Do you ever feel guilty or confused when you get angry? Do you look for reasons that justify your anger? Anger is not the problem. And guess what, neither are you. You heard right. Anger is not the problem. The problem is not being able to identify what it is that makes you angry so you can do something about it. Read on to discover how you can get the heart of anger so you can use your anger to help create the life you really want.
What’s Making You so Angry?
We usually become angry because two things are happening. First, we believe that someone or something is preventing us from getting what we want. Second, we believe that something either should or should not be happening the way it is. This thinking focuses our attention entirely on limitation and fear.
Think about it, if all of your attention is focused on not getting what you want, and what should or shouldn’t happen, how would you expect to feel? Is it any wonder this kind of thinking results in stress, tension, and confusion? How else would you feel but angry?
When you learn that all anger comes from focusing your attention on these things, then your anger can become a warning bell that you need to re-focus your attention. So that’s the upside of anger: it’s always a reminder to focus your attention on creating the life you want.
Here’s an example: Pat was waiting for Leslie at their favorite restaurant. They agreed to meet at 7:15. After waiting for 20 minutes, Pat began to feel a little angry. “Leslie knows I hate waiting. We had an agreement. How selfish … Not even a phone call to explain … I’m only waiting another five minutes and then I’m leaving …” Pat thought. And the more Pat had these thoughts, the angrier Pat felt.
Let’s explore these thoughts that made Pat so angry. It sounds like Pat believes that Leslie should not be late if they had an agreement, that the evening would be ruined by Leslie’s late arrival, and that if people really cared about each other they would call and explain the sudden change in plans.
When you focus your attention on limitations and fear as Pat did, anger is an understandable response.
Where to Focus Your Attention
We believe that lying beneath people’s anger are things they value that are missing in the situation. The most effective way we’ve found to move from feeling angry to creating a satisfying life is to start by figuring out what’s at the heart of anger – what we value. In this situation one thing Pat may highly value is peacefulness. So what prevents Pat from being peaceful in this situation? It may be that Pat needs more predictability in order to have a sense of peacefulness.
Once you know what you need, you’re able to take action to get those needs met. As one example, Pat may want to make an agreement with Leslie to call if either of them will be late.
The Practical Side
The most effective “anger management” starts with understanding that anger is not the problem. Next you can begin to notice the very first moment when you start to feel tense or irritated. This is the best time to use your anger as an alarm bell, warning you to shift your focus of attention. Then you single out any should/shouldn’t, judgment type statements you hear yourself thinking.
Once you have a statement to work with, you get to the heart of anger by exploring each of these statements. You discover the hidden values within it, like how Pat values peacefulness. When you identify what you value, you ask yourself the question: “What do I need in order to experience what I value right now in this situation?” Like Pat’s need for predictability. Then think of some ways you might be able to get that need met and start to experience what you value. The same way Pat and Leslie agreed to call if they will be late.
Don’t look back in anger at what’s just happened; look ahead to see how you can get what you need so you will start experiencing what you value. When you focus your attention on what you value, what you need, and how you’re going to get those needs met, anger can be transformed into an opportunity to create a truly enjoyable life where you experience what you truly value.