How do we respond to anger? This is a broad topic, and depending on the severity and the causes of the anger, there are many possible pathways to take. This article looks at three possible approaches:
- Change your response to the circumstances of your anger
- Change the circumstances themselves
- Remove yourself from the situation.
1. Respond Differently to the Anger
Our habitual way of relating to problematic situations is what keeps us stuck in a state of angry frustration. We react with the same patterned response over and over again, and we don’t know how to make a shift. What’s needed is a fresh and creative response to the circumstances causing our angry state.
For example if you are in an unhealthy work situation and have passively accepted it for years, by being more assertive you can effect change both in how you feel and in how you’re treated. Or if you’re habitually aggressive in how you relate with your job, by changing to a more open and inquisitive mode of behavior you can effect similar changes. This is a simple example, but the same principle applies to all our life circumstances.
2. Respond to the Anger by Changing the Circumstances
If there is a person which is causing you anger and frustration, do what you can to change your relationship with them. If you haven’t already spoken with that person about the situation, approach them with respect and a clear head, and explain what’s happening.
Sometimes it may be impossible to communicate directly with the individual you’re having difficulty with, in which case it can be helpful to use a mediator of some kind. This can help you both speak on neutral ground so you can communicate what’s happening with more clarity.
Do whatever you can to improve the conditions around you. Whatever the set of factors causing anger, there is always some room for improvement and to make the environment easier for everyone involved. It’s not necessarily easy but if you make some time to reflect and look for creative solutions, you can do it.
3. Respond to the Anger by Removing Yourself From the Circumstances
If you’ve tried wholeheartedly to change your response and/or to make changes in the situation, and it seems like there are no other options, it might be time to leave, or to end that relationship. This isn’t to be taken lightly, as you don’t want to throw yourself into chaos when there may be alternative and less dramatic solutions. But if things are toxic to your well-being and have been that way for some time, it may be time to move on.
This could be life changing, as in a marriage or long term relationship, or it could be a minor change, like switching banks because the consistently poor service creates unnecessary frustration in your life. But whether it’s dramatic or straightforward, move slowly but surely in the direction you think is best.
Depending on your habitual patterns, leaving may be easy or difficult. Some of us are habitual leavers, while others of us are chronic holders on. Whichever pattern you fall into, try doing it differently. If you have no problem leaving something when it gets difficult, you might want to consider looking more closely at options one and two.
Or if you have trouble letting go and are very dependent on security, your challenge might be to move on. Whatever you decide, act in a way that serves your long term well-being and sanity the best.
How we respond to anger determines everything. If we respond by lashing out in aggression or if we retreat, suppressing our anger inwards, we only create problems with anger management and by inviting more anger and more trouble into our life. If on the other hand we make time to work with our anger and the situation, and if we then respond with conscious awareness, we open up new possibilities to break free of the habitual cycle of anger in our life.