you want. Or put the toilet seat down. It doesn’t make your boss give you a promotion. Or listen to your great idea. It doesn’t make traffic, checkout lines, or kids on a school morning move any faster. It doesn’t make the car start when it won’t. It doesn’t stop the dog barking, or chewing or jumping on your elderly parents.
Anger doesn’t change you. It doesn’t make you smarter, slimmer, younger or stronger. It doesn’t make you stop smoking or start exercising. It doesn’t erase your mistakes or take back your words.
Anger doesn’t find anything. Not lost keys, or where you parked the car. Or airline tickets, when you only have ten minutes to leave for the airport.
Anger doesn’t change the world. Or the weather. Or the price of gas. Anger doesn’t change anything.
It all begins with a question
Then why is there so much anger in the world? In the workplace? In our homes and in our hearts? It must be good for something, right? Anger makes things happen, doesn’t it? Or do we just believe it does? When you want to move to get what you want, to make a difference, to change something, to speak out, how does anger make that happen? Does anger open your mouth to speak or move a muscle in your body? Does anger make your brain remember or create solutions? Does it sit down with your kids or your spouse or your best friend to figure things out? Or do you do all of that, with your caring and your desires and your passion?
Looking for a way out? Most of us realize that anger confuses and befuddles us, raises our blood pressure and often creates the exact opposite reaction we were hoping for. We suspect it’s not really good for us, but it feels inescapable. As if it were a direct result of what’s happening to us or around us. It also feels justified and necessary. It’s our own personal protest march against what we deem to be unpalatable, but impossible to change – events in our life. If we want to be free of anger, we can question these beliefs. Including the belief that anger serves us. Being angry is like being in a maze and constantly going down a dead end. We only do that as long as we can’t see a better way. Once we do, we’re out of there.
Here’s a possibility to think about. Suppose anger is what we do when we believe our caring or our desires or our passion isn’t enough to motivate us to change ourselves or the situation. And that includes our feelings about our anger as well. Being angry about being angry is part of the same dynamic. Now, imagine that it begins with a question. Do I have the right to want what I want? This question becomes especially relevant when we perceive roadblocks to getting what we want. The universe – in the shape of our personal lives and the world at large - doesn’t seem to be cooperating with our desires. This may be true or imagined. But in either case, what we do when we come up against roadblocks to our desires has everything to do with our emotional state and resulting behavior.
Setting the stage for anger
So take a common situation such as “That car in front of me is going 25 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone. I’m going to be late for my appointment if they don’t speed up.” If we don’t question our right to do something about the situation, we may just try to see if there’s a safe way around them. Or we may consider another route. Or we may flicker our lights to get their attention. But if we question our right to want the situation to be different, we set the stage for anger. Then we have to justify our desires. And how do we do that? By piling on the basic ingredients for anger – shoulds, suppositions and have to’s. For example: They should be driving the speed limit. They know I’m behind them and they’re ignoring me. I have to feel this way. Have you ever been in this situation? Where impatience becomes unbearable? What follows? We hold our breath. We tap our fingers on the steering wheel. We curse and moan. Then we start pounding the steering wheel. Then, we tailgate, honk the horn, put our brights on. Or, we may even try to nudge their bumper, sideswipe them, or worse. Our simple desire to just get where we want to go on time has morphed into a big giant monster of a need. Sound like a good day to you?
Let’s Give Ourselves a Break
No matter how angry we are, or how far down that dead end we may have wandered, we still have the choice to put the brakes on anger. And we have the right. No amount of anger can take that away from us. We started it and we can stop it. Sometimes we hold on to anger because we are embarrassed. As if we were bad to be angry. We are allowed to know that anger is not a bad emotion and we are not bad for being angry. We simply don’t want it.
It’s a perfect time to ask ourselves what we do want. I don’t want to be angry. I just want the kids to clean their room, or this line to move faster, or the dog to stop chewing my slippers. How can I get that? When you’re not angry, you have a much better chance of figuring that out using what really changes things - your talents, your capabilities, your creativity fueled by the most powerful catalyst of all - your own desires.