Anger has many manifestations, from mild irritation to extreme violence. When we are angry, we lose our compassion for the object of our anger. When we are angry at our partner, we focus our behaviour on them. If we are angry at the world, then our behaviour can turn into a generalised lack of empathy, or love, for everyone we meet.
THE ROOTS OF ANGER
To manage anger, it helps to understand its roots. Some of those roots are in our biological nature. It is helpful for an animal to have ways of repelling others, or defending itself, when threatened. Our bodies are the inheritance of millions of years of development in this way.
Furthermore, it is helpful for a thinking animal to feel discomfort when things aren’t consistent – that’s how we solve problems. If we couldn’t tell the difference between harmony and discord, we wouldn’t be able to harmonise things. We like to tidy things up and get them under control. It is our way.
So, when we are managing anger, we should allow for the fact that it’s an instinctive response. As with all automatic behaviours, management needs to harness those automatic behaviours. We can’t just tell ourselves not to be angry and be done with it. We need to be clever about it.
Cognitively, we can manage our philosophy of life. If we have a philosophy that all people of a certain type are degenerate and deserve poor treatment, then we are much more likely to display angry, destructive behaviour. Alternatively, if we have a philosophy which holds that others are essentially our kind helpers, then we will tend to behave with respect towards them.
In terms of our automatic bodily response, we can teach ourselves what calmness feels like. If we meditate regularly, and use an appropriate ritual, then we are harnessing our body’s automatic processes for peace. This will leak over into our daily life, and we will find ourselves getting less angry every day. We will still get tired sometimes, but we will be better able to manage that tiredness without letting it leak over into destructive behaviour.
Finally, we need to take responsibility for our own health, eating, sleeping and exercising well. There is no doubt that poor nutrition, poor sleep, and low exercise levels make our peace of mind harder to maintain.
When angry, we lose our compassion for others. The behaviour is rooted in some evolved processes which in the past defended us. We can manage anger in three ways:
- We can choose a philosophy of life which views others positively
- We can practice meditation, to teach our bodies to be calm
- We can manage our health, ensuring we eat, sleep and exercise well