I don’t think it’s possible, and it may not even be healthy, to get rid of all your anger. I certainly haven’t found a way to do so.Nor would you want to pretend you weren’t angry when you are. Yet there is something very comforting about learning to tame your anger, to keep it under control.
There were once, I was complaining to an adult friend of mine about something that happened to me- I felt I had been cheated out of an award that I had worked hard for. I was furious, in fact, I was ranting and raging about the injustice of it all.
My friend said something to me that day that very quickly changed the way I related to my anger. I’ve spent the last few years practicing and remembering what he taught me. Actually, what he said was very simple. In a calm voice he asked me, “I understand why you are mad. But why so mad?”
For a moment, I became quite defensive and fired back, ” I’m so mad because it isn’t fair!” Again, he responded, ” You’re right it wasn’t fair, and it’s okay to be upset, even mad- but why so mad? Why are you beating your head against a wall?”
Then it hit me!! He was right. I had experienced a disappointment, that was true. It was also true that I may have been cheated, and I certainly had the “right” to be angry. However, in that moment, I also realised that my anger wasn’t going to make things better. In fact, it was only going to make things worse. My anger was hurting me- after all, I was the one who had to feel it.
It was the first time I was able to see that my anger was coming from me and my own thoughts- and not from the unfortunate event itself. I felt a freedom that I had never before experienced. It was the feeling that I was, to a large degree, in charge of my emotions. They were coming from inside of me and not from the world.
Imagine hitting your head against a wall and wondering why you had such a bad headache. Then someone came to you and said, “Hey, if you stop banging your head, the pain will stop.” In a way, it’s the same idea with your anger. If you’re thinking about everything that makes you mad, and don’t realise that you’re the one doing the thinking, you’re going to be really, really mad. But once you see that, in fact, you’re the one who is thinking all of those angry thoughts, it takes the edge off! It’s almost as if you’re able to take a step back and create some distance between yourself and whatever it is that you’re mad about.
Again, don’t get me wrong. You’re still going to get angry, and there are plenty of things to be angry about. It’s just that, when you recognise where your anger is coming from (your own thoughts), your anger is going to be tamed a little.
Here is one of the most important insights of my life: It’s OK to feel angry, but it’s also OK not to get carried away with anger and allow it to immobilize me or ruin my life.
I hope this insight affects you in a similar way. If it does, it’s going to make your life a whole lot less stressful.