Thicken Your Skin

Innovative tips, strategies, and cutting edge applications of psychology for all aspects of life enhancement.

The Real Spirit of Anger

Your last bout of anger-did you benefit or not?

Anger!  If you are like most people, you have probably experienced it in the last 24 hours and in the last year or two, heard the word ten thousand times. Maybe on ESPN or CNN, on the phone or in your home, anger permeates our lives.
For most of us, Anger resonates beastly. Yelling and screaming, abusive language, physical abuse in many cases, is common associations. Poor health-ranging from migraine headaches, obesity, and cardiac problems, are just a few of the consequences that we all know anger touts. It is easy to see why anger is one of the deadly sins.
     But is it really? The fact is, the aforementioned refers not to anger, but mismanaged anger. There is not a physician, psychologist, teacher, coach, clergyman, politician, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker who would not agree that mismanaged anger is detrimental to the individual, relationship, family unit, country, and world. Indeed, mismanaged anger is a deadly sin.
     Facts prove this to be true. Mismanaged anger is a major culprit in numerous health problems, including cardiovascular ills, migraine headaches, backache, and obesity. Mental health is impacted too-anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, sleep disorders, depression, are all associated with mismanaged anger. The list of anger plagues goes on: spouse abuse, divorce, to say nothing of NBA basketball players jumping into the seats to fight fans. No doubt, as a premier angerologist, anger is a deadly sin.
     Not the case for the spirit of anger, defined by its evolutionary function: a cue that something is wrong. Anger was created by Mother Nature for a reason: to help mobilize our psychological and physical resources in order to help one combat injustice, and abuse. Indeed, it is not a coincidence that while a good many people get angry when stuck in traffic, an overwhelming majority of people get angry when confronted with an injustice or abuse. This is true worldwide.
     The Spirit of Anger tells us to use the intended function of anger so that it helps us, not hurt us. Doing so allows you to use anger's spirit as a source of energy to make things better.
     How do you do use the Spirit of Anger. It's a three step process. Begin by recognizing when you are angry. Increase your awareness to your anger cues, such as heart beat speeding up, voice rising, breathing faster. The quicker you recognize when you are angry, the faster you can begin to spiritualize it.
     Next, pay attention to the spirit's anger question: what is wrong? Naturally, your answers will be diverse: "too much traffic, too many taxes, he doesn't listen to me, she doesn't listen to me, Michigan lost-again, he won't do his homework." Assess your reason and you will be surprised to see how much of your daily anger experiences are due to the distorted lenses that you are using: magnifying the significance of an event, inventing reasons for other's actions without substantial data, destructively labeling others so they appear "all" negative. These styles of thinking create anger when there is no need. Modifying your thoughts to the reality of the situation will help curtail your anger in the situation and increasing your awareness to these distorted styles of thinking will lessen future anger.
    What about when your anger is a response to an injustice or an abusive situation, such as a harassing boss, an unfair law, an act of terrorism? In this situations, simply ask, What is the best thing to do? Your answer will help you transform and harness the physical attributes of anger into a source of energy so that you are able to implement your answer.
These three steps: Recognizing when you are angry, asking yourself, "what's wrong," and focusing on, the best action to take will allow you to use the Spirit of Anger!

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Hendrie Weisinger is an organizational psychologist and the author of The Genius of Instinct.

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