I have a truly scary temper.
I wrote in my last blog, The Brilliant Clarity of Life’s Beauty Shines Best Through Darkness, that when I’m deeply upset about something my anger leaves me. Let me tell you this is fortunately and unfortunately not my authentic state. By nature, I’m an extremely fiery person. One of my all-time favorite movie quotes is Babe the Pig saying that he might be small but he’s “ferocious when provoked.” I’ve stolen this statement and used it many times (although usually when I’m feeling silly rather than stormy).
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a long road ahead when it comes to releasing and properly dealing with my anger, but I’d still like to share with you the tips I’ve learned thus far. So without further ado, here are things to do (and not do) when you find yourself in a rage.
1. Don’t blame others. While other people can surely incite emotions in you,you alone are responsible for your actions. Period.
2. Walk away. Give yourself a time out before you actually need one. Waylon recently wrote in a blog that in Buddhism you should learn to walk away when you’re angry. I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I can attest to the benefits of learning to do this. Whether you get angry just about every day (ahem, I’m sheepishly bowing my head now) or you get p.o.’d once a year, you know that you’re getting angry before you explode and say regrettable things. Learn to have enough self-control to walk away and wait out your anger.
3. Say I’m sorry. If you find yourself unable to walk away, or unable to walk away in time, then by all means say I’m sorry. Yes, the actual words; and for the love of God don’t say “I’m sorry, but.” The only butt in the room is you, end of story.
4. Acknowledge who you are. I consider myself to be passionate in general, not just temperamental and prone to anger. I’m only in my 30s and I don’t believe in saying never, but I will say that I consider it highly likely that I’ll always be easily excitable; although that doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t learn to control it. (However, if you know any old people, you’ll understand what I’m implying when I say that my temper will still likely come back to haunt me full force in my advanced years, since the elderly seem to always be overly honest versions of their true characters. Hopefully it’ll be cute in a Sophia Petrillo sort of way by then.)
5. Anger is a secondary emotion. This is not a psychological principle. It’s my opinion. (I only took Psych 101 and that was at 8am during the beginning of my freshman year. I don’t remember doing well.) Still, anger is not what you truly feel. Of course, you’re pissed, but really, underneath it and if you dig deeply enough, you’ll absolutely find another emotion like fear, hurt or regret (even before you actually say something you wish you could take back). Get in touch with this primary emotion and, not only will your anger fade more quickly, you’ll be doing yourself a big service by delving into this real you—and your real emotions.
6. Laugh at yourself. Taking yourself less seriously will benefit you in multiple ways—including your temper tantrums. Sometimes the sulky elephant in the room is your own ego. If you find it difficult to let go of your ego in relation with your short fuse, then think about how stupid you look when you’re mad. (Go ahead and picture Donald Duck. Yeah, you look even dumber than that.)
7. Lay off me, I’m starving. Before you allow yourself to act from a place of anger, assess whether or not you feel irritable because of a physical rather than emotional or intellectual reason. It might seem ridiculous, but did you know, for example, that being irritable is one of the early signs of dehydration? Make sure you’re taking care of your physical needs too.
8. Having vulnerability is not the name of a contagious disease. This is kind of a culmination of several of these tips, but I believe that being angry is deeply connected to not being able to show, or even experience, vulnerability. Get over it.
Life is hard enough. Learning to not make it harder on yourself is a huge step in the direction of healthy—and happy—living. Remember that we’re all human and we all have good and bad qualities. In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that all of us get angry at least from time to time.
So give yourself a break when you slip up, but get back on the horse and keep on trying. Controlling your anger (or better yet, getting rid of it entirely) is respectful to the people around you—and to yourself. Good luck!
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta