Let’s Kill that Bloody“Anger”…Grrrrr
With the increasing levels of stress in our daily lives, anger related issues are effecting our health and personal well-being. What can we do to hold forte in this war against rage? [ Day 6 of “One Day, One Blog”]
As with most little girls who have enjoyed reading, I have had my love affair with “Little women” by Louise May Alcott. The story revolves around a family with four daughters and we are taken through the trials and tribulations of their idyllic life as they grow into women of character. One of the four daughters is a tomboy called Joe. After a particularly nasty fight with her little sister Amy, which has consequences resulting in Amy getting into a very bad accident, Joe confesses to her Mother about her anger which led to all this. The Mother consoles Joe sharing with her that the biggest burden she herself carries is her constant war with her anger. The fight to not let her temper fly off the handle.
I think many of us would identify with this. And I also think many of us would say there is no guarantee in life that we will ALWAYS be able to control one’s temper.
But some of us have a tougher time than most.
Whenever I have remarked that I have a very short temper and I get angry very fast, I have received very surprised looks from my friends and colleagues…. “Really? You?”
I can appreciate their surprise. Because outside of my immediate family, I very rarely lose my temper. I may get irritated from time to time but I rarely indulge in a full blown display of anger. (I call it my “Bhadrakali mode” ).
This is not due to my good temperament or high levels of success at managing my anger. I just keep the stress and anger bottled up without expressing it.
A study at Yale shows that people with Anger management issues tend to get sick more often — because anger creates a weaker immune system.
In my case, I think this is 100% true.
Given that this is one war I have been waging for over 2 decades ( prior to that I just thought it was cool to loose my temper — don’t judge. I was a teenager), I wanted to share some “tools” picked up on the way to help navigate the landmines.
- Take deep breaths
Remember how mom used to tell you to count till 20 before punching the other kid in the playground? This is the adult version of it. And replace “punching” with raising your voice, using foul language, etc
- Walk away from the scene
Back in 2000, my younger brother Roopesh and I were sharing a flat in Bangalore. I was working and he was pursuing his under graduate studies. Our parents were very worried at the idea of us staying together. Because up until the point I graduated and left home, our idea of resolving any issues was to fight it out. Physically. ( Roopesh recently made his debut as the antagonist in a Malayalam movie. If you were wondering where the skills used in the action sequence came from — now you know)
The fact that we are still alive and our parents never had to rush to Bangalore to pick up the pieces still amazes our family. Frankly, it used to amaze me too. Recently, while recollecting this phase of our lives, Roopesh made me realize how we managed to avoid the nasty fights. When he noticed the arguments getting heated up, to the levels where a physical brawl was inevitable he would step out of the flat and go for a walk . After he brought this up, I realized that the credit for our survival in those years goes entirely to him!
When you are angry you will desperately want to say mean and harsh things to hurt the person at the receiving end. That sort of thing is a relationship killer. So, just physically remove yourself from that space. This could work especially well when the situation involves a loved one.
The above two are steps that you can take at a moment’s notice — when you are stuck in traffic; when you have an irate client yelling at you or a colleague who is being super irrational. But if you feel that you have anger management issues — the kind that gets triggered with very less external stimuli, perhaps trying these hacks which will give you results in the long run
- Meditate — The more you controls your thoughts, the more you control your anger
- Have a Mantra that you can repeat — I got introduced to “Mantra Meditation” from a book written by Eknath Easwaran. He strongly recommends that we find a “mantra” that identifies with our core beliefs. You have to repeat it silently and as often as you can. I have been practising this for the past few years. When I see my self-control slipping, I find myself repeating this mantra to clear my head and get my control back.
- Journal your thoughts. — When I read back on my thoughts written, say a year ago, I am able to see how inane most of my “issues” were. Also, writing down everything is sort of dumping your problems and getting it out of your systems ( Just make sure that you don’t write nasty stuff about people you live with and then they discover it by accident. … Just saying. It has been known to have happened)
- Yoga — Actually this can be any exercise that helps deal with stress. I mentioned yoga as the breathing exercises ( like Pranayama) have incredible long term benefits.
- Learn to have healthy conversations — This needs commitment and help from the partner ( at work or at home). When you get angry, it may be due to reasons which are genuine concerns. If so, learn to express them in a healthy manner. In a way that is not derogatory to the other person. Once the other person believes that you are genuinely interested, they will share their point of view. who knows, once you learn to see things from their point of view, you will be surprised how your emotions change.
Let me sign off on this note. I am not a trained professional at anger management. These are lessons based on my observations in life. If either you or someone you know suffers from extreme stress and anger management issues, then you should get professional help. There is no shame or embarrassment in that. You could be saving a life.
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Friends, this is the Day 6 of my odyssey to write one blog EVERY DAY for the month of May 2017. “One Day, One Blog”
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