Why are you so angry? Learn how to calm down.
When did everyone get so angry? That was the question that ran through my mind one recent night as I waited at the gate for my late airplane to arrive, hostile passengers shouting at the gate agent, the television in the waiting area set to a shouting match taking place between political rivals on a cable news network.
Truthfully, anger isn’t always a bad thing. It is a natural reaction to being threatened or endangered, in which case it motivates you to protect yourself. But more often than not, anger is not protective of your physical safety at all. Instead, it arises out of perceived threats to your integrity, and quite frankly, to your ego. You feel angry when you think that someone is being disrespectful or inconsiderate to you or to others you care about. Of course, it is all a matter of perspective: different people get angry about different things. I would guess that a third of us get angry at fast drivers, a third get angry at slow drivers, and the other third get angry at both.
Anger is different from other emotions in that it is primarily a moral emotion. We often respond with anger when we perceive an injustice, and in response, we want to see justice served. When that doesn’t happen, our anger swells, sometimes until it takes us over completely. We often hold on to our anger for years or even decades. Truthfully, anger typically causes more problems than it solves. Anger damages your immune system, your digestive system and even your heart. Clinical studies have shown that people who do not control their anger effectively are at increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease. Anger hinders concentration and memory, and can make sleep seem impossible.
What you can do
• Stop and breathe. Take long, deep breaths, in and out, for a full minute.
• Confront others firmly, but respectfully. Taking an aggressive tone toward others will only put them on the defensive and insure that they will not listen to you. Don’t be aggressive, but don’t be a pushover either.
• When you feel your anger bubbling up, ask yourself the following questions:
• How big of deal is this really, and how big of a deal am I making of it? Is it really worth damaging my heart, upsetting those around me, and ruining my day?
• Will getting (and staying) angry fix the situation? Will it really make my late flight arrive any sooner or fix the problem I’m having with my computer?
• Who is my anger hurting more: me, or the person at whom I am angry?
If you can do these things, and they are helping, keep doing them. If your anger is hurting you or those you love, or if you need more assistance in managing your anger, consider reaching out to a psychologist for help today.
— Daniel Goldman, Ph. D., is a licensed psychologist. If you think you have a problem, pick up the phone and call today. You’ll feel better tomorrow.