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The Secret Life of Anger | Nick Wignall

Dealing with your anger

Anger leads us to poor decisions, regrettable behavior, or hurt feelings. However, some anger leads to more significant consequences, like strained relationships or legal trouble.

The key to dealing with your anger more effectively is to understand how it works.

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The Secret Life of Anger | Nick Wignall

The Secret Life of Anger | Nick Wignall

https://nickwignall.com/secret-life-of-anger/

nickwignall.com

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Key Ideas

Dealing with your anger

Anger leads us to poor decisions, regrettable behavior, or hurt feelings. However, some anger leads to more significant consequences, like strained relationships or legal trouble.

The key to dealing with your anger more effectively is to understand how it works.

Anger ≠ aggression

Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. They differ entirely in one central dimension - control.

  • You can't control your emotions directly. In the legal system, nobody gets sent to prison for how they felt, regardless of how angry they were. They get punished for what they do.
  • You can influence your emotions indirectly by how you think and behave. For example, when you focus on how terrible all the drivers in your town are, your anger will likely increase. But, if you listen to music and think about how grateful you are, your anger will probably subside.

Expressing anger

While you can't control your emotions of anger directly, you have control over your aggression, which is a decision to express your anger.

Aggression does not only involve acts of violence. Being overly-critical or judgmental of someone in your mind is an act of aggression, as is replying sarcastically or rolling your eyes at someone.

Controlling your aggression

Most people assume they should manage their anger, but trying to control their anger only makes it stronger. When they fail:

  • they will feel angry and disappointed with themselves.
  • They will waste psychological resources that they could have spent by managing their aggression.

Trying to control your anger

This actually makes it harder to control your aggression.

The solution is to turn the relationship around. Acknowledge and accept your anger for what it is. Then, direct your efforts at control toward your aggression.

Expressing anger

"You have to express your anger to release it" is a myth. Research shows that expressing your anger only makes it stronger. Turning away from it by doing nothing or distracting yourself leads to less intense anger.

Try to address the source of the anger, not the anger itself. For instance, if you're frustrated with your co-worker for being late again with their monthly report, have a respectful and honest conversation to solve the situation.

Anger as an emotion

It is misleading to think of anger as a negative emotion. A hot pan on the stove isn’t bad or negative just because it leads to you feeling pain when you accidentally rest your thumb on it. It is a good thing because it alerts your body to a dangerous situation.

We think of anger as a negative emotion because it often precedes a negative behavior. Because the behavior is bad or negative doesn't mean the feeling that came before it is.

Anger feels good

  • Anger makes you feel morally superior. Every time you criticize someone, the implication is that you're better. He’s such an idiot… (but I’m pretty smart).
  • Anger makes you feel in control. It gives you the illusion of control, like you're doing something and making a difference.
  • Anger distracts you temporarily from more painful emotions. This is especially true of men in most cultures for whom anger is a reasonable emotion while fear, sadness, or guilt are not. 

The Flavors of Anger

  • Impatience. We become impatient when we have a specific timeline in mind for something, and others disregard that timeline. 
  • Passive-aggressive communication. When we want to make someone feel bad but want to appear good at the same time. The most common form is sarcasm - an insult dressed up as a joke.
  • Irritability. Chronic irritability is often a sign of unaddressed anger where you find yourself short with people, overly sensitive to criticism or just agitated most of the time.
  • Resentment. Resentment is like irritability but directed at another person specifically. Address resentment with assertiveness.
  • Frustration. When we have a goal or desire but are thwarted in reaching it for some reason. 

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Anger and Aggression
  • Anger: An emotion felt when we believe we have been wronged.
  • Aggression: is an act of expression of the anger, by our words our actions. Aggression can be insults, sarcas...
Validation and Boundaries
  • We can try and validate the anger felt by an individual by making them know that their anger is maybe justified while putting firm but respectful boundaries on their aggression.
  • We then need to be clear about what type of aggression we are willing to tolerate, setting boundaries on the unacceptable.
  • We may have to put our foot down and be ready to leave the conversation or escalate the issue, without falling into the trap of guilt and emotion.
  • If possible, we need to restart the conversation when things have cooled down, and diffuse the issue in a calm way.
Avoiding Speculative Self-Talk

Unchecked self-talk can easily turn into self-delusion. The stories we create almost always make you look like the good guy and cannot be termed as objective.

  • The way to get out of this speculative self-delusion is to avoid any speculation about other people's anger, at least initially.
  • Make sure to note down the facts of the situation. This can make the story less according to your gut instinct, and more towards the objective reality.

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Anger Is Pleasurable
Anger Is Pleasurable

Anger and the accompanying feelings of revenge are associated with dopamine and norepinephrine secretion in the brain, which feel exhilarating to us.

The neurological chemical systems in th...

Anger Is Mobilizing

Anger is an emotion that can be harnessed, with collective anger being able to spearhead entire movements and disruptions.

Anger has a strangely energizing effect and helps people deal with trauma and grief. Anger is the one emotion that encourages action.

Anger Is Impactful

People listen to an angry person, making it a salient powerful emotion for interpersonal connections.

Entire movies are made of characters taking revenge as they are angry and resentful due to a reason that the audience loves to hear about.

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The Power Of Choice

Our thoughts can become our worst enemy if we let them. Think about how you may be “feeding” your negative thoughts by allowing them to rule your mind.

If you analyze what a negativ...

The Cherokee Indian Legend Of Two Wolves

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. He tells him a fight between two wolfs rages inside him, and in every other person too. One wolf is filled with good emotions and another filled with negative ones. The youth asks which will win. The old man answers: “The one you feed.”

Counteracting Negative Thoughts

If negative thinking becomes incessant, it can lead to depression and self-destructive behavior. At minimum, negative thinking saps our energy, erodes our self-confidence and can put us in a bad mood.

Certainly, many would agree that our thoughts come and go so quickly that it’s seems impossible to notice them, but with awareness and an attitude of self-compassion, we can redirect our negative thoughts to more positive ones.

The role of anger
The role of anger

Anger is not actually bad for us - it alerts us to the fact that we've been wronged. The racing heart and hot face is your body preparing for a fight or flight response, energizing you to confr...

Managing your anger

Managing your anger is all about managing your thoughts. Your thoughts will determine how you respond.

Strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy can teach people healthier thought patterns.

The Angry Cognitions Scale (ACS)

It helps a user read a set of blood-boiling scenarios and rates how likely they are to have each of six possible reactions. It enables you to recognize unhelpful thoughts that cause a knee-jerk reaction. For example: When you are driving through a residential area, and someone backs their car out of a driveway and nearly hits you. There are six possible reactions:

  • "They did that just so I'd have to stop." This is a fallacy known as misattributing causation - you don't know the other person's intentions.
  • "They almost totaled my car." It catastrophizes a scary situation into utter destruction.
  • "Nobody knows how to drive anymore" overgeneralizes a specific situation into a universal truth.
  • "I was here first. They shouldn't have gotten in my way." Here you make an unreasonable demand that somehow other people should know where you're going.
  • "That dumb jerk!" is inflammatory labeling that dehumanizes and insults the other person.
  • "He must not have seen me" is adaptive and more likely to calm you down.

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Controlling your emotions

The ability to recognize, own, and shape your own emotions is the master skill for deepening intimacy with loved ones, magnifying influence in the workplace, and amplifying our ability to turn idea...

Own the emotion

You can’t change an emotion you don’t own.

Accept responsibility for its existence.  Because an external event always precedes your experience of an emotion, it’s easy to assume that the event caused it. But as long as you believe it was externally caused, you are going to be a victim to your emotions.

Name the story

Emotions are the result of both what happens, and of the story you tell yourself about what happened.

  • A victim story: it absolves you of your responsibility for what happened.
  • A villain story: it exaggerates the faults of others and makes them responsible for what happened.
  • A helpless story: it convinces you that any course of action is pointless.

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Chuck Swindoll

"The longer I live, the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we r..."

Chuck Swindoll
Anger is one powerful human emotion
It is also a very normal human emotion that needs to be expressed in a healthy way.  That takes emotional intelligence.

When anger comes knocking, and it will, we have to know how to deal with it appropriately. If mismanaged, it can take down company morale and sabotage your ability to lead and collaborate well.

Mental Habits to Mange Anger
  • Put boundaries on people who make you angry. 
  • Get to the bottom of why you're really angry.
  • Respond, don't react. Assess the situation and think about it rationally to arrive at sane conclusions and decisions.
  • Take a six-second pause during a heated exchange to quickly assess the costs and benefits of that action.
  • Be the first to reach out after an argument. Swallow your pride and make up with the person.
  • Shift to the positive. Think of the things you are thankful for. Understand why the person made an action that made you angry.
Dealing with Anger According to Context

Sometimes suppression is the only thing you can do to avoid an escalation. And sometimes reappraisal can cause you to tolerate bad situations.

But that said, telli...

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgive. Research indicates that forgiveness makes you less angry and more healthy.

The Harms Of Holding Anger

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Stressful Conversations
Stressful Conversations

Human beings love to gossip, chatter and jest, but some conversations can be stressful, confusing, and even embarrassing. To avoid conflicts and the avoidable pain it can bring, we tend to dodge a ...

The Three Basic Stress-Inducing Conversations
  • While giving bad news to others, like giving feedback or firing someone, one can find it difficult to strike the right note.
  • When a small sentence or even a word can be taken as a negative provocation and trigger an adverse reaction. Suddenly the conversation becomes intensely charged emotionally.
  • A conversation where one resorts to profanity, manipulation, shouting to thwart the other person.
Preparing For A Stressful Conversation
  1. Be fully aware of one’s own vulnerabilities and shortcomings.
  2. Anticipate any specific problem that may occur, and try to rehearse it if possible.
  3. Understand that words are key that can make or break your conversation, and try to fine-tune and neutralize your phrasing.

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Upholder anger

Upholders are very good at execution, and they often feel angry when others struggle in situations where an Upholder wouldn't: people that slow down processes with their questions; people th...

Questioner anger

Questioners need reasons and justifications, and they're angry when other people act, or expect them to act, for reasons that are unexplained or arbitrary.

They're frustrated when others won't give them the answers they expect, or won't give them time to research.

Angry cry of the Questioner: "Why do people just follow along like lemmings, and expect me to do the same for no good reason?"

Obliger anger

Obligers feel the weight of outer expectations. Their anger is often tinged with resentment and indignation, a feeling of being exploited or neglected or treated unfairly. Of the 4 Tendencies, the Obliger Tendency is the biggest (for both men and women).

Angry cry of the Obliger: "Why am I the only one doing anything around here? Why am I meeting other people's expectations, but not meeting my expectations for myself?"

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“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.”

Japanese Proverb
About Fear
  • Most people are in the dark about their fears. The unknown, random and unwanted scenarios or events that could happen in the future, forms the general anxiety known as fear. This can include a fear of losing one’s job, getting sick with a virus, or getting old.
  • Some fears are in our deep, subconscious minds, and include the fear of not being in control, of not being good enough, and even some collective fears passed on from our ancestors.
The Colours Of Fear

Fear has the tendency to divide and isolate us, to shrink us to a tiny version of ourselves. Other negative emotions like jealousy, resentment, anger, bitterness and self-pity also have their roots in fear.

Some fear is good, like staying away from things or activities that can endanger us, but most fear is psychological and a false shadow inside our heads.

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