I am amazed at the many words used for anger that remind me of cooking:
makes my blood boil
my anger is brewing
a heated argument
letting off steam
lifting the lid on anger
don’t fight fire with fire
Like soup in a pot, anger can be stirred to blow things out of proportions. The Bible says it well, “a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1), “an angry person stirs up conflict” (Proverbs 29:22).
Anger is an emotion and like fire, its temperature can boil or spoil the broth. When it’s inappropriately expressed, you can jeopardise your own health and the well- being of people around you. Hypertension, cardiovascular problems, poor relationships, high conflict are some of the challenges angry people face. When anger is managed well, it shows you up as a person who is well-regulated and socially attractive.
You are both a feeling and thinking person; you have both emotions and cognition within you. It’s a balancing act daily where you juggle your thoughts and emotions to arrive at good decisions and a healthy lifestyle. The better you are at that, the more able you are in enjoying life and cultivating good relationships.
On the line graph, angry people swing towards the emotional side where they can get so aroused that the behaviour can be destructive.
Some of these destructive behaviours can be self-directed – they can be depressed, helpless, addicted. Other destructive behaviours are others-directed – they vent their anger on others and hurt them, they are aggressive, they damage things. Being emotionally charged like that is not the best way to live in life. There is a need to decrease unhealthy emotions and to bring about better mental health.
What can trigger anger?
Amongst the many triggers are three triggers I like to highlight in this article:
a. BLOCKED GOALS
You feel frustrated when your goals are being blocked. You thought an evening meal followed by a movie would be a great way to spend your Easter weekend. Your goal is to spend quality time with someone special to enhance the relationship. But your spouse/your significant others wanted to take this great opportunity to relax at home. He/she said no to everything you suggested; he/she got his way. That can leave you feeling angry.
You have an expectation of the way you like to spend your Easter weekend. It’s not right or wrong; it’s your preference. But because it’s different from your spouse/significant others and it was not carried out as you wanted, it became an unmet expectation. Unmet expectations can cause disappointment , frustration and anger.
The meaning you attach to your expectations can make you angry or angrier. When your spouse gets to stay home and makes you stay home with him/her, you can see him/her as being controlling and a bully and you see yourself as the victim, the one who has no voice. In marriage and families, there are of course bigger problems than just an evening meal and a movie. The attributions you make of each issue is important as you can create an atmosphere that will breed anger and dissatisfaction or one that is upbeat.
Some people keep their anger in by brooding, stonewalling, self-harming; others get their anger out by being verbally hurtful, critical, negative, sarcastic or physically aggressive.
The key to managing anger is to take a fresh look at the blocked goals, the expectations and attributions that are causing strong emotions and to decrease them. One way to do it is to increase your cognition. It is to change the way you think around the triggers. Your new and constructive way of thinking will greatly reduce anger. The aim is to reduce the mountain to a molehill, to not let anger randomly invade your life and create havoc with it.
A fresh look at BLOCKED GOALS
Taking the evening meal and movie as an example still, communicate that goal early to your spouse so that there’s time to think through the most effective use of time on that Easter weekend. It’s a good goal to desire bonding with our spouse but if it’s not communicated well or early enough, it can be blocked.
Be open that your idea can be changed. Ideas that involve others are subject to changes so we need to create buffers and alternatives so that we won’t be caught unprepared. That can cause anger. Change to your idea is part of the negotiation process where the needs and feedback of the other person are also taken into account.
If your spouse doesn’t want to go for that movie or meal, don’t see it as a blocked goal. You can still go ahead with your plan of a meal or movie on your own or with someone else (and don’t threaten at this stage that you will bring someone that will upset your spouse as a payback). You can also decide to stay home and having bonding time with him/her at home, leaving the idea of a meal and movie to another night.
A fresh look at EXPECTATIONS
The evening can still be redeemed from being ruined by a change of plans if you don’t have rigid expectations. In communicating your ideas and obtaining feedback for it and tailoring it to the needs of that weekend, the best activity can be organised to bring about the best satisfaction.
Be careful of expectations that are not spoken, not agreed upon and unrealistic. They are far likely to create anger especially when they are unmet.
Speak about your wishes, hopes, expectations at more relaxed times. “I wish to go away for my birthday…”, “I hope someone would make me a parfait…” “It would be lovely if the garage is cleared out”, “It would be nice if you take the kids out this weekend”…
Agree on the suggestions or disagree respectfully, not criticising or downplaying the ideas. Don’t say, ‘What a stupid idea to watch a movie on a public holiday! It’s going to cost you a bomb!’ Definitely you are to expect devastation with that comment. Unthoughtful feedback can kill communication. Not all ideas raised may be realistic and that’s where communicating about them helps you to arrive at a more workable plan.
A fresh look at ATTRIBUTIONS
The perspectives you have of someone or the situation is important for your mental health. Self-regulation is a way of getting new perspectives so that you can move the relationship forward. You will not get angry if you perceive that not going to the movie and meal with you is not an attack on you and it’s not rejecting your company. There are many other reasons why people don’t do the things that you like. You can only persuade and invite and continue to hold good attributions. Attribute good meanings as that will create positive beliefs of people and situations:
“There’s always another time”
“I will respect his/her difference of opinion this time. It
does not mean that he or she does not love me.”
“Missing a meal or a movie is not the end of the relationship.”
“I can still make our times together fun when I compromise.”
“Don’t coerce. Don’t force. It may work this time but in the
long term, it’s not nice”
It’s interesting how we call an angry person a hot –headed person. It’s all in the head! Anger needs to be processed in the head so that it can be contained.
INCREASE YOUR COGNITION.
DECREASE YOUR EMOTION.
Be aware of your BLOCKED GOALS, EXPECTATIONS AND ATTRIBUTIONS and how they work to stir your blood. Don’t allow them to overrun your system and adversely affect you and your precious relationships. Manage your anger well – let off steam and lift the lid on your anger!