When it comes, it can seem unstoppable.
Among emotions, anger can often seem the most destructive. Emotions are powerful, there is no doubt, but few things can gain such control over us as intensely as anger can. Anger can cause separation, make us say things we don’t mean, and even turn us to violence.
But just as every other emotion that exists, there is an underlying cause which is the origin. If we can identify the origin of the anger we can learn to let go and take control when in such difficult situations.
5 Ways to Let Go of Anger and Take Control in Difficult Situations
Anger has roots in non-anger elements. It has roots in the way we live our daily life. If we take good care of everything in us, without discrimination, we prevent our negative energies from dominating. We reduce the strength of our negative seeds so that they won’t overwhelm us.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
There are several ways to handle anger effectively, but before we get into that, it’s important to understand that most of us have adopted very unhealthy ways of dealing with our anger. For most of us, looking for the nearest punching bag is the extent of our anger management capabilities.
So understand that none of the below methods have to do with unhealthy ways of handling anger like hiding from it, stepping away from it, or blowing off steam. With that said, here are healthy ways for taking care of anger and getting to the root of the cause.
1. Identify the expectation & let it go
First, and possibly most important, is to understand that one of the primary causes of anger is due to the expectations we carry with us in our daily life.
We expect to go into work tomorrow and not lose our job, we expect to get that package on time, we expect to not fracture our arm, and we expect to be able to go out on Friday night. And it’s when these expectations don’t pan out as, well, expected that we become frustrated and angry.
So, your job? First, learn to identify the expectation. Notice that you’re angry because you created this expectation in your mind and are now mad because the world doesn’t match that expectation. Simply noticing this expectation can make a huge difference.
2. Live openly
Once you’ve identified the expectation, there’s another stage that allows you to further take advantage of this knowledge by creating a new dialogue for your expectations. While the first point was reactive this is more proactive.
If you tend to get mad when you run into traffic on the way home, instead of your old expectation tell yourself, “I will be late to get home.” Embrace the situation as opposed to resisting it and you’ll see the dynamic change to one where.
I know it sounds irrational that you’d have such an expectation repeatedly, but we do this mostly unconsciously so it gets by us for the most part without noticing. That’s why this can be such a problem, without it being pointed out we don’t tend to notice.
Make it a point to try and live in a way that you begin to consciously let go of expectations and allow whatever happens to happen as it will. The difference over time can literally astound you.
3. Pay attention to your body
We tend to treat the mind and the physical body as two separate things when in reality they’re very much interconnected. One of the easiest ways to not only notice anger within us but calm it and take control is to notice it in the body.
What do I mean by that? When we become angry often we elicit signs within the physical body. A part of our body such as our head heats up, we become shaky, our heart rate increases, and we become restless. If you can begin to notice the signs that arise when anger takes hold of you then you can do the opposite to calm the anger and take control of it.
Often the breath is connected to our emotions, so if you notice your breathing is quick and shallow then shift to a deeper and slower breath. This will calm the mind and allow you to take control of your anger.
4. Use breaks (when getting into arguments)
This point is all about that uncontrollable anger that hits us when getting into an argument with another person such as our spouse or a colleague and how to handle it in the moment. No matter how much work we do to be proactive we’ll still get mad sometimes, so this point is about how to handle yourself more skillfully in those situations.
The next time you get into a heated argument, whether you catch it beforehand or not, take a moment to notice the effect that anger is having or did hold over you as you become angrier. Notice the feeling in your body and mind and how your behavior has changed.
As time goes on, you’ll become a bit more conscious when anger arises. When this happens, you can start to react more effectively in the moment when the anger arises.
So, what do you do? Something completely wacky and unexpected. As in, throw your hands up and start singing the Star Spangled Banner, clap while yelling a line from your favorite movie, or anything else completely left field that you can think of.
Why on Earth am I having you do that? This will break you out of the pattern of anger and completely shock you back into a more “level” state where you can act more intentionally and take control of the situation.
5. Cultivate understanding
At the heart of anger is a lack of understanding, particularly when it has to do with factors outside of us. For that reason, this is the second point of origin to go along with expectations.
By better understanding the world around us, including specific people and events, we can learn to let go of our anger towards said thing entirely. Obviously, this is easier said than done. However, there’s much you can do now to begin developing a deeper understanding.
One example is a form of contemplation or meditation I created and use often called healing through understanding. It’s a simple exercise that offers a powerful mental shift which can be done anywhere and at any time.
The exercise is simple: think of the person or people in question and brainstorm as many possibilities as you can for the person’s (people’s) behavior. This doesn’t require you to actually know why, just to brainstorm. Doing this will naturally give you greater clarity about why they might have acted in such a way (again, you don’t even need to know why) and, oddly enough, loosen the hold that the anger has over you in connection with the person or the event.
How you choose to handle anger is ultimately up to you. Just remember that if you truly want to overcome your anger you’ll have to attack it from the source and uproot the cause of the anger. If you can do that, you’ve become the master of your emotions. Check out our piece on the wheel of emotions, to learn more about how you can improve these crucial skills.