Updated: Apr 18, 2022
Over the past couple of months, I've been focusing on managing my anger, frustration, annoyance, and impatience. Most people who know me would think I'm a pretty calm and nice guy, and perhaps I do get angry less often than the average Joe, but I still do get angry and annoyed!
Even if I get upset once a week, I'd like to reduce that to once every two weeks, and then once every month, and then eventually, never at all! With that goal in mind, I've done a deep dive into why people get angry or upset. I spent many hours compiling all that I've learned about anger into a detailed article covering 10 reasons and solutions for why we get angry. You can read the full guide here, but in this article, I'll give a high-level overview.
The main reasons we get angry or upset are
Arrogance: We care more about being right than their feelings
Selfishness: We care more about what we want than their feelings (greed)
Greed: We are too demanding
Negativity: We focus on the bad instead of the good
Fragile self-esteem: We care too much about what everyone thinks
Discomfort: We are feeling agitated or uncomfortable or in pain
The solutions are
Reciprocity: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Love: Value their feelings more than the matter at hand.
Humility: Look for where you could have done better.
Empathy: Understand their perspective.
Gratitude: Think about all that they have given to you.
Virtuous Role Models: Think about what good and wise teachers would think of your behavior.
Check out the story below to see how I applied these teachings recently.
Recently, my dad came over (he lives in a different house) and wanted to borrow a backpack on his way out. My mother gave him my backpack without first asking me for permission. Later, I was looking for my backpack as I was about to go out because my wallet was in it. I couldn't find it, so I asked my mom if she saw it. She told me she lent it to my dad, but he forgot to bring it back.
Immediately, without any conscious control over myself, I raised my voice and said, "What?! You can't just give my stuff away without first asking me! All my ID cards and bank cards are in there!"
She immediately said, "Sorry, I thought he would bring it back right away. I didn't know your wallet was inside."
I was tempted to complain more about how I had told her in the past to not move my stuff without asking first, but I managed to stop myself. I've been training myself to not speak when upset. I remained angry at her for about 5 more minutes. Then I started thinking about all the things I've learned related to controlling anger:
Reciprocity: If I made a mistake and felt bad about it, I wouldn't want the other person to angrily scold me.
Love: I should value the other person's feelings more than the matter at hand. A backpack is just a backpack, but my relationship with my mother is something I don't want to hurt!
Humility: What could I have done better to prevent this problem from arising? Well, I could have communicated with my mom where my important documents and ID cards are so that she knows not to move them.
Empathy: She didn't intentionally make a mistake. She didn't know my wallet was in that bag.
Gratitude: Without my mom, I wouldn't even exist or have the life that I have right now, so it is quite spoiled of me to get angry at her.
Virtuous Role Models: I imagined I was facing Confucius, Seneca, and the Buddha. What would they say to me? They would be very disappointed to see me be a slave to anger, and they would be proud to see me be the master of my emotions.
After 5 minutes of reflection, I calmed down and let go. If this was the past, I probably would have vented my anger and stayed angry much longer. Although I still have room for improvement, I've certainly made significant progress compared to before!
"Anger is the ultimate destroyer of your own peace of mind."
—The Dalai Lama
When was the last time you got angry or upset? How can you use the six solutions you learned to resolve that anger and prevent it next time?
Weekly Wisdom Newsletter #179
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