What motivates our responses to anger?
People who get themselves into trouble, by doing things they later regret because of an angry reaction, often defend themselves by saying things like;“I’m not Mother Theresa! I don’t have the ability to just flip the switch and be all nice to people when they tick me off!”
Part of the reason why people feel this way lies in the fact that we’re rarely coached on how to deal with anger in a way that’s intrinsically motivated. Guilt and a sense of moral duty head the list of reasons why we’re told we should handle anger responsibly. We’re taught to be the bigger person because it’s the right thing to do.
So, when we lose our cool and blow up at people, we feel guilty and wish we had a nicer, more Mother Theresa like, personality. But in the real world where we must deal with pricks while striving to keep up with an incessant stream of societal demands, the morally superior path just doesn’t seem to offer the same practical advantages as less “enlightened” responses to conflict.
Ideally, it would be great to do as Jesus advised and “love your enemies”, but a nice punch in the face or a few choice words may seem to get the point across more readily. This feeling is understandable, but I believe there’s more to the picture.
Trying to be positive will only drive you mad
My advice to people is this;Don’t focus on being positive or morally good. Just be selfish. Focus on getting what you want. Go back and reconsider your options. Then choose the one(s) that will actually take you there. Don’t make changes in life because you think it’s evil to be negative. Make changes because you’re no longer interested in self-sabotaging the joy you’ve always wanted to feel.
One of the most overlooked qualities of optimists and happy people is the fact that they are among some of the most selfish people in the world. I don’t mean selfish in the sense of being snobbish, but selfish in the sense of being inwardly motivated by their own desire to procure as much personal pleasure as possible. Because of their unwavering focus on their goals and personal health, they’re often able to overlook and move past the typical disturbances that distract lesser focused people.
We can learn a significant lesson from such people:Negative energy directed at another person usually results in positive energy being directed away from what you really want. “A battle against anything or anyone is a battle against you!”*
Do you love and respect yourself enough to keep it cool?
Who really loses when you shout obscenities at the person who cut you off on the highway if you carry that anger in your body for half the work day?
Who really loses when you “tear someone a new one” and spend half the day reliving the emotions of your argument even though the actual altercation is long gone?
What’s going on with your health at that time?
What happened to that book, creative project, resume, or business plan you’ve always wanted to work on as you simmer in anger at someone else? What’s going on with that as you moan and groan over something that happened 5 hours ago?
What price will you have to pay 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years from now for acting out impulsively on anger? Is that price really worth paying? Is that what you really want?
Keeping it cool isn’t about pleasing God, making your mother proud, or impressing your therapist. Keeping it cool is really about keeping it real with your dreams, passions, and desires. It’s about loving yourself enough to not allow your positive creative energy to be wasted and consumed by your prolonged contempt of another person.
I’m not done with this topic. In my next post, I’d like to address the practical side of dealing with anger just a bit more by painting a broader picture of what it means to keep it real. Then, I’d like to offer some suggestions on how to process these very powerful feelings in a healthy stress-relieving way.
That’s my two cents for the day. I look forward to exploring this topic further with you. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to share.
Create a great day,
* A quote by Esther Hicks