When is the last time you got angry? Like flared nostrils, crazy-eyed, ready to pimp-slap someone like Bernie Mac in Head of State just because? I was like that just today and it came out of nowhere, or so I thought. It was already there. The good thing is I was alone and no one was hurt.

Let’s face it. We’re afraid to let our anger show because we’ve learned it can have irrevocable consequences when not expressed properly. Notice I said, “let our anger show” and not “get angry” because many of us walk around straight up angry every day. Look at that guy… *points* You KNOW he ain’t right. Ticking time bomb.

We don’t show it because we’ve learned that words spoken and actions carried out in anger can prove so hurtful that we can’t take them back no matter how many times we apologize. We can only hope the person or persons we’ve offended forgive us. Some people don’t really care who they hurt but if you do care, you already know you can permanently damage a relationship or scar someone long-term by lashing out in anger. A bad temper could also get you in trouble on the road or with the law. Even after you cool off, the effects can linger as feelings of shame about how you reacted to something.

And that’s GOOD?

Now you’re mad. Why am I saying anger is good??? Because if it’s not some kind of broad injustice that ignites my temper (that’s different), it’s letting me know that something is not right with me. Yep – it’s like an emotional thermometer, giving me a read on ME. It lets me know that my expectations are out of alignment with my reality. I have a habit of fooling myself into thinking everything is just the way I’d like it to be and when I realize it’s not? Oh boy. I’ve worked hard to relinquish control in areas of my life where I’ve held on tightly (death grip) in the past but I understand that the more resistant I am to accepting what is, the more angry I get when things are not going “my way.” (And there it is again, reference to the Illusion of Control.)

Deafening DMX works wonders to diffuse my anger and resultant adrenaline but stopping and being thankful is what takes it all the way down.

I strive to grow in faith and know that everything is working for my good even when I can’t see it but sometimes I get MAD. Rabid dog mad… which generally results in a release of a stream of profanity within the cabin of my car. (Thank God cars can’t talk. Well, they can, but… you know what I mean!) I will borrow again from a blogger I discovered, who so eloquently stated: “I love the Lord but sometimes I cuss.” While it may be directed at someone or something specific, I blame myself for what I should have said or done in a situation. That, of course, is no good… but it happens. If I’m being treated in a way I don’t like, I don’t immediately anger but if I don’t address it, I run the risk of having it build and boil over. As I’ve matured, I realize that a flash of anger doesn’t have to turn into a prolonged state of rage. I’m usually pretty happy and I don’t need that kind of stress. Sidebar: when I was little, I used to stomp down the hallway when I didn’t get my way. Very short-lived, I might add, as my parents where NOT playing that. Obviously I can’t go stomping around now. Then again… I could.

But yes, I get mad. I fume. Then I calm down and I think. I strategize. What can I do differently so that I don’t feel like this again? I believe this is the most important part of working through my anger. For me, I have to dig into WHY I’m angry and determine what I need to do to change my perspective on a situation. If I can’t change my situation, I can change how I react to it. I’m most often angry when I have an expectation (high or low) that is not met and I encounter proof that it’s not what I thought it was.

Do the Work

Sometimes I expect someone to meet a need, emotional or otherwise, and they don’t. Or, as I mentioned earlier, it could be directed inward for something I think I did wrong. Starting with that expectation is usually where I begin the work. Was I foolish to think someone would do what they said they would do? Was there an unspoken need? I think it’s natural to want to blame other people for our unhappiness – and I’m not saying that people don’t intentionally mislead you but it’s easy to rant and rave about how they didn’t do this or they don’t do that, etc. The real opportunity to grow is when you stop blaming others and take a look at what you did to contribute. Yes, YOU. Keeping it 100 with myself is how I get through. I get to the core of my anger issues by asking questions like:

  • What was my expectation and why was it important?
  • Did they know I had this expectation?
  • Am I being selfish by expecting ____?
  • Did we ever discuss our wants or needs with each other?
  • Is this person capable and willing to meet my expectation or need?

I admit, in cases where I really want something to manifest, truths can be tough to swallow. Especially when I had an unspoken expectation. Many times I end up realizing I saw what I wanted to see and not what really was. Sometimes things are not revealed to us all at once but once we have irrefutable evidence that it is NOT what we thought, acceptance has to be the next step. And that can be difficult to do. Then there are times when you know you did nothing and you’ve been mistreated. Life is NOT fair. By any stretch.

I’m Not Okay with It

Whatever it is, my anger is telling me that it is not cool with me. I know it’s okay to take the time to learn to be okay with something… then it’s decision time. Do I continue on, lowering my expectations, saying “that’s just the way it is,” or do I try to change what I can? [Insert Serenity Prayer] Having lived several decades, I accept that some people are not going to do what you want, like you, love you, respect you, etc. no matter what you do. In those cases, you can only try to have enough self-respect to operate like an emotionally mature adult – even if they are incapable of doing the same. If your dispute or anger is with someone you care about, the focus should be communicating your expectations and needs. When you have the courage to communicate with them, nine times out of ten I’ll bet you’ll realize you placed unrealistic expectations on a person or situation, and it’s not about them. It’s about YOU. Taking care of yourself is the one place you want to be selfish –  I don’t care what anyone tells you, you don’t need saving and you don’t need rescuing – you just need to get mad enough to make different choices that keep you from getting angry in the first place.