ANGER IS A CHOICE
Did you find yourself angry today? This week? Even in the last month? How often are you angry at someone else or something else?
Anger is something everyone struggles with–whether it’s our own emotion threatening to explode out of control or the anger of others that makes us feel intimidated and afraid.
We make a choice to be angry. Humans have a large cortex to think with. Humans can, and often do, transcend instinctual urges for something better. That makes anger a choice for most of us, most of the time.
Consider a few scenarios. You rise in the morning and your wife doesn’t smile at you and say, “good morning”. You think something is wrong. You think you did something wrong, but your wife isn’t talking. Do you get angry at her and express anger at her? If so, you made a choice to get angry.
You’re driving on your way to yet another errand. This time, you have a deadline and you need to be there on time. While approaching an intersection, someone cuts you off and taps the breaks just as the light turns yellow. You brake and come to a fuming stop. Do you get angry and curse the driver ahead of you, happily speeding away? If so, you made a choice to get angry.
In each of the examples above, we have made a choice to be angry.
Anger can, in some cases be fatal.
Every day is the same in a relative way. We get to decide what to do with it. I am presented with countless opportunities to be angry. A slight here, an inconvenience there, and a disappointment over there. All I have to do is notice them and then react.
Have you considered the possibility that anger is a choice?
Most times, that anger is provoked by slights and inconvenience.
As a mature, middle aged human, I can choose to react, or respond. When one of my kids has a meltdown, I sit there and talk with them, at their eye level. I give them a speech that goes something like this:
I see that you’re angry. You’re angry because you didn’t get what you wanted. I want you to know that just because you’re angry, doesn’t mean I have to get angry, too. I can make a choice to be angry or not, and I choose not to be angry. I also want you to know that I may not be able to give you want you want, but I can give you a hug. You can always ask for a hug at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. Just ask.
This is what I’m teaching my kids. And as I talk with my kids, I’m modeling calm, peace, and forgiveness. Did I say “forgiveness”? I wasn’t thinking of it that way when I was sitting there talking with my kids, but as I look back, I forgave them, for they know not what they do. Children do not always have the skills to decide whether or not to be angry. They must learn that skill from us. They teach us the rest.
Throughout my life, I have tried the way of anger and found it wanting. Even after being angry, I found that I still didn’t get what I wanted. The other person was still happy whether I was angry or not. And I found that I still had to see my part in it. Anger prevents us from seeing our part in why we feel the way we do.
So I let myself feel the anger when it comes. And then I wait to let it pass. The brain has a tendency to wander, and I use that with my kids. I keep talking with them until their mind wanders again. I do that with myself, too. I’ve even done that talking past the anger with my wife.
Talking past the anger, through an upset works because anger is very taxing on the body, and it drains the energy from the body. Anger makes me tired. So instead of acting on the anger, I let it pass. I avoid adding anger to an already angry circumstance. I de-escalate because I never want to know how far people are willing to go to prove that they’re right, when they’re angry.
Relationships are systems, just like the body is a system, just like your computer is a system, just like the planet is a system. And systems are always seeking equilibrium, a state of balance. If we put anger into a system, we will get anger out. If we let the anger pass, we can choose to put something else into the system around us. At that point, I choose peace.
I am fallible, and I’m going to make mistakes when I resolve my conflicts. So as long as I’m going to make a mistake, and I can’t please everyone, I choose to err on the side of peace. That is what I do with my anger. I turn it into peace.