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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. 

EXPLORE MORE AROUND THESE TOPICS:

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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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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