How to overcome Anger

How to overcome Anger

How to overcome Anger

Anger. Oh my, what a volatile and terrible feeling.



Despite this, many of us seem to carry our anger about with us as if it were a part of our very being. Many of us seem to wear our anger as if it were a self-enhancing stimulant, a symbol of strength, or a natural part of being human (it isn’t any of these things).

Until two days ago, on October 15, 2012, when I took the choice to let go of my anger and not allow it to control my life, I felt the same way. 


I will not allow anger to control my life or have an effect on my choices in situations when I am aware of it. I want to go through the many levels of my anger, to understand its origins, and to deal with them as effectively as possible. In order to avoid allowing anger to fester in my heart, I will actively process it and release it into the cosmos whenever it is practical to do so. At no point will I allow my wrath to consume me; instead, I will rise above it and choose love over fear at every turn.



Most importantly, I want to let go of all of the anger that has built up in me since I was a child, and to begin living life with fresh eyes and a new heart as a result of this process.

Anger from the Past Has Influenced My Life
Perhaps knowing anything about my past experiences with rage would be beneficial.

I used to have a pretty close connection with my rage, as you may have guessed. It all began when I was a little child.



The Experience of Growing Up in an Angry Family

Every day since I was a child, my parents have been in constant conflict. My childhood memories include a lot of yelling and explosive emotions being thrown from one parent to the other on an almost daily basis, if I think back. My parents would continuously criticize and insult one other, exchanging scathing tirades in the process.



Several occasions (during my childhood) stand out in my memory, including one in which I snapped and threatened to kill myself in their presence if they didn’t stop screaming. It was as if I went into the kitchen, grabbed the kitchen knife, aimed it at my wrist, and told them I was going to murder myself if they didn’t stop screaming right then and then! I had no intention of killing myself or even touching myself with the knife, but it was my last ditch attempt to get them to stop screaming that resulted in the incident.



My ruse was successful, but only for a brief period of time. The squabbling would begin shortly after, often as quickly as one to two hours after the first encounter. Watching this develop as a defenseless child would cause me to sense a profound scrunching of my psyche.



While I was growing up, I was gathering a lot of leftover resentment from my parents, which I didn’t know at the time. When you are continually in the presence of individuals who are fighting, their anxiety will ultimately contaminate your own thoughts and actions. This is exactly what occurred in my situation.

In addition, my mother was very agitated, impatient, and explosive in her dealings with me. As a young child, I had no clue that my identity was being formed by the rage in my family’s home.



Although my parents primarily disagreed with each other as children and never took their frustrations out on me (or my brother; it was only when I was an adolescent that my mother began hurling anger at me as well, in the sense of yelling/shouting rather than hitting because my parents were never physically violent), this did not prevent me from developing an angry personality similar to theirs (or more specifically, my mother’s).



Following in the Footsteps of My Parents’ Anger

When I look back, I can see signs of rage in myself dating back to my teenage years (ages 9-12).

It may seem strange, but when I was 9 or 10, I used to write letters to my mother, urging her to go to hell, and then tape them up all around the home to remind her of it. I didn’t know why I did it at the time; I just knew there was something pushing me to do it, and I would follow my instincts after that. They would be startled when they noticed the notes and rush to take them down, following which they would either scold me or attempt to reason with me to make sense of it all.



Now that I look back on it, I realize it was a scream for assistance, a subconscious expression of all the anguish that had built up in me as a result of their regular fights with each other. I also unconsciously identified my mother as the root of my suffering since she had caused me a great deal of agony via her oppressive ways.


During my early teenage years, I used to tear up my father’s and brother’s clothing whenever they got on my nerves or if I was feeling irritable. Again, I had no idea why I had done what I had done. Everything else was secondary to the fact that I wanted to do something physical, something extreme, to get that fury out into the world. I had no idea what that would be. I wanted to vent my rage, and I needed someone, anybody, to hear and understand what I was trying to say loud and clear.



When I was 12 years old, about the time that my family moved home (still in Singapore), these explosive outbursts of rage came to an abrupt halt. With the exception of the explosive fights in my family (which had now expanded beyond just my parents to include my brother and me), I was a calm, forward-thinking, and collected person for much of my life.



One could conclude that this indicated that my childhood wrath had been extinguished and that I was no longer an angry person. For a time, I was of the same opinion.

In retrospect, though, I’ve seen that this was not the case. As I established the other aspects of my personality throughout my teenage years, my anger retreated into a deeper area of my subconsciousness, where it remained for the rest of my life. My rage was still alive and well, deep within my body. It was never completely gone. It just sat dormant, waiting to be activated whenever the proper set of circumstances were met.

My being (and continuing to be) a profoundly enraged person was something I would only understand many years later.


Me Being Aware of the Anger I Feel

My anger was mostly latent, which means that I wasn’t an angry person in my normal condition when I felt it. In reality, I would nearly always be bright, cheerful, joyful, and optimistic; in fact, I would be exactly the contrary.



It was only when things didn’t go my way that I would get enraged. Even in that case, unless I was very, extremely upset, I would never turn my wrath outward. A lot of my rage was contained inside my own awareness and controlled within it.


In spite of the fact that I have lost my cool on occasion, I never directed my rage towards others. Yes, I would get enraged by circumstances and/or individuals, but I would not focus my rage towards others or at the individual in question until the situation had fully spiraled out of control. After growing up in a household where rage was thrown about and at me on a regular or almost daily basis, I didn’t want to subject someone else to the same treatment.


In my view, I never considered myself to be a person who was easily angered. I just assumed that my periodic outbursts of rage in response to life’s little annoyances were completely normal and merely a natural human reaction. Unfortunately, this isn’t accurate in any respect.


A Straightforward Dialogue

About a year ago, I was talking with a close buddy (B) about a mutual acquaintance of ours who had just passed away (C). In many ways, C was like a little brother to me, and we were extremely close friends. His actions on several occasions caused me to lose faith in him, and I was forced to abandon my confidence in him. When I was talking to B about C’s behavior, I expressed my displeasure with him.


As B listened intently, he approached me and asked for permission to express something that had been on his mind for long time. “What?” I inquired. I had a reputation for having very high expectations of people, which he said made it difficult to live up to them on sometimes.


I pondered the situation for a time. “Do you have expectations of other people?” says the narrator. I inquired.

“Yeah, I do,” he said in response. “However, I do not get enraged when others fail to live up to their expectations.”

Ah. I had a notion.


“Why not?” says the author. I wanted to know more. “After all, if someone doesn’t live up to your expectations, it’s only reasonable to get enraged, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think so,” he said emphatically. “It would just make me feel depressed,” says the author.

A New Planting of Thought

B’s response was thought-provoking. In this case, the problem was not that I had unrealistic expectations, but rather that I had unrealistic responses when individuals (or circumstances, for that matter) failed to meet those expectations.

This was eye-opening for me since I had always thought that rage was the default feeling when things went wrong. It didn’t seem to me that my enraged reaction was unique to me and not a common response for others in similar situations.



I thought it was interesting that B said that if things did not meet his expectations and/or if others failed him, he would not respond with rage but rather with sorrow. And this isn’t a fabrication. In fact, when I spoke to him about a time when his ex-girlfriend cheated on him for the whole length of their relationship (a total of 4-5 years), and was even engaged to another man until my buddy found out through a mutual acquaintance, he reacted with sorrow, not fury.



At the moment, I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I considered him to be a saint. One may wonder how it is possible not to be enraged by someone who has betrayed his trust and caused him to lose so many years of his life. If that had been me, I would have lost my cool and erupted in rage.



Observing people’s various reactions to situations that have gone wrong.
Following that conversation, I started to think about how other people might respond if something did not go according to their expectations. It confirmed what my buddy had attempted to tell me earlier in the day.



While I can conceive of individuals who would respond furiously to circumstances that went wrong, the degree of their rage would differ from person to person. The majority of people would never respond with the same degree of horror that I usually do. Some people might feel somewhat dissatisfied, but even in that case, their dissatisfaction would fade rapidly.



A few of my pals have likewise expressed frustration rather than rage in the face of difficult circumstances. It’s possible that some people might be dissatisfied. Some people would be disappointed. Some people would be apathetic in this situation. Some people might be alarmed. And some people wouldn’t even realize what had happened until it was too late to stop it (usually those who are spacey and oblivious).



Even while it may seem that circumstances or individuals are to blame for my anger when things don’t go as planned, it is important to understand that my anger is not the result of these events or people. As a result, if those events or individuals were really the source of my rage, then everyone (on this planet) should be entitled to respond with fury and with the same degree of wrath when confronted with the same circumstances. According to the information I’ve provided above, this is not the case.



Because of the wide range of responses from other people to events that went wrong, from various degrees of rage to complete lack of fury, I realized that my own anger was not external, but rather internal. There was something inside of me that was causing my rage each and every time. Or, to put it another way, there was something in me that was always furious, and the circumstances had only served to bring that anger to the forefront of my consciousness.


It made me realize that, despite the fact that I considered myself to be a pacifist, and despite the fact that I had been working on being a better person filled with compassion, respect, and admiration for other people, I had been mistaken.

Recognizing the Presence of Anger in My Personal and Professional Life


I became more aware of the existence of anger in my life after recognizing that I had anger (see part 1 if you haven’t already) after realizing that I had anger.

Every time anything didn’t go my way, I realized that I would get very irritated. Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that bother me, such as the bus coming late or later than I would like. When I’m attempting to go from point A to point B, it’s possible that someone may come in my way (either literally or metaphorically). It might have been the young kids in my neighborhood who were shouting at the top of their lungs as I was trying to get things accomplished.


Whenever one of these instances occurred, I would get irritated and agitated. The way I’d approach this is to start by identifying and removing the cause of the issue. In the case of being running late, for example, notifying a buddy of my arrival time, filtering off unwanted sounds (in the case of noise), and so on. 


After that, I’d try to shake off my anger by thinking about something good or by altering my train of thought completely.

While these acts were beneficial, they did little to alter the fact that the angsty feelings had been sparked in the first place. Some individuals might be unfazed by such circumstances, but I would be enraged by them for a variety of reasons, regardless of their nationality.




Aside from the little irritations of everyday life, I would get irritated by individuals who acted in ways that were contrary to my expectations. Examples include when my neighbors beat the sh*t out of their kids (to me this indicated an inability to care for children, which would cause me to get upset) and the result was their children yelling and crying (which would frustrate me further). Alternatively, when I worked with individuals who produced substandard work. Alternatively, when someone attempted to coerce anything from me under the pretense of friendship, which I despised since it went against my core principle of honesty.




An Incident with a Friend Demonstrates the Negative Effects of Anger

It wasn’t until I saw someone else’s rage that I realized how destructive it might be.


It was a close buddy who had a complete breakdown in front of me. The reason she was unhappy was because of something I had done, which I had no clue would make her upset, and she used text messages to express her displeasure with me.




The problem wasn’t so much that she was furious as it was how she decided to cope with her feelings of rage. Because she became enraged and started berating me through text messages, assuming a very authoritative tone, putting me down, and criticizing my behavior and character, among other things. It was a full 180-degree turn from the side of her I was used with. However, despite my best efforts to meditate, she refused to participate, instead speaking in a condescending manner and repeatedly shutting me down with monosyllabic, snappy answers.




It was obvious that she was completely consumed by her rage in the moments between her answers. I was depressed because the person with whom I was talking was a long cry from the person I had assumed I was communicating with. I was in the middle of a heated argument with someone who was enraged, unconscious, arrogant, and cruel. It had a gloomy atmosphere. It was a little chilly. It had a faraway feel about it.


Because I was completely devoid of any feelings of rage, she was perfectly justified in her wrath. All I could think of was how unhappy I was. The only thing I wanted to do was call out to a buddy whom I hadn’t seen in over two years, if she even existed in that awareness, and reconnect with her. It was all I wanted to do to bring back our friendship, which appeared to be eroding with each passing second as time passed.




The moment it became clear that she had been completely consumed by her rage and that there was nothing I could do to save the situation, I made the decision to give up on trying. I sent a last message in peace (which was met with another monosyllabic, curt answer) and then ended any further contact with the person.


The moment I was thrown back into my own place, I was hit with a wave of sorrow that overwhelmed me. There is no rage, just sorrow.


Then I broke down and sobbed.



I’m not sure why I burst into tears. Perhaps it was to let go of the sorrow that had grown up within me over the course of those fifteen minutes. Perhaps I felt powerless as a result of my inability to rescue the situation, despite all of my attempts. Perhaps it was the realization that this relationship had reached a point of no return that caused the sadness. The inability to grasp why some individuals would choose to use anger to deal with their issues, or even throw their wrath at other people, when logical and aware dialogue is an option may have been the source of the misunderstanding.


That was the last straw in our friendship, and there was nothing more I could do.


While it was a legitimate inquiry as to why she was so enraged, the main issue for me (at the time) was how she coped with the enraged state of mind. Her decision to focus her rage towards me and to denigrate me, as well as her refusal to cooperate with any efforts at repair or mediation, led me to conclude that she was not someone I wanted to be friends with.





Due to the fact that anger has been such a prominent element in my life since I was a child, I recognized that I had little to no room in my life for uncontrolled displays of rage.


If my family members happen to be angry individuals, then so be it — I will deal with them in the appropriate manner. I cannot select the family I was born into, and I cannot choose how I will deal with them. However, I have the ability to select who I spend my time with, and if given the option, I would prefer not to spend any time with angry individuals (apart from my family), much alone such an irately furious person, or with people who have not learnt to cope with their anger in a conscious manner.






Recognizing the Harmful Effects of My Anger on My Own Personhood


In spite of the fact that I did not experience any anger throughout the “discussion,” this event reminded me of the occasions when I did experience rage. The only way I had ever dealt with rage up until that moment was as someone who had grown up with and endured it. This incident with this buddy was one of the first occasions I had the opportunity to observe rage from a third-party perspective (not including encounters with my family).




Being on the other side of the coin opened my eyes to the extent to which rage can be destructive.




#1. Anger has harmed my interpersonal relationships.

First and foremost, my friend’s rage tore apart the last threads of our relationship that were holding it together.

As I said in part 1, I was raised in an angry home and saw firsthand how terrible it was to be surrounded by anger. As a result, I make it a point never to lose my temper with other people, no matter what. However, when I look back on my life, I can recall an instance in which my rage led me to lose a promising relationship at my previous institution. I was upset about something that had occurred in my life, and my buddy was attempting to make me feel better, but he ended up being caught in my “conflagration.”




Although I cannot recall what I said and did not specifically target him with my rage (I was enraged by the circumstance and was raving), it was sufficient to make him feel uncomfortable. He did not reply to any of my subsequent messages, and I decided to give up after the nth outreach effort, thus we are no longer friends. With the exception of that event, we could still be in contact today. Possibly, we are closer friends than we were before. I’ll never know the answer.





#2. Anger has caused harm to the people I care about (Whether I Realize It or Not)

Second, my friend’s rage had caused me — or, at the very least, someone she used to care about — a great deal of heartache and disappointment.


While I have never questioned the individuals with whom I had previously lost my temper if I had caused them any emotional harm as a result of my rage, I believe it is safe to assume that I did. These individuals, ranging from my family to the buddy I described before (from school) to a few acquaintances here and there, had most likely been devastated at some time in their lives by the words or actions I took during my fits of rage.




Even if I may have been justified in my anger during my brief outbursts, I never want to be the cause of someone else’s misery or distress. It causes me great distress to realize that I may have brought misery to someone else at some time in his or her life as a result of an outburst of rage.




#3. Anger has caused me to hurt myself.

Third, it was clear during the whole “discussion” that my buddy was completely absorbed by her anger, which I found to be very disturbing. Was it really the person who sent those rage-filled text messages? That enraged, out-of-control, and unaware individual? I had absolutely no clue who he was. I’d never seen her before and was intrigued by her.


I felt very sorry for her. I could see her engulfed in her own flames, shredding her heart, body, mind, and soul as a result of her own desperation. And the worst part is… She was most likely completely unaware of what she was doing to herself.




This was exactly what had been occurring to me all along, as I understood when I turned the phrase back on myself. Anger fits if things went wrong, dissatisfaction toward individuals who had let me down in the past, and latent anger from previous incidents were all part of my personality. While all of this was going on, I was being burnt by my rage.


It’s no surprise that my dentist once inquired as to whether or not I clinched my jaw often (I didn’t know I did). That explains why my face might occasionally feel weary at the conclusion of a long workday (from all the tensing of my brow muscles and forehead). That explains why I would get a tight feeling in my chest anytime anything went against my expectations. I had been causing myself physical harm with my rage for quite some time without even recognizing it.




And these were just the physical adverse effects of the medication. Can you fathom what the spiritual ramifications would be? What about the wear and strain my spirit has endured? Is this the beginning of the end of my soul? For example, what about the mental negativity, anxiety, and misery that I inflicted upon myself? All of this had been completely needless.

Other Negative Consequences of Anger


The three consequences I mentioned above are not the only problems associated with rage.

Another, more severe, aspect of rage is that it may have far-reaching consequences on innocent third-party receivers who had nothing to do with it at the time. Consider the fact that my parents’ rage has resulted in my brother and me being such irritable individuals. Consider the case of children who grow up with severe mental health problems as a result of their parents’ anger issues.




 Consider the fact that I have a large number of previous coaching clients and course participants whose emotional difficulties and personal problems can be linked back to a particular furious upbringing from their childhood. Consider the fact that there are likely many more people out there who have been affected by others’ anger and who are living their lives as slaves to their wrath without even realizing it.



Looking at it from a productivity standpoint, I noticed that minor irritants and annoyances, such as being irritated by my neighbor’s children’s constant yelling and screaming, babies’ crying, people who impose on me, and people with poor comprehension abilities, would frequently cause me to lose my focus and get off track. These sensations of annoyance would seldom persist for more than a minute or two at a time, sometimes lasting up to five or ten minutes, but they would be a nuisance nevertheless.



Realizing the Potential of a Third Way (No Anger, No Avoidance)
I had never considered these annoyances to be problems in the past since I assumed they were typical and a regular part of life.

What happens, though, if they aren’t normal? Previously, I had learned (as I described in part 1) that my rage in response to life’s little annoyances was not a “typical” occurrence.

Consider the possibility that being irritated, irked, and furious are *not* normal, *not* essential, and *not* a vital component of life. What if I’ve been so easily irritated and upset all these time because of underlying anger problems and because I have simply *not* learned how to deal with life’s small hiccups in an angerless way because I haven’t learned how to deal with life’s minor hiccups in an angerless manner?



Was it possible that fury was not the only option? Why not learn to cope with life’s problems and unforeseen situations without being enraged in the process. Was it possible that I didn’t even have to be furious in the first place? Wouldn’t it be just breathtaking?

Suddenly, while I was questioning myself, I had a “aha” moment. After a while, I understood that it is possible to live a life free of anger, and that the power to do so rests in my own hands, since I am the one who is responsible for my own anger.

I came to the realization that if I want to contribute to or build an anger-free world, and if I want to become an anger-free person, I must begin by being an anger-free person myself.